Intercultural competence in multi-stakeholder projects.

In large projects, diverse stakeholders often come together: different departments and companies, but also players with different social or political backgrounds. When an international context is added to the mix, communication among them can pose a challenge. Intercultural competence is essential for project leaders and can be very helpful, especially in multi-stakeholder projects.

5 tips to improve intercultural competence.

Tip 1: Address misunderstandings

Most of us wear our own cultural glasses with which we view the world. However, our values and behaviours are often not identical to those of other cultures. This can lead to misunderstandings. If you are irritated by your counterpart, it may also be due to their cultural background.
Therefore, reflect on the situation and consider whether cultural differences have led to this. To ask questions is a sign of interest in order to eliminate misunderstandings.

Tip 2: Be open to new approaches!

A round of introductions at the beginning of a project can create clarity and give a chance to get a first impression of the people involved. Ideally, everyone should state their expectations of the project. Protocols in which decisions and distribution of tasks are recorded can be very useful and provide all participants with the opportunity to follow up on misunderstandings.
Will the tasks be approached differently than in your department or company? Allow alternative approaches, ways of working and points of view a real chance. Many roads lead to Rome.

Tip 3: Don’t insist on your own habits

Intercultural competence includes being open to one another and being able to endure uncertainties.
Working with different stakeholder groups is a challenge for everyone and requires patience. Therefore, while it is important to articulate your own ideas, it is also crucial to give others this opportunity. Even you may not always be right.

Tip 4: Be mindful

Intercultural faux pas may happen. This is not a big deal. Pay attention to your counterpart’s reaction and, if in doubt, address whether your behaviour was inappropriate. A friendly apology will solve most intercultural problems.

Tip 5: Careful with criticism

Be cautious about direct criticism in an intercultural context, even if it is meant to be esteeming. In certain societies criticism is a sign of interest, in others it is a loss of honour. Before starting a project with multi-stakeholders, it should be discussed how criticism will be handled. Instead of within the group, a discussion in private can also be helpful.

C-Matrix is your contact for project communication in multi-stakeholder projects as well as in international settings. If you are interested, we are happy to provide you with more information about our services.

Michèle Weber Da Costa

Michèle Weber Da Costa

Senior Consultant

+41 43 300 56 67


DE / EN / FR / ES / PT

Michèle Weber Da Costa advises clients in the finance, construction and energy sector. She has many years of experience in project communication, event organisation, change management, internal and intercultural communication at Zurich Airport Police. She was an editor of a staff magazine and helped to shape the digitalisation of internal communication channels.