I’ve already stated my opinion about the questionable value of cross-cultural training sessions, but there is a lot to be gained from sitting across from anyone who is there to teach you about another culture.
To distinguish between the good and the mediocre, you should take control of the session. A great coach/trainer will come prepared, but will focus on your needs and be willing to dive deeply into questions that mean the most to you. Don’t let a trainer scroll through all of their slides and semi-humorous illustrations and leave you five minutes for questions at the end. You are there to learn, not sit through a presentation.
To make sure you get your most important questions asked, have important questions to ask! You might be more curious about daily challenges of life, or you may want to focus on the office culture. Here are some sample questions you can build on:
- Who are the key people that I should build good relational capital with?
- What is the best way to build relational capital with them?
- Tell me an example of how an outsider like me was viewed as successful by the local team.
- How will my local team determine if I am a success or not?
- What are the top-ranked values of this culture?
- What are some of the worst things I could do in the office (or with a friend)?
- How will I know if I’ve offended someone? What should I do next? Can we practice that?
- How can I avoid irreparably offending someone? Do you have any stories to share?
- Please demonstrate for me the best way to communicate in an awkward situation such as firing someone.
- What should I keep in mind when I get really frustrated at things here?
- What do other people like me typically struggle with?
If your coach/trainer stumbles for answers or continues to try to pull you back into “the schedule”, you aren’t getting your money’s worth.
Being able to follow up with a great coach later on is great, but nothing can really beat asking an Indian.
Image Credit: Naturhotel Waldesruhe on Flickr