Filtering by Tag: communication

The Corporate Mosaic: Being Effective Through Cross-Cultural Understanding

We all know we live in a world where cultures collide everyday. It is unavoidable, unless you happen to live in a small village. We are so connected, and yet people continue to make ethnic faux pas, sometimes leading to tension and frustration. This is especially true in business. The wrong handshake, gesture, or slip of the tongue could be the first domino in bringing down an important deal. 

These mistakes are easily correctable. All it takes is a bit of education. Each culture has a different way of expressing respect. By knowing the basic differences, you will be able to navigate the cross-cultural terrain fairly smoothly and with confidence. While the following points are meant to be rules of thumb, it is essential that you study a bit about the culture you intend to interact with beforehand. 


What is considered a comfortable distance between two people varies from culture to culture. In America and much of Europe, personal space is usually a few feet with strangers and business associates. In China and many Asian countries, it is somewhat less, but with strangers there is a definite taboo with touch. So no pats on the back. In much of Latin America and the Middle East, personal space is the least distance, and even strangers tend to be physically close. 


Not everyone enters business deals the same way. In the Middle East, Latin America, and Southern Europe it is common to first take time to build the relationship before even discussing corporate affairs. Eagerness to jump into a deal may create resistance. Spend some time getting to know your potential partners - take them out to lunch, talk about family and common interests, and be genuinely curious. In many parts of Asia, such as China and Japan, respect and composure are big. It is expected in such places to be humble, modest, and relatively stoic in business. You will be considered foolish if you boast. Also, don't be too friendly, at least starting out; simply be polite and agreeable. 

In North America and Northern Europe, business relationships are very cut-and-dry. It's less about building the relationship (in comparison to other regions) and more about committing to an objective and following through. Concern yourself more with being reliable and competent than being the life of the crowd. 


North America and Northern Europe are the most time-oriented. Punctuality is vital and tardiness is a sign of disrespect. Business in general is very procedural, with a focus on efficiency. If everything is not done in a timely manner, you will end up frustrating the other party. Some Asian countries have been adopting Western views on time, but business may still feel slower. India has a double standard - they expect you to be punctual while they are likely to be late. Latin America is the most laid back. It's a general rule to show up to any event about 30 minutes after the designated time. 


Many Asian cultures are very roundabout in communicating. In being polite, they may agree with you, even if there is internal disagreement. They are also skilled at not revealing too many emotions, so you won't always be able to tell what they really feel. This is all meant to smooth the social interaction. Asians tend to also be fairly reserved and quieter in business than other people. North Americans and Northern Europeans are typically more loud and direct.

Sometimes less tactful than the Asian cultural mind, they want to get down to business and keep communication open. There is a sense of hierarchy, though, and so respect to those higher in power must be taken into account. Latin Americans are some of the most easygoing and conversational people. Communication may become informal quickly. Just go with the flow. There is less focus on you as a representative of a business, and more on you as a person.

Keep these tips in mind, and you will be able to adapt to many different countries with greater ease. It is becoming harder today to stay isolated in business, as nations interact more with each other and cultures intermingle. This will only increase over time. It is a wise approach to learn the customs of other societies so you can work with them effectively, and build mutual respect. Good luck!

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

Head in the Cloud

Did you know that 84% of businesses sampled by CWD Tracking Poll are now using the Cloud? This internet storage system has become wildly popular and is even making entry into small businesses. Some entrepreneurs are hesitant to adapt, but it truly serves its users well. Here are some reasons why:


First off, the Cloud saves money (and, in connection, time). Many Cloud services are priced at reasonable rates. Even if you choose to purchase a physical device to house your own personal Cloud (e.g. My Cloud), costs are still fairly low.


Most companies that offer Cloud hosting provide a range of tools that come with the service. A professional suite is a common add-on, which includes some form of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Syncing is another asset, which makes life so much easier by allowing you to bring up important documents or presentations on your computer, laptop, tablet, or phone. 


