Because of their wide experience of interacting with diverse people and places, TCKs have a huge range of naturally acquired personal skills and knowledge to offer. Unfortunately, this can often lead to frustration when their abilities and insights aren’t recognised by others. One reason for the TCK’s contribution being overlooked, is that knowledge and skills are not acquired formally, or with an official qualification, but are gathered from first-hand experience. Perhaps the most obvious attribute that the TCK offers is their cross-cultural understanding.
The TCK’s experience with differing cultures and societal attitudes is a huge attribute in global commerce, not only ‘at the coal face’ but also in supporting roles, such as administration or training. TCKs can also use their innate understanding of the broader picture to offer insightful analysis of stakeholder motivation. They can also contribute to team building and leadership activities where a balanced and intuitive understanding of people’s backgrounds and experiences can add perspective to the challenge of bringing a team together around a challenging objective. TCKs can often make excellent mediators and build connections between people in ways that others might overlook.
Nancy Ruth, who runs highly accredited seminars examining cross-cultural issues, tells the story of a US-based global corporation which was engaged with prospective partners in the Middle East. She recounts how the CEO became impatient when first his potential partners joined the scheduled conference call late and then started the meeting by asking lengthy questions about each other’s health and that of their families. It took a junior partner to advise him that business is done differently in the Middle East. The appointment of a cultural interpreter (a TCK) to bridge the cultural gap in understanding was what got the deal back on the road again.