National Character: The Facet5 Approach

By Nell McLeod

Should we just accept people as individuals, or can we understand them as products of their culture? Studying the subject would no doubt be complicated, and possibly controversial. Despite this, psychologist Norman Buckley felt that studying the subject was particularly relevant in the business world, and that his personality measure Facet5 was the right tool for the job. Here we explore how an individual-oriented tool can not only be used to study a nation, but how this can be fundamental to the coaching community.

Norman Buckley has spent much of his career in the field of consultancy, researching and developing Facet5, and has travelled extensively. Norman claims that, wherever he goes, coaches come to him with the same question: how should our approach change when we work with multicultural teams?

For those of you who have still not used the tool, Facet5 is one of the most advanced personality measures available and it definitely proved its capabilities in this study. It is an individual-focused tool, rather than a survey, but the fact that it was used for a correlation study highlights its adaptability. After the profiling of an impressive 50,000 participants across 22 countries, the results displayed undeniable tendencies towards certain personality traits; for example, results from China consistently showed flexibility.

The study underlines the importance to coaches of cultural awareness. Furthermore, it makes clear the importance of promoting cultural awareness within teams. When each individual understands the contrasting cultures within their team, friction and uncertainty can be avoided. For example, an individual from the UK could be offended by the perceived abruptness of an Australian, while the Australian could be frustrated by British vagueness. Similarly, the high-context French could feel patronised by the low-context Americans, who are used to clarity and precise explanation.

Cultural diversity can undoubtedly be an asset, and should therefore be encouraged, but understanding each others ‘rules’ must surely be a prerequisite. The difference between the eastern and the western worlds conduct within meetings highlights this point very well. A business meeting in the UK, for example, will often act as a forum for debate and the exchange of ideas: An environment in which decisions are made. In China, it is more likely to be a place where previously made decisions are officially recognised.  In this example, one culture’s way of working could be an insult to the other. Perhaps a Chinese person working in the UK would need to be made aware of the lack of formality in British business meetings, whereas the Briton in China would need to understand the importance of custom in Chinese culture.

The crux of this is that, if a multicultural team is not performing, it is just possible that, rather than being personal, the problem could be cultural. The studys findings demonstrated differences that encourage us to understand a culture, if we want to understand a team.



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