How to Be an Excellent Intercultural Trainer – Part 2 by Cathy Wellings.

The second post in the series – how to be an excellent intercultural trainer

Part 2 – Know your Business 

When talking to prospective clients you will frequently be asked about your own experience of working internationally; buyers of intercultural training will usually want to know that you have ‘been there and done that’ yourself or in other words that you ‘have dirt under your fingernails’! Others may argue that if you know your subject and are well-qualified in the field it shouldn’t matter but having significant real life experience will help you to not only secure more training jobs but also to deliver a better, more meaningful service to your clients.

  • Builds credibility – When selecting an intercultural trainer, HR professionals and Learning & Development Managers want to be sure that the person they have chosen will be credible in front of their customer – your audience. A profile that combines real life experience with academic expertise will present as more credible and clients will have more confidence that the experienced trainer will fully understand of the challenges facing the organisation and the outcomes they expect from the training intervention.
  • Creates empathy – When your participants hear you say: ‘I faced a similar dilemma in a previous role and this is what I did’ they will immediately feel that you understand what they are going through and that you ‘get it’. While it’s important that you don’t fall into the trap of giving participants all the answers or a set of do’s and don’ts for every situation they may face, demonstrating an understanding of what they are going through will help you to build rapport and empathy with your participants.
  • Makes your training relevant and meaningful – Having been there and done it yourself and come out the other side you will be more able to anticipate the themes your participants raise and design content and activities that match the challenges they are facing.

This is all well and good but can be disheartening for younger trainers who have studied hard and perhaps have personal rather than professional overseas experience i.e. they don’t have years of international business experience behind them. This may seem like a difficult wall to get over.

Here are some things that less experienced trainers can do;

  • Know your client’s business – However much or little experience you have of working internationally it is crucial that you build an understanding of what your client does and that you can speak their language. Their corporate website and any online press coverage, particularly of international activity, are good places to start. Make sure you know the name of the person at the top, the brand values, their main competitors and so on. Do your own research and talk to people you know who work in the sector but don’t be afraid to ask for information you need. You may be able to build up a track record of training in a specific sector and you will then be able to share insights from your other clients as much as from your own experience.
  • Talk from experience – Excellent trainers combine facilitating participants’ discussion of their experiences and ideas with sharing of their own expertise and your participants will want to hear your experiences and get your personal insights into key business dilemmas. If you don’t have much first hand business experience perhaps you have developed insights as a customer or as a student at business school or through working with international colleagues.
  • Collect stories – More people learn through stories than through statistics so try to build your own database of stories that you can use to bring your training to life. Stories can be borrowed as well as your own so talk to other trainers or your friends who work globally or remember examples that other clients have shared with you. Search out well-known authentic case studies of international M&A or business development ventures in new markets. Keep up with world affairs and keep in touch with companies you are interested in by following them on social media or creating Google alerts so that you are notified whenever they hit the news.
  • Build up experience – Obviously you cannot magic up ten years’ international management experience overnight but you can build your international experience little by little. Join a global project team as a volunteer, perhaps through SIETAR or another specialist interest network. Work collaboratively on cross-border training initiatives or take up any opportunities for overseas training delivery.
    Intercultural Training

    Intercultural Training

The reality is that for intercultural trainers to be successful in the corporate world they need to be business-savvy. Of course that it is not to say that the trainers with the most business experience will necessarily be the best trainers but we need at least to be able to talk our clients’ language and design programmes that connect with their experiences of working internationally.

Book Review – Dancing to a Different Tune by Patrick L. Schmidt

Published by Meridian World Press in Conjunction with SIETAR Europa 2014. 186 pages.

Review by Matthew Hill

This book manages to be simultaneously a biography of the Mother and Fathers of intercultural thought and development, a resource list for the developing intercultural trainer and a revealing biography of the author himself. Quite an achievement in only 184 highly readable and accessible pages.

The book represents a collection of written pieces first published in the SIETAR Europa Journal over the last 6 or so years. It includes interviews with the great and the good in the world of culture, articles that show culture in action in business (company mergers and in multicultural teams) and on land (across boarders and in regions over time.)
The book concludes with 10 intercultural book reviews.

Intercultural youtube logo

This tome takes an archeological approach, scraping away the years and asking 2 core questions – Where does culture come from? And where do the subjects of the book derive their love, passion and curiosity for the subject?

Patrick later subjects himself to the same questions and comes up with valuable insights and a worrying trend.

The common thread connecting all the participants is experience; of travel, war, shock, clash, of not understanding and of being immersed in alien worlds.

Revolving around the star of the show – Dr. Milton Bennett, the interviews and articles expand upon the concepts of empathy, ethnorelativity, dilemma reconciliation and the role of history, geography and religion in forming the cultural norms of countries such as USA, German, Austria and France.

The project of interviewing a list of secret heroes also reveals a dark cloud floating ominously above the intercultural community. The author does not shy away from asking the tough questions about the purpose and effectiveness of Intercultural training, SIETAR and its commercial impact.

At one point, if you are skimming through the pages, you may feel that Patrick is actually in the room with The President of the United States – Something to look out for.

Accompanying the reader’s journey through the hall of intercultural fame is a dance of the seven veils in which Patrick Schmidt, through his choice of participants, his choice of polemic and his choice of references, reveals both his fluency in the concepts and a pedagogical depth not normally associated with a trainer or visiting lecturer.

An additional bonus for SIETAR members, both old and not so old, is the chance to gain a new perspective on the key influencers we think we know. Patrick, in his interviews gently teases out the context in which the main players in the field found their inspiration for breakthroughs and discoveries.

This book represents an honest chronicle of the SIETAR movement, the Intercultural field and of Patrick Schmidt himself. A worthy and useful read.