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.