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Frank Garten (PhD)

travels from Netherlands

Intercultural communication expert sharing valuable insights into cooperation between people from different cultures

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Frank Garten is an expert on communication and collaboration across cultures. As the author of several books and a popular speaker and trainer, he knows that any cultural misfit can be addressed through good communication.

Frank has worked in technical, commercial, and general management positions in Philips and NXP, gaining practical insight into cooperation between people from different cultural backgrounds. He has traveled extensively in most business cultures of the world and experienced what works and what doesn’t in virtual calls, negotiation rooms and management team meeting.

Frank has been working for the last 14 years as an independent consultant and gives lectures and workshops on topics such as cultural diversity, cross-cultural cooperation, communication & influencing and leadership. By combining his sound theoretical basis from his PhD with his own experience, Frank’s talks and lectures notably stand out for their focus on practical tips and advice. Should you copy your superiors on an email? Do you present conclusions first or last in a talk? Should you act confidently or with modesty in first interactions with colleagues, suppliers, clients and partners from across the world?

Frank frequently speaks and runs seminars and workshops across the world. He has done intercultural training for companies such as NXP Semiconductors, Borealis, Flint, ABN-AMRO, Philips, KBC Bank, Schenker, TMC, Ernst & Young, Omron, Frames, Damco and many others. Frank is a lively speaker, and searches for interaction with his audience, not hesitating to let them look in the mirror and confront them with their own cultural preconceptions.

See keynotes with Frank Garten (PhD)
Keynote by speaker Frank Garten

"I'm the rule, they are the exception" - A keynote on cross-cultural differences at work

Any business in 2021 operates internationally. We all recognize statements like: “The software team in India always tells us the project is on track. This is simply not true, there are delays. So they are not honest.” or “Americans are so superficial. They ask me “How are you doing?” but don’t expect an answer. Everything they say is ‘over the top’ and ‘fake’.” The pattern is obvious: we are ‘normal’ and they are the problem. A belief that will further polarize the discussion. Great communication is the only medicine: brutal honesty, deep questions, intense listening and building lasting relationships. 

In this thought-provoking and entertaining keynote, Frank Garten will:

  • Bring you an understanding of different cultures, while arguing that we don’t need more knowledge, but a different mindset.
  • Tell you how to build bridges between cultures and reach out to someone who pushes your defensive responses.
  • Teach you how to overcome thinking patterns such as ”I know better than you. So my way-of-working is the right one”.
Keynote by speaker Frank Garten

"I'm very tolerant of differences" - A keynote on diversity and inclusion at work

It is a notorious open wound in many companies and organizations: inclusion and diversity. Why have we been struggling with this issue for the last 20 years and make so little progress? Because we externalize the issue. The majority looks for processes and procedures which – once implemented – will properly include the minority. The underlying pattern: the majority designs solutions while ignoring that they themselves form the problem. No leader ever admitted he wants to learn to be more inclusive. Harvard Business Review nailed it in 2017: “Leaders are not good judges of their own effectiveness on valuing diversity.” This keynote argues that only when we start to see ourselves as the source of the problem, a solution will start to emerge. 

In this fun and challenging keynote, speaker Frank Garten will:

  • Show you how the brain works, how this reduces our openness to differences and the 4 things you can do about it.
  • Discuss how we fool ourselves with data, one-sided stories and confirmation bias, without touching the real problem.
  • Help you develop the courage to reflect, speak up and make a change yourself.
Keynote by speaker Frank Garten

"Yes, but... I'm right, not you" - A keynote on defensive responses at work

We always hope that smart individuals and cross-cultural teams will communicate and cooperate smoothly. The reality is often different. The comfort zone of the silent minority is to listen and interpret, while the loud majority loves to speak and to assert. Opinionated engineers and experienced managers state their truths. On the receiving end of the message, brains go into defense to protect their comfort and safety. Defensive responses in the workplace should not derail conversations, but rather give a spark to curious debate and passionate discovery. This workshop hands you tools to avoid and overcome defensive responses, such that communication and collaboration improve and work actually becomes… fun! 