Telecommuting is a growing trend, and the Cloud definitely helps enable this. You can literally access information anywhere and anytime, as long as you are logged in. This allows unprecedented levels of sharing and streamlined collaboration. And with speeds that are virtually instantaneous, there will be no time wasters.


One of the more overlooked benefits of using the Cloud in business is its scalability. A company that expands can add more data capacity in increments. This is easy to do on most Cloud services, and is economical.


Despite some publicity, the Cloud is generally safe. You just have to use common sense when using it, like with any other secure program. If you’re concerned about security, there are many password generators that can help you produce rock solid codes. Here are some password generators:


Having a personal Cloud was mentioned earlier, but what can you expect? It costs about $150-500 for you own Cloud hardware, depending on the brand and data capacity. A small business with a team of 8 could buy this and give each member 1 gigantic Terabyte of data. Yet it's a toss-up. You would save money in the long run, but would miss out on the many benefits that the hosted Cloud services offer.

Check out this list of the big shots in professional Cloud hosting:

To grow your business and keep up with the times, it really pays to have your head in the Cloud!

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

Words Make Us One: The Magic of Communication

One of the top skills employers across the board value is communication. And yet, this is something that isn’t thoroughly taught in school and is severely lacking in many firms. The staffing agency Accountemps conducted a survey that reveals the number one problem CFOs identify is lack of communication within the company. Also, the Chairman for Hewlitt-Packard, Ray Lane, mentioned, “This [business] is 90% about leadership, communications, and operating execution.” 

Radiologist and neuroscience researcher, Dr. Andrew Newberg, has been investigating the process of communication from behind the scenes - in the brain. Distilled from his explorations with advanced scanning technologies, such as fMRIs, Dr. Newberg has developed a method called Compassionate Communication, which improves understanding, empathy, problem solving, peace, and content recall between people engaged in dialogue.

Here is a breakdown of the technique that you can use in myriad situations, including the workplace:


This is the most important factor throughout the whole process. Tense each muscle group, hold for a few seconds, and release. Take slow, deep breaths. Close your eyes for a moment, if you need to. Dr. Newberg recommends yawning - it physiologically helps you to relax. Now you have an excuse!


It’s been demonstrated repeatedly that mentally rehearsing an activity before doing it improves performance. Communication is no different. So vividly imagine your ideal interaction - see, feel, smell, touch, even taste, if you can. Immerse yourself in first person. In addition, reflect on something you really like about the person you’re about to speak with. If this is challenging, then relive a general moment of bliss, some past experience you supremely enjoyed. 


Smile warmly and use friendly eye contact. Open with a sincere compliment. Speak in a slow, calm voice. These actions will all contribute to creating pleasant flow. Humans are wired to neurophysiologically sync with each other (called isopraxism). If you are relaxed and warm, the other person will likely mirror you, even unconsciously.


Try to remember the last full conversation you had, in every single detail. Unless your memory is exceptional, there are probably many gaps. Our working memories can only store a limited amount of information (about 7 “chunks”), and they maintain it for 30 seconds at a time. Because of this fact, it would be wise to keep your words brief and direct. Rather than detracting from the conversation, this will actually enhance it by teaching you to be more selective and mindful with what you say. As you become more adept at Compassionate Communication, this rule can be loosened a bit. 


Let go of your ego and immediate desires. (Are you still relaxing?) Listen patiently and alertly to the other person. Feel the words being born, and the emotions behind the words. Give him or her enough time to speak. When it’s your turn, allow yourself to speak from deep within you, almost spontaneously. See this as an exercise in observing where a conversation leads, rather than trying to force it.

When you can step aside in your own mind and speak freely (yet compassionately), the most important underlying concerns may arise. In Dr. Newberg’s experience, problems approached this way tend to be resolved in less than an hour. He also reports that after about 30 straight minutes of empathic, mindful dialogue, boundaries between speakers dissolve and they feel unified (which is actually observable by decreased activity in the parietal lobes).


Since this is a skill, it’s vital to ease into it. The best way to practice is to start with situations that are less stress-inducing, such as with a friend. Romantic partners might be tricky to do this with on your first few attempts. As you feel more confident and comfortable, go ahead and step it up. Also, when you start Compassionate Communication, it may feel “fake” or “not right,” but you are literally retraining your brain. Work through the discomfort, it may take a handful of times to begin feeling natural. By then, you will have given yourself an ENORMOUS advantage in business and in life.

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

From Ping-pong to Post-Modernism

Intention and interpretation are the vital leaps in communication we make to bridge the gap left by the symbolism of our words.
— Matthew Koren


You speak and have intention. I listen and have interpretation. How do you know that I know what you meant? 

In our last post, we talked about communication ping-pong and some strategies to get out of it when you find yourself 'in the game'. Boy, did I opened up a can of worms!

And I've always wanted to write more about these concepts, so here we go. So let's start simply: what do we mean by meaning?


I have an Albert Camus quote next to my desk that says, among other things, "meaning, a growth in experience as a result of receiving the communication, requires the hearer supply the imaginative link from the hearer's fund of experience to the abstract language symbols the speaker has used." I couldn't agree more.

Unless I pump you up with voltage-sensitive dyes (VSDs) and point a CCD (charge-coupled device) camera at you, I can't actually see any neural growth or changing activity. The rest is just inference. Said another way, blind faith that you understand me.

The hearer is taking the symbols of my words and matching them with symbols in her head. In even the best case scenario, this is like mixing apples with oranges.

So how do we know we've been heard? We listen to the symbols given back to us, and they aren't always words.

Are they of the same nature? Do they reflect understanding in the way we expected? If not, then what?

As we explore this concept over the next couple blog entries, do me a favor? Let me know if you get my drift? Thanks.

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today! 

3 ways to avoid communication ping-pong

Had you ever had an argument that didn't get anywhere? Don't be shy, my hand's up too.

Communication Ping-Pong

Oftentimes I see communication cycles that look like ping-pong tournaments. There's motion back and forth, but we're getting nowhere fast. The ball bounces off one head, and then off the next. It's clear that the meaning of the words (aka ball), isn't penetrating. The ball keeps on bouncing like that's the object of the game.

If that's not the object of YOUR communication game, then try some of the strategies below to avoid the trap.

Try these strategies:

1) Try to repeat the last thing you heard. Verbatim.

2) Acknowledge what you're afraid of, and then listen.

3) Ask an open-ended question that you really don't know the answer to—people tend to hate leading questions.

How about them ping-pong balls?

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today! 

Power + Authenticity = Accountability

I've been working on a new formula.

No, not like a baby formula for grown-ups (although there's more and more talk of babies around my household recently)! That would be a protein shake. Add blueberries, they're good for you.

By formula I mean, something easy to remember that adds a valuable tool to your leadership toolkit.

As always, I get the best inspirations from the people I know the best—my coaching clients!

Here's the draft version:

Power + Authenticity = Accountability

By power, I mean personal power—the power of your word, the power of your results, the power of your impact on others.

By authenticity, I mean truth—are you being who you really are?

By accountability, I mean being responsible for producing powerful results in alignment with purpose.

I know, that's a bit of a jump, but in the next few posts, I'll go into more detail on the dynamics of this formula—how it's constructed, how it works in various contexts, and what it means for today's dynamic, innovative leaders.

Comment below to let me know what you think!

Contest Announcement: What is YOUR Relationship with Technology?

Join us for our next webinar "What is the Right Relationship with Technology?"

You can register here.

Technology continues to consume more of our attention. Besides the ever-present computer screen at work, some of us wake up with screens, or fall asleep with screens as well. What impact is this having on us as a social being?

This tidal wave of information from our devices continues to challenge us in ways previously unimagined. Too much information drowns us. We begin to miss important details that seem obvious to others, or worse we drown in a puddle of perceived inadequacy at our own inability to manage the load.

We believe there is a code or set of behaviors that creates an empowered relationship to technology, that which has us maintain what is most important about being human, while also benefiting from the access to information that creates our modern conveniences, or sustains our livelihood.

By discovering this ‘code’, we can fully embrace the advances of our new technology without fear of losing integral aspects of what makes us human.

We will explore these concepts in our next webinar "What is the Right Relationship with Technology?"

I’d like to invite you to join us a live for this casual conversation.

We want to hear your perspectives on how the world is changing as a result of our relationship with technology , and your strategies for living in right relationship with it.

But here's the catch…you have to submit your ideas by commenting on our Facebook wall by next Tuesday April 8th to qualify. We will choose up to four people to join us live for the conversation with our panelists.

The Power of the Pause

I had a great meeting with a prospective client today that reminded me of the power of the 'pause'.

"Off with her head!"

"Off with her head!"

If you haven't heard of this yet, think about it next time you get one of those emails that just throws you off the deep end. Then your boss walks up.

At this moment, you have two choices. "Off with her head!" your inner Queen of Hearts screams in your mind…

Or you can pause.…

Remember that your mind can't switch back and forth like a TV channel. When you look up from your monitor, you're still effusing all of that emotional energy wrapped up in the email. Your boss probably doesn't like the look you're giving her.

Most of our lost productivity is in our inability to shift contexts as fast as our environment is asking us to. This reaction to the environment, rather than intentional, proactive attention, is what causes big mistakes to be made.

And to the point of my last post, if you want to change the result, change your cause.

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today! 

How to act like a baby and get ahead…

No, you can’t throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the office.  In fact, you still need to use big, important sounding words. So what’s this got to do with a baby, you ask? EVERYTHING.

Babies observe.

Right about at the low point of your work, you might begin asking your yourself, “What the heck is going on here?” Time to think like a baby. Start following your nose. Close your mouth and start seeing what’s going on.

Often things get worse before they get better. I have a nose for what stinks and I love to observe people. Observing like a wide-eyed infant provides an early warning system for you to see earlier than most what’s coming down the pipe.

Babies communicate.

Make a noise, cry out ‘Aha!’, let someone know what you see and ask if they see the same thing. Babies are excellent signalers (my 20 pound cat is as well).

Babies respond instantly.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to act. When you see what’s not working, do something about it!

Many executives are in their roles because of their strategic thinking, broad perspective, and uncanny ability to predict disasters right before they strike. Act like a baby to take small actions now that can lead to big, culture-changing results later.

Now if we could only get more people to act like babies!

“See as a child sees—the joy, the wonder, the hope.”

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today!

Ferrazzi says "Throw out the small talk!"

I attended a presentation by Keith Ferrazzi, author of “Who’s Got Your Back”, on building trust and more intimate relationships with your virtual team recently. I was watching the live stream on my computer while the speaker connected with his “live” audience. Kind of ironic, I know! But I’ll redeem myself by saying that the whole thesis of his talk was from his research on the New People Rules in a Virtual World. He said,

“Relational and collaborative behaviors were the behaviors that needed to be changed the most in order to unleash value.”


Ferrazzi is a major champion of rediscovering relationships as the primary drivers of business and a great inspiration to anyone that wants to see their business grow.

We know relationships are important, but it’s easy to lose sight of this in the ever expanding virtual world. So I ask, what are you really doing to develop deep, trusting ones in your business?

Look around you. How connected are you to your own colleagues? Are you curious about what drives them? What is it that brings them back to work every day?

Well if you don’t know, ask. You might find out something unexpected.

It’s a scary thing to ask. You have to give up the expectation of the answer, and begin to want to know everything about why Fred is the way he is, or that you know what Jane’s going to say even before she says it.

This idea is this: put your assumptions to the side for a moment and engage in a genuine open conversation with your colleagues. You’ll be excited to see what develops.

At the very least, take Ferrazzi’s advice and to a quick check-in before your meeting begins. The weather is soooo yesterday’s news.

Have you experienced relationships being deemphasized or replaced by technology in your workplace? Comment below to share your story.

Matthew Koren is a team management and leadership consultant and executive coach based out of Portland, OR. To learn more and receive great, useful content each month, sign up for my email list here.