I am lucky to have had a first-generation parent. My mother was Burmese, and through her I learned the importance of culture and diversity. Because she missed her home country while loving her new country, she made it a practice and passion to invite any other culture to our dinner table. Different became the invitation to our home in Detroit. She was a host to visiting leaders and dignitaries from around the world. In Detroit, I lived in a melting pot of peoples and tensions. All these experiences have allowed me the ability to work successfully with diverse cultures around the world and in companies.
Here is what I have learned:
- In the simplest terms – everyone is working to provide a living for their lifestyle and family by doing what they are interested and motivated to do.
- We are all the same, and we are all different.
- Listening and understanding to what is important to others is a gift. You don’t have to agree, but you do have to understand their perspective. This practice is critical to building good working relationships.
- Culture will trump strategy every time.
- If someone feels respected for who they are and their culture, they will work with you.
- The ability to adapt your style by individual, company, and culture is essential to moving good ideas and projects further and forward. When people see this in you, they open the doors to great collaboration.
In the U.S. we have many different cultures and norms. Understanding them, appreciating them, and adapting to them is as important as working with cultures across the world.
To do all this I learned the practice to treat people as they need to be treated. In addition, I have learned to adapt and change “how” I am and this does not impact “who” I am.
These cultural differences are apparent across generations as well, and demand my attention to know, understand, respect, and adapt my style to them with non-judgment because it is important to them.
Thanks for listening.