In this effective and enjoyable keynote, Frank Garten will:

  • Explain to you how our comfort zone works and why it is safer for us to be less courageous and visible in the office.
  • Tell you how the brain works. A fascinating guide on defensive, neurochemical processes that hijack our brain, and how to get them back under control.
  • Show you very practical tips for how we can ensure that we are not driven by our elementary brain, but by our rational and creative selves: innovating, discovering, and creating opportunity.
Keynote by speaker Frank Garten

"Win-win negotiation. Yeah right." - A keynote on the challenges of international negotiation

We all say we love collaborative negotiation, and that we always go for win-win. That’s what we say. But it is not in line with how the human brain works. Our beautiful intentions for win-win evaporate when the first verbal bombardments start, and our defensive responses make us much less rational and objective than we are ready to admit. Add an international context and time pressure into the equation, and you’ve got the perfect battleground. In this context, the best negotiators are not the fearless warriors you would imagine them to be. At the international negotiation table, smart and tactful moves bring you further, and building up true connections with your counterparts is key. This lecture or workshop deals with all aspects of intercultural negotiation: the different cultures, preparation of a negotiation, opening bids and countering strategies, the dirty tricks of negotiation and the different influencing styles you’ll need to master to be effective.

In this sharp and fun keynote, Frank Garten will:

  • Explain how the brain works and how win-win strategies are not our default mode of operation
  • How defensive responses come up, and how to overcome these
  • Show funny and real-life examples of cultural barriers at the negotiation table
  • Discuss the various ‘dirty tactics’ and what you can do when these are used by the other side of the table
  • Explore different influencing styles, and how these can help you connect with different people
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Interview with Frank Garten

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Frank Garten in action

See keynotes with Frank Garten (PhD)

Interview with Frank Garten

What types of results do clients experience after your programmes & keynotes?

There are two types of results. First, new insights. They realize that working with other cultures is not about learning knowledge, tips & tricks about another country. You don’t need knowledge, you need curiosity. People have experienced that they are the problem: their openness and communication skills determine how well or how poorly they interact with people who are different than them. A confronting insight for some. The second type of result is very hands-on: I want people to walk away with practical tips, about how to write emails, host video calls in an international environment etc.

What advice would you give to someone who has just started to work with/in another culture?

Listen with the aim to understand. Refrain from judgment, just listen and learn. And: behave like you would do in your own culture. But explain what you do and show the other person you know you are culturally biased. “I’m Dutch, and in our culture, we are quite direct and confrontational. In my culture, at this point I would just tell you your proposal will not work. Please don’t take this personal, I like you a lot, but I want to be as clear as I can.”

What are the most common barriers in intercultural interactions?

The assumption that my culture is better than yours. So, when working with the back office in India, many of us work from the assumption that we know how to run projects, and that the Indians are sloppy and chaotic. When you work from this assumption, you will only find evidence for other people being sloppy and chaotic. But who are we to tell 1.4 billion Indians they are wrong? Work from the assumption that you can learn from them. Then you will find that India is a rich, fascinating, and remarkably effective culture.

Do you have a favourite experience from your speaking career?

I always search for the possibility to confront people in the audience with their own behavior. In my talk I will point out how the dominant culture in the audience comes across to someone from another culture. Those moments are funny, and insightful. When the Swedes see how super-relaxed they come across. When the Americans notice how ‘simple’ and ‘superficial’ they may be perceived. When the Russians and Finns are labeled as cold and uninterested. When the British find out how hard it is for others to understand what they really mean.

What skills are needed to be a good negotiator?

The intuitive answer would be that you need to be articulate, that you are not afraid to confront, and that you speak with conviction. But that’s just a small part of it. You need to be a very good listener. And we all think we are, but we are not. You need to be a very good observer as well. See and hear everything. And then interpret what you see and hear from their perspective. Why do they do what they do? Why do they say what they say? If you’re able to think from their perspective rather than from your own, you’re a good negotiator.

Who or what inspires you most?

The new generation that comes into the workforce now. I often see so much hidden and unexpressed potential in companies. New generations more show their skills and have an inner confidence to do what they think needs to be done. I find this very inspiring. Further I read a lot, about physics, about leadership, about fascinating people. This is a great source of inspiration.

See keynotes with Frank Garten (PhD)
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Keynote topics with Frank Garten (PhD)