A chameleon will change its color based on their mood. They change their color to send social signals to other chameleons. They use darker colors to communicate anger and lighter colors to attract that special mate. They also change colors to adjust their body temperature. Their ability to camouflage with the environment is only a secondary feature they use to protect themselves from predators. Adjusting to their environment is one of their distinguishing characteristics.
The cultural chameleon business leader (or CCBL) is someone who has learned to blend in with cultures very different than their home culture. They have the ability to assimilate in ways that help them navigate different cultures without totally abandoning their own. For the CCBL it is an adaptability mechanism that helps them build trust, create opportunities and leverage business objectives in a way that benefits both parties involved.
The cultural chameleon business leader is very efficient and resourceful in learning and dealing with cultural challenges. They are gifted at learning the need to know language, history and other cultural facts that help them build the social relationships that open doors for them. They are naturally curious and allow their personal interests to help them discover new cultures for the first time.
They have learned from past experiences that leveraging their personal interest to guide them helps develop a natural connect with host cultures. Host culture nationals feel a genuine interest which builds authentic relationships with shared experiences and stories.
It starts with a little TLC Tender loving care goes a longs way while working cross culturally. TLC here means Think, Learn, Chart. The CCBL does have a high self-awareness but is not limited to that alone. They have the ability to adapt and adjust their self-concept as they receive new information about the culture. As they are receiving this new information they have adapted the attitude of a learner and that triggers the thinking process for them to begin to analyses what they need to give up from their home culture, what they can adapt from their home culture, and what they may need to add from other cultural experiences. As this thinking and learning process is under way, they begin to chart the best way forward for them to piece together a plan to smoothly navigate the relationships and business interactions.
The second aspect is your motivation. You have to be motivated to put your charted plan to work in a culturally appropriate response. You have a very good understanding of your ability; you believe in yourself and have a strong mindset. Working cross culturally requires a strong sense of self efficiency in problem solving and a strategic approach to overcome obstacles. You can work smart and hard at the same time without seeing immediate rewards.
Goals and goal attainment are a very important matter that needs to be understood by both parties from different cultures that happen to be working together. The new expat leader may come into a situation with certain goals that will determine their long-term future and could impact them in some very positive or negative ways. The key responsibility of the CCBL is to understand their counter parts goals as they align with the business and their future. Both parties need to understand what the other party has to gain and loss in relationship to their goals and create a bond or connection on how they can work together to generate the necessary actions to reach these goals for a win-win situation for the business and their futures.
Your ability to be flexible with your personal norms and values will serve you well. Your ability to evaluate social interactions will not be impaired and you will not isolate yourself from very valuable cultural experiences. If you have strongly held norms and values, working cross culturally is not for you.
The final aspect is producing the appropriate cultural behaviors. Your ability to acquire and adapt the appropriate behaviors requires persistent to not only acquire it but also the aptitude to know when new behaviors are needed and how to execute them.
The ability to mimic the appropriate behavior serves both you and your host culture as it puts them at ease. The ability to observe the various culture cues and reactions to them serves the CCBL well as they learn who to mimic and use them. This is where we see the chameleon come out. They are producing the appropriate color for the present situation and communication is happening with the host culture. This level of cultural behavior has a positive impact on business opportunities as the host culture feels that connectedness through the observed appropriate culture responses.
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