Conversations Across Cultures: Best Practices for Rolling Out Fierce in a Global Market

When it comes to rolling out Fierce programs across a global market versus a domestic one, they're not all that different.

As our VP of Global and Channel Partners Jaime Navarro mentioned in her recent blog post on training across the globe, very few if any changes are made to the program content. What's generally left to consider are the internal communication and logistical aspects, including how the rollout will be announced to all markets and how the training will be positioned to both address any preconceptions and increase receptivity.

I've been working with a Fierce client who has locations and leaders positioned throughout the world, and this will be their first time doing an international rollout. While they're excited to implement the training and are on board with Fierce, they did start out with a few reservations that they communicated during my initial meetings with their team:

  • From the perspective of their company culture, they were concerned that the word "Fierce" would be a bit off-putting. In their words, "The word 'Fierce' may be too strong for our friendly culture."
  • In this same vein, they worried about how the announcement of the training would be received, fearing that it might seem too over the top or too bold. They wondered how they could soften the communication to increase its receptivity across their markets.
  • Their workplace culture reflected to some extent a hierarchical dynamic, where oftentimes, what the boss says goes and it's rarely questioned. They wondered if, for example, feedback and confrontation conversations would be welcome in their current workplace culture.

Naturally, an international rollout can come with more complexities than one that isn't, and there are factors to consider that are less likely to apply to a smaller-scale rollout. I wanted to share some of what I've observed in my recent work with global training rollouts that are important to consider as well as offer some best practices that will serve as a guide if you want to implement training on an international scale.

Prep everyone for the word "Fierce."

Language and culture can affect how a person will perceive the English word "Fierce." Some people have a positive context, for example, "Fierce like Beyonce," or "Fierce love," while others may have a negative context and think it comes off sounding too aggressive or charged.

It's important to consider how the initial introduction of Fierce could impact how it's received, especially for those who don't already have a background in the training. You'll need to get people grounded right off the bat, and this will involve some basic internal marketing that Fierce can help guide.

When you send out the very first communication or host an introductory meeting about the training, you'll want to include what Fierce means to your company in a positive context. We can assist in this process by exploring with you what the word "Fierce" means to you. I discussed this with the organization I mentioned earlier and asked how they would define it once they were familiarized with the content and concepts of our programs. To them, the word came to mean bold and courageous. Defining it helped them position the training in a way that would best resonate with their culture and people.

Once you've decided how the word positively applies to your company culture, position it in your very first communication with the people who will be either stakeholders or participating in the training. Well in advance, start messaging and giving the notices that training is coming down the line to avoid any feelings of shock, and let everyone know what's in the training for them.

Navigate cultural barriers in the workplace.

Some workplace cultures have a significantly hierarchical top-down management. In this dynamic, individuals are not typically granted a lot of autonomy in their roles and they don't have a lot of influence in decision making. What the boss says goes. This dynamic doesn't just take place in other countries—we've often observed that it depends more on the company itself than the region where it's located.

In the early stages of rolling out Fierce, we occasionally run into client fear around the idea of confronting the boss or giving them feedback. The reality is that this fear is there no matter who you are or what company you work for. At the same time, these hierarchical barriers that exist within your workplace dynamic need to be considered, navigated, and overcome. Some of this will come during early conversations prior to rollout, and some of it will be addressed during and after participants complete the programs.

In some countries, there is often tension between individual perspective versus groupthink, especially when groupthink is the norm. I recommend for workplace cultures stuck in groupthink—where people are overly-agreeable and unwilling to challenge the status quo—to approach challenging conversations, such as feedback and confrontation, from the context of being part of a group. For example, "Our team couldn't stand to risk this. It's about all of us, and we all lose or we all win. I'm willing to have this conversation for the greater good of everyone." This can increase leaders' receptivity when individuals begin to speak out, and still allows the individual perspective to be heard. This shifts the thinking to encompass the individual and the collective.

As an organization, consider the cost of what happens if you don't say anything and things continue as they are. When having these conversations with clients, I get them to name the cost. Once they name and understand what's at stake, the context shifts in favor of following through.

I recently worked with a company in India that was bumping up against some resistance around the idea of saying "no," especially to customers. In our discussion around context, they could see and understand that this resistance was in fact a context, and one that was likely influenced by both the company and their regional culture. To address it, we dove into the fear. I asked,
"Are you afraid to ruin a relationship if you say 'no'?" And, "How is not saying 'no' impacting your goals?" The context shift here requires the acknowledgement of truth. If you can't help a customer, that needs to be communicated. Otherwise, it doesn't really help them. And if you don't say no, what does this mean for the company? How will this "no" impact results, say, six months down the road?

The reality is that cultures everywhere are constantly evolving and being influenced by other cultures. It's never too late (or too soon) to challenge your own context and overcome cultural barriers.

If someone says, "this is just the way it is," I generally respond with, "What can it be?"

It's time to roll up your sleeves.

Rolling out Fierce across global markets can help your company achieve significant business results in several areas. Time and time again, we watch companies who have rolled out Fierce raise their revenue, improve relationships, increase collaboration, and create better communication across their global markets.

The question becomes, are you genuinely willing and ready to have the conversations that will be new, and sometimes challenging? If you've sought out the help of Fierce, I'd guess the answer is yes.

Want to dive deeper and learn more about global training? Check out our recent blog CONVERSATIONS ACROSS CULTURES: 4 KEY INSIGHTS FROM SUCCESSFUL GLOBAL LEADERSHIP PROGRAMS

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