The Culture Map: Decoding How People Think, Lead and Get Things Done Across Cultures

By Erin Meyer (2014)

the culture map book cover by erin meyer

As our world becomes more connected with advances in digital communication, adopted even faster due to Covid-19 and the rapid acceptance of working virtually, relating well to team members and collaborating effectively with people across the globe is more crucial than ever.

Erin Meyer’s The Culture Map offers key lessons for professionals and provided several epiphanies for this reader. Considering one’s cultural profile on eight scales – communicating, evaluating, persuading, leading, deciding, trusting, disagreeing, and scheduling –highlights opportunities for growth and development within a framework that offers practical observations to employ in enhancing interpersonal relationships. Even if you are not leading or working with people from other countries or cultures, the lessons translate generally to any situation: we must consider if someone is behaving due to their cultural norms rather than behaviors in opposition to organizational or our own preferences.

One example is low-context versus high-context communication style. You may have experienced this as feeling as if what is clear in one situation may only be implied in another. Leadership structures and organizational culture can also create unspoken standards of expectations for acceptable communication style. The low-context versus high-context communication continuum resonated with me as I naturally align with the United States preference of low-context, or direct, communication. I prefer direct discussion to find solutions and quick action. High-context communicators alter their style depending on the situation. Varying between enthusiasm and reservation could be construed as inconsistency rather than signs of being from a high-context communication culture. Rather than being explicit, the statement may have an unspoken subtext or second-degree meaning, according to Meyer. Considering the cultural profile of your co-workers could help in navigating challenges.

Three tools available at https://erinmeyer.com/tools provide an opportunity to map yourself, your teammates, and many world cultures on the eight Culture Map dimensions. After reading the book, it is an effective team exercise to self-reflect using these tools. Our efforts to development professionally and personally should never end in pursuit of life-long learning.

Reviewed and written by Megan Yore, MSHPM Board President