by Erin Meyer
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
You have two eyes, two ears, but only one mouth. You should use them accordingly.
Simply explaining what you are doing can often help a lot, both by defusing an immediate misunderstanding and by laying the foundation for better teamwork in the future
If an executive wants to build and manage global teams that can work together successfully, he needs to understand not just how people from his own culture experience people from various international cultures, but also how those international cultures perceive one another.
In Hindi the word “kal” means both tomorrow and yesterday.
MR. DÍAZ: It looks like some of us are going to have to be here on Sunday to host the client visit. MR. CHEN: I see. MR. DÍAZ: Can you join us on Sunday? MR. CHEN: Yes, I think so. MR. DÍAZ: That would be a great help. MR. CHEN: Yes, Sunday is an important day. MR. DÍAZ: In what way? MR. CHEN: It’s my daughter’s birthday. MR. DÍAZ: How nice. I hope you all enjoy it. MR. CHEN: Thank you. I appreciate your understanding.2
The Chinese manager learns never to criticize a colleague openly or in front of others, while the Dutch manager learns always to be honest and to give the message straight. Americans are trained to wrap positive messages around negative ones, while the French are trained to criticize passionately and provide positive feedback sparingly.
“TB” (très bien—very good)
One of the most common frustrations among French employees with American bosses is that the American tells them what to do without explaining why they need to do it.
Actually, the view of the world most common in Asian cultures is so different from that of European-influenced cultures that an entirely different frame of reference, unrelated to the Persuading scale, comes into play.
Chinese people think from macro to micro, whereas Western people think from micro to macro. For example, when writing an address, the Chinese write in sequence of province, city, district, block, gate number. The Westerners do just the opposite—they start with the number of a single house and gradually work their way up to the city and state. In the same way, Chinese put the surname first, whereas the Westerners do it the other way around. And Chinese put the year before month and date. Again, it’s the opposite in the West.
Bae Pak from the Korean motor company Kia explains, “When we work with our Western colleagues, we are often taken aback by their tendency to make decisions without considering how their decisions are impacting various business units, clients, and suppliers. We feel their decisions are hasty and often ignore the surrounding impact.”
His suggestions include the following: • Introduce management by objectives, starting by speaking with each employee about the department’s vision for the coming year and then asking them to propose their best personal annual objectives subject to negotiation and final agreement with you. In this way, you become a facilitator rather than a supervisor while still keeping a handle on what is being accomplished. • Make sure the objectives are concrete and specific and consider linking them to bonuses or other rewards. • Set objectives for a twelve-month period and check on ...more
for Americans, a ‘decision’ is simply an agreement to continue discussions.
But the really remarkable exception is Japan, which although strongly hierarchical is one of the most consensual societies in the world.
The Japanese ringi system epitomizes a culture where decisions take a long time to be made, as everyone is invested in building a group consensus. But once the decision is made, it is generally fixed and the implementation may be very rapid, because each individual is on board. The result is a decision with a capital D.
An acquisitions expert from the German-speaking region of Switzerland, Morel led a negotiation team for multinational food giant Nestlé. The team traveled to Shanghai to explore a potential joint venture with a company specializing in packaged Chinese delicacies. The initial meetings with eight Chinese executives proved to be a baffling experience for Morel. While he and his colleagues tried to be friendly and transparent, providing all the business details the Chinese asked for, the Chinese seemed closed and secretive. “They were impenetrable. They were tough as nails and unwilling to budge ...more
After all, in countries like the United States or Switzerland, “business is business.” In countries like China or Brazil, “business is personal.”
BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China)
So if you find yourself wondering in exasperation, “Why do I have to spend so much time dining and socializing with potential clients? Why can’t we just get down to business and sign a contract?” remember—in many cultures, the relationship is your contract. You can’t have one without the other.
the relationship building that happens in the evening can be critical to business success.
Under no circumstances should the discussions of the night before be mentioned the next day.
In Western countries, everyone is expected to have a different idea from everyone else. In Japan, it is considered more important to avoid saying anything that might offend or disturb the harmony of those involved in the discussion and to always defer to the person of highest rank or status.
“Here in Japan,” Yoshisaki explained, “even asking another’s point of view can feel confrontational in our culture.
In many Asian cultures, the default purpose of a meeting is to approve a decision that has already been made in informal discussions.
Before your next team meeting, try calling your Japanese colleague for a casual offline discussion.