Human nature compels most of us on an eternal quest for higher success -- we endeavor to discover the fast track, we follow motivational speakers and influencers, and we consume content in the form of tips, suggestions, and lessons.

If an influencer entertains us, we can't seem to get enough, and we soon become skilled at regurgitating their aspirational quotes and catchphrases. We try to adopt their suggestions, we try to work harder, and we hope ‘successful’ habits form anew.

We become raving fans more than apprentices or practitioners of their craft. 

Reality eventually strikes! As it always does.

Someone has a better message, so we transition to follow the next influencer who is in vogue.

Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

Sounds familiar?

CLICHES DON'T LEAD TO CHANGE

Have you ever heard "you need to get out of your comfort zone?"

Did you ever consider your existence in this alternative reality, somewhere outside of your proverbial ‘comfort zone’? How does it feel, but more importantly, how long can you remain there and to what end?

I believe the destination we all aspire to reach is an ‘achievement zone'!

For most of us, when we "get out of our comfort zones.” we don't transition into an ‘achievement zone.’ Instead, most of us merely push ourselves to overcome ‘known’ internal resistance, temporarily. 

For example, if we know we are lazy, then we can choose to take action. If we are afraid of technology, we can force ourselves to learn and not make excuses, temporarily.

Is pushing through these example of resistance enough for you to reach the outcomes you desire? And what about the countless mental obstacles that are ‘unknown’? 

CROSS-CULTURAL PERFORMANCE MASTERY

When we become masters of cross-cultural performance, aspirational behaviors become natural, and our 'Comfort Zone' becomes an 'Achievement Zone’.

Beyond subjects like emotional intelligence (EI/EQ) or cultural intelligence (CI) is what I call holistic intelligence (HI).

The capability to work effectively across cultures is a symptom of cross-cultural performance mastery, and it means we have developed the ability to think within a new cultural paradigm.

MASTERS WILL CONTINUOUSLY REDUCE (or eliminate)

  • Negative emotions (we are aware of the triggers and adopt an alternative perspective in a new cultural content)
  • Judgment (we are empathetic, and then sympathetic and understanding, instead of righteous)
  • Short-sightedness (we reframe our considerations in the context of a “big picture” view and respond accordingly)

FRAMEWORK

Training for mastery of cross-cultural performance begins with distinguishing amongst the different facets of personal improvement, of which there are three.

LEARN - The things that we 'learn', our skills, experiences, and knowledge; are all inside our proverbial toolbox. Whenever we need them, we can take them out to use.

"Knowing how to speak Chinese doesn't mean you know what to say in Chinese."

DEVELOP - The things we 'develop' are our essential soft skills, ‘awareness’ and ‘empathy.’ Awareness includes self-awareness, cultural awareness, and situational awareness, and it provides a holistic perspective regarding any engagement.

Empathy gives you the insight of what other people value and how they feel.

ADJUST - Your attitude, mindset, and approach (AMA Values) are levers that are 100% within your control to influence the perception of other people.

The necessary adjustments become natural as you become a master of cross-cultural performance.

AMA VALUES

Your attitude, mindset, and approach is the focus of your performance improvements, and they are the only levers (factors) which affect outcomes that are 100% within your control.

During your initial training, making the right adjustments will be difficult, feel unnatural, and may even become a pride-swallowing experience; so it is necessary to have patience and a long-term view to witness the benefits over time. 

As you begin to connect your AMA adjustments with alternative responses, experiences, and outcomes; these conscious adjustments will eventually become natural.

The goal is for your AMA Values to align naturally with how you wished you'd reacted or responded in hindsight and behave accordingly in foresight.

ESSENTIAL SOFT SKILLS THAT MATTER

Developing the essential soft skills that matter (EESTM) is the focus of your training to become a master of cross-cultural performance.

  • Self-awareness gives you insights into how you are perceived
  • Cultural awareness gives you insights into the micro-environment (other people)
  • Situational awareness gives you insights into the macro-environment (the context of the engagement)
  • Empathy gives you insights into what other people ‘feel’ and what they ‘value’

When you have this level of clairvoyance into any situation, affecting the perceptions and thereby outcomes you desire becomes a matter of choice. Therefore, you need to question your own AMA Values for any unfavorable outcome.

Are my 'attitude, mindset, and approach' or AMA Values helping me reach my desired outcomes?

IMAGINATION

Developing essential soft skills begins with 'imagination' that is positive.

Giving someone "the benefit of the doubt" is where you start, but your positive imagination needs to progress beyond your current mindset to one that finds understanding and practicality in the words and behaviors of others.

When you imagine ‘why’ others think and act in a certain way, try to connect their behaviors to the environment in which they were raised, but more importantly, you need to disconnect your own emotions and biases. 

At the extreme, outright racism towards me should not trigger an emotional reaction if I am a master of cross-cultural performance. Instead, it should trigger sympathy and compassion coupled with a desire to affect a positive influence towards the individual. This mindset resets the dialogue and creates the possibility of productive interaction.

PURPOSE-DRIVEN CURIOSITY

'Purpose-driven curiosity' is the opposite of being judgmental towards someone. A judgmental mindset is a mentality people automatically perceive, and it will immediately foster negative feelings leading to an unproductive conversation or worse.

Masters of cross-cultural performance have conditioned themselves to be purposefully curious ‘why’ without judgment.

For example, during a contentious disagreement, my spouse will make some ridiculous assertions or worse. Empathy allows me to recognize the ‘situational context’ of her heightened emotions during specific periods of the month, and purpose-driven curiosity enables me to acknowledge the ‘cultural context’ of her reactions, feelings, and emotions; so I can recognize them at their origins and quickly de-escalate our interaction and even turn it positive.

JOURNEY TOWARDS SUCCESS

The key to becoming a master of cross-cultural performance is to imagine yourself on a journey that never ends.

Your essential soft skills can always be sharpened and extended to new cultures, mentalities, and personalities.

Adjusting your AMA Values doesn't mean to be free from emotions, but instead, you should continuously alter any negative manifestations to become more positive and empathetic.

The journey to become a master of cross-cultural performance is your Journey Towards Success (#jts20).

About the Author

Gene J. Hsu is the founder of EME China Consultants and creator/host of the China Leadership Dilemma Podcast. Gene specializes in training and coaching individuals to solve their own China Leadership Dilemmas (CLDs) by creating more positive perceptions and thereby favorable outcomes across dichotomous cultural differences.

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