An invitation to a web meeting today made me think of the now so common webinars and web meetings that connect people not only from different teams and companies of the organization but also from different countries and continents. One might think that by now we all speak the same language and share the same understanding, values and goals on business. Just send the invitation with the agenda and everyone gets their 10 minutes!

But I’ve heard people wonder how very differently from each other even the people from the Nordic countries think and behave, not to mention other countries. I’ve really enjoyed working and having long conversations with my former Nordic, European, American, Asian, Middle East and Indian colleagues. It has been fun and very educational. But not always easy and straight forward.

It is wonderful that people have the opportunity to discuss and partner across the silos and continents. But do all feel safe and empowered to speak up in those meetings? Do we really understand what the others are saying and why they are acting in a certain way, often surrounded by conflicting expectations by various stakeholders? Do we see the actual drivers and necessities one may have in her local office, perhaps surrounded by a totally different worldview than ours? How do we ensure that the different views are shared and understood? How can we support people in communicating in a way that is understood and seen professional in different cultures? Even in same cultures (and even between family members who know each other better than anyone else!) words and behaviour are so often interpreted in such different ways and wrong assumptions are made.

Short answer: Listen. Ask questions. Make sure you have understood.

I am not worried about AI taking over our work. There will be room and need for collaboration between people requiring communication and presence as well as emotional and social intelligence aside of AI as the technology creates new ways to connect. Do you know on what level your team’s communication skills are? What about their emotional and social intelligence? What drives their actions?

The image is of the painting ‘Multicultural’ by the American artist Robert Daniels whose work can be found on Fine Art America.