SIT DOWN AND LISTEN
In the Canadian school system, there is often a participation bonus:
the participants who speak up the most receive credit for that,
and it boosts their grade. In the workplace, it’s not just appropriate
but desirable and expected that employees make their voices
heard. In many Asian cultures, on the other hand, the importance
of waiting carefully for your counterparts to finish their sentences
before you speak demonstrates valued listening and communication
The first global team one Canadian managed comprised six
Canadians and two Malaysians. He noticed quickly that during
these meetings, the Malaysians hardly spoke while the Canadians
were pushing to have their voices heard. Later, he pulled one of
the Malaysian members aside and asked how she felt things were
going. She responded that she found it difficult to participate because
the Canadians were constantly interrupting and talking on
top of one another.
When leading a global team, don’t mistake a lack of participation
for a lack of something to say. Build an opportunity for each
person to contribute into the agenda. At the end of the meeting,
go around and ask each person for a last reflection. You might find
at that those who were quiet throughout the meeting have something
important to offer.
FOLLOW THE LEADER
The level of respect and deference shown to a boss varies dramatically
from one part of the world to another.
Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Australia and Israel are some of
the most egalitarian parts of the world. There, the boss is one of
the team and treated as facilitator among equals. Canadian culture
tends to be more hierarchical than these environments, but much
less so than BRIC cultures and other emerging markets. In Brazil,
Russia, India and China, there is more respect and deference
shown to the authority figure. People avoid disagreeing openly
with their boss in public, or suggesting that they know more than
their boss knows.
In today’s global business environment, it is not enough to know
how to lead in an egalitarian culture or in a hierarchical culture.
Managers need to develop the flexibility to manage up and down
the cultural scale. Often, this means going back to square one. It
means watching what makes local leaders successful. It means
explaining your own style frequently. But, ultimately, it means
learning to lead in different ways in order to motivate and mobilize
groups who follow in different ways. n
Erin Meyer is the author of The Culture Map: Breaking Through
the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business.
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50 ❚ FEBRUARY 2015 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL