Part Two: Bandrowski Global Communication Clarity (BGCC) Exercise

2838873571_8ce78456bd_mAs I described in my Global Communication Clarity: Part One post, it isn’t easy to lead effectively in multicultural environments—particularly when you are an energetic speaker, and your audience (your global team, business partner, customer, etc.) is listening to you in their second or third language.

I developed an exercise when delivering keynote speeches, training, and consulting around the world. It has worked well for me, and solves the problem of the audience being too respectful to interrupt and ask you to slow down, or be clearer. Perhaps the exercise can work for you as well. (Remember where you heard it first.)

Step One: Discuss Global Communication Challenges

As a quick icebreaker at the beginning of an important business meeting or training session in another country, ask the participants two questions:

  • Question A: What are your biggest global communication challenges when using the language of the other person, and rank them by the level of challenge they pose? (Invariably, the answer is “they speak too fast,” followed by “they use words I don’t understand.”)
  • Question B: Can you think of when these challenges caused a significant business error? (Let them feel the pain, or they won’t change; one of my change leadership expressions is “no pain, no change.”)

Step Two: Invent Silent Feedback Mechanisms

Ask your audience for suggestions of acceptable ways by which they could signal to you to slow down, ask you to go back and explain, or to speed up.

Care is needed to do this in each country in which you work; in international business, the importance of non-verbal communication can easily be underestimated. What may seem to be a conventional gesture or greeting in American culture can in fact undermine a business deal in Asia, Europe, and The Middle East. Some hand gestures in various countries are considered extremely rude, such as thrusting four fingers at someone in Japan, the peace sign reversed so the palm faces the recipient in Jolly ‘Ole England, and the up-thrusted thumb in Iran, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and parts of Italy and Greece. They all mean something similar to someone using the middle finger in American culture. These crude examples are offered to prevent you from being rude.

In Japan, senior managers attending one of my two-day Global Innovative Marketing workshops came up with these three signals for me, and they worked very well:

  • Slow Down: Hold hand horizontally, palm down, and lower it slowly.
  • Speed Up: Rotate the hand in a forward, spiral motion. (Not one I get a lot from audiences.)
  • Clarify a Point: Hold palm up vertically.

Step Three: Practice Challenges with Amplitude

I believe the single thing that distinguishes great leaders, innovators, athletes, artists, and anyone for that matter, is they have huge Amplitude. Amplitude is the measure of the height and depth of a wave—and determines its intensity—as in the power of electricity, the brightness of light, the loudness of sound, and just about every other phenomenon in the universe on a grand scale to the sub-atomic level. To change a habit, or learn something new, doing it with Amplitude—at the extreme level—is the fastest way to make progress.

In this exercise, practice with your audience in an Amp Upped manner, periodically and purposely doing one of the following, then wait for their signal. Speak:

  • Really fast!!!
  • Toooooooo ssslllooooooowwlllly
  • Too erudite—as in “who knows?”

Exaggerating each time is also good for a few laughs; humor is a key tool in facilitating learning.

Step Four: Simulate Challenges with Less Amplitude

As with any change leadership initiative, by now you may think you and they have both adopted “the new way.” But change masters know this to be a false assumption. Behavioral change (for both parties) takes many repetitions, each followed by positive reinforcement (“at-a boys” and “at-a girls”) delivered in a manner I call small SIPs (Specific, Immediate, and Personal). Otherwise you and they will quickly regress back to your old ways.

In Japan, this is where the subtle samurai image may still be lurking in their subconscious; their DNA kicks in and they just can’t do it automatically. So, you have to:

  • Amp Up your speaking intermittently to an extreme version of what is WRONG, to force them to signal you to do it RIGHT. It continues to get the point across, and invariably gets more laughs.
  • Amp-Down your exaggerations progressively to slowly wean them off of them, but still periodically testing them with a fake fast, slow, or “who-knows?”

Step Five: Use Bandrowski Global Communication Clarity (BGCC) Real Time

Now that they have practiced in an Amped-Down version, it’s time to go real time. Remind them that you need their Brutal Instant Feedback (BIF), as I call it. You want it, and it’s a gift to you (to accept, discard, or re-gift—as I’m doing for you.) And, they also need the same if they are not signaling you when they should be.

Americans are not the only ones who speak too fast. It can be a problem with any nationality. So when the opportunity arises, facilitate the use of the BGCC in the reverse direction. For example, have the Japanese team members use it when they are speaking Japanese, and someone from another country that speaks Japanese as their second or third language is trying to comprehend what is being said.

Given my enthusiasm and energy when I deliver keynote speeches and training, I once in a while still need a BIF. When I need it and instantly get it, it is Bandrowski Global Communication Clarity at its finest. It makes navigating successfully across multicultural and geographical space a whole lot easier and effective.

I hope you find this exercise to be practical and profitable. It could save you millions.

May breakthrough be with you,

Jim Bandrowski

Photo Credit: jungledrumsonline

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