"Emotional intelligence for mutual understanding" - eMag Interview (6)

Life in a strange culture is full of the potential for unexpected social mistakes, the stumbling blocks in the professional paths of employees working abroad. Cross-cultural trainers are here to prepare our colleagues for unfamiliar territory and to help them reflect about other cultures based on existing clichés. The eMag series "Cultures, Communication and Clichés" is dedicated to this fascinating vocation. Today Sabine Amend speaks with us about cross-cultural learning strategies and tells us about the connection between cross-cultural skills and the development of emotional intelligence. Her specialty area: development of international leadership skills in the USA.

eMag: What's the objective of your training?

Sabine Amend: As an experienced trainer I know in the meantime that cross-cultural skills have a lot to do with the development of emotional intelligence. That's why I want to create spaces in which the entire person is welcome and able to experience high levels of appreciation in the learning process.

eMag: What does your training focus on?

Sabine Amend: It's not about what, but whom … I have a clear focus on the person. Which skills show good potential for development, with the goal of the person being able to work effectively with a wide variety of cultures? Flexibility in social behavior is one of these skills, as is self-awareness: How do I come across in foreign cultural contexts? And cross-cultural learning strategies are important as well.

eMag: What are your strategies in training?

Sabine Amend: Just the opposite of the cliché of the "serious German", my training sessions include a lot of humor; taking something seriously doesn't mean never smiling!

eMag: What is your opinion of national clichés, how do you perceive them in your everyday life?

Sabine Amend: As a German I've lived in the USA for 14 years now, long enough to have noticed what about me is "really German" and will probably always stay that way. I'm still not as oriented to spontaneous, short-notice action as many Americans are. I need time to think and plan. I enjoy ideas even if they can't be profitably applied right away. And I still find the political process in the USA disturbing. Does this mean I fit the cliché of the "European intellectual" and prove that "they're Socialists over there in Germany"? If you want to see it that way, yes it does. And I'm completely fine with that.

eMag: Are there also national clichés about Germany and Germans that annoy you?

Sabine Amend: Yes, of course! They include remarks like: "Oh yeah, beer, bratwurst and oom-pa-pa music" just as much as a the stereotype of the "evil German militarist". People have seen "Das Boot" and know all about it …

eMag: Has anything about your work changed over the years? Are different kinds of content important today compared with several years ago?

Sabine Amend: Globalization continues to change the world, constantly. This of course also has an impact on cross-cultural training. In the late 1990s the focus was on country-specific information for collaboration between two national cultures, for example relating to the USA and China. Today it's much more common for employees to have interfaces with several different international cultures – and on top of that there's also the factor of cultural plurality within the organization.

eMag: What does this mean specifically for your training sessions?

Sabine Amend: Digital information habits are at the same time changing expectations placed on learning. Units of information have become shorter, while I place more emphasis on active and interactive learning methods. I'm making increasing use of current and visual information.

eMag: Can I still learn something from you, even though I've already been working together with international colleagues for a long time?

Sabine Amend: Definitely! One impressive example from a training session: "Ah, now I understand why the Germans behave that way!" – a remark made by a non-German, internationally experienced manager, who had already worked together happily and successfully with Germans for 20 years. This manager couldn't find the time in his daily business activities to really learn from his experiences. Cross-cultural training or a custom-tailored coaching process can also keep internationally experienced professionals from repeating mistakes they haven't noticed in the past. Training and coaching can also help reduce frustration and stress by making the motivations and logic behind actions in the other culture more transparent. In addition, it's always a good idea to define the status quo every now and again: This makes it much easier to recognize growth potential which can be leveraged.

eMag: Thank you for speaking with us, Ms. Amend.


About Sabine Amend

Sabine Amend, raised in Frankfurt am Main, has been based close to Denver, USA since 2001. Before that she lived in the United Kingdom and China for several years. She has worked as a cross-cultural trainer, coach and consultant since 1998. Her work is culture-specific, including coaching on all aspects of the development of international leadership skills; she strengthens the ability of managers, teams and organizations to handle complexity. She conducts cross-cultural training, workshops and consulting for Infineon on location in the USA.


The author Valerie Woop works for the co-worker magazine of Infineon Technologies AG.

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Wednesday, 22 November 2017
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