Top 5 tips for cultural intelligence: Wendy Lai from a Singaporean perspective

Diversity and Inclusion require smart cross-cultural communication skills. New Zealand – particularly Auckland – has one of the most diverse workforces in the world. The leaders that excel here today are those that understand various cultures, including communication patterns, norms, expectations, and taboos. In the lead-up to the panel discussion September 8, this blog series focuses on cultural intelligence in the workforce, from the viewpoint of selected Global Women members who represent New Zealand’s diverse ethnic makeup.

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Today Global Women member Wendy Lai, a partner at Deloitte, provides five tips for leaders from a Singaporean perspective that you can effectively build into your teams.

1. There’s diversity within Singapore

Singaporeans are made up of a number of ethnicities (Chinese 74.2 percent, Malay 13.3 percent, Indian 9.1 percent, other ethnicities 3.3 percent) and their styles are often more dictated by their ethnic origins.

2. Emotions kept out of meetings

I’m a Chinese Singaporean – they tend to be very black and white and deal with facts rather than emotions and use this to quickly get right down to business in meetings. However, they do not necessarily tell you whether they are happy or disappointed with an output or discussion. So if knowing this is important to the situation but it’s still unclear, you may need to ask them. You know you are really making it when they voluntarily tell you their feelings and thoughts that are non-fact-based!

3. When to challenge

Singaporeans will generally tend not to confront or challenge someone in front of others – this is deemed to be disrespectful, so they prefer to challenge only on a one-to-one basis.This challenge is more likely to be about the facts rather than what they feel went wrong or what makes them unhappy.

4. Loyalty

Singaporeans have strong family values and are extremely loyal – looking after their families, and after people they have worked with over the years, is very important to Singaporeans.

5. Dining together

Having a meal together is nearly always required when meeting new people – and it is a time to socialise and build relationships rather than discuss business.

Want more CQ tips? Read our previous blogs:

CQ from an Indian Perspective, from Ranjna Patel of East Tamaki Healthcare
CQ from a Pacific Perspective, from Anne Fitisemanu of Counties-Manukau DHB