Tag Archives: Relationships
In the series “Seven Principles of Intercultural Effectiveness” I would like to show you how you can reach your targets across cultures by adhering to seven principles.
The first principle is grounded in the lost long art of trying harder and showing more patience. It is called:

“I try harder and show more patience.”

In Switzerland, we are obsessed with the concept of time. We believe in process improvement and efficiency. What I have learnt though is that in intercultural communication you cannot be efficient in the Western worldview sense of the world. You need to learn to be “inefficient” in order to achieve your goals. Achieving your goals is what you interact with people for in the business world. I am not talking about your personal life here. Let’s say you want to develop your business in India. You have a limited budget and limited resources. Also, your time is your most important resource.
Now, you want to be effective, which means you want to reach your goal in the intercultural communication with the least amount of effort and resources. This could be a contract or a deal. It would be short-sighted to only measure the end result, i.e. the signature of the deal as the process to get there will be different in India than in Switzerland. In many cultures in the world, it is important to build relationships before doing business so if you give up on your business partners because they have not bought your machines the first time you went there you might be losing a lot of good business opportunities.
For your initial business trip to India, your main target, therefore, should be to get to know your prospects and business partners from all angles of their lives. Understand what they are struggling with, what they like to do when they don’t work and meet their children. Take the time to learn about the Indian culture while you are there. Get more information on the societal status of your business partner and their religious background. Find out what they like from Switzerland and bring it. Invest in the relationship only. When they want to talk business they will let you know.
In every interaction with your Indian counterpart withhold your judgement. It might be that this person is moving a lot faster than you and has more responsibilities to tackle but you won’t notice that unless you meet them in person. Find out what their day looks like. Be personal and approachable.

Do you remember Urs, the global HR Manager I introduced you to last week? Well, he took a few hours of 1:1 coaching and a few weeks later he relayed the last conference call with his team. He told me that the atmosphere had completely changed.

“What did you do?” I asked him.

“Well, I don’t really know. First I stopped emailing my team members and arranged to have a bi-weekly team call. I started to have a weekly 1:1 Skype call at odd hours from home with every single team member as we are not allowed to use Skype at work and our VC is always booked. Somehow, these calls are not really efficient. They are not about work but I am trying to get to know my team better. I am trying to understand what goes on in their lives and I tell them a bit about my family, my wife and my two daughters. I had not realized that Kasha was just going through a divorce. Rajeev has told me in the second call that his parents want him to get married to a distant relative but he dates a girl he loves in secret. I had no idea that they were so old fashioned still.

So I asked Rajeev if he would like to come to Switzerland for a few months to help me with the roll-out here. Maybe by the time he returns his parents change their minds. I also offered to talk to them. Rajeev really appreciated this gesture. I could see that he almost cried. Then afterwards he worked more hours and fixed the issue with the taxes with a local programmer. The two of them also contacted Maria in Manila and explained her what she needed to change step-by-step. I was surprised at this sudden initiative and must say I had a completely wrong idea of Rajeev’s talents. He is a lot better than what I thought.

Next, I asked the team if we could have a vision board where we would all post our ideas for the team in 2016. We have collated the ideas and they gave me good direction for planning the next projects. The last big step now is that every team member revises the milestones of the project plan as we never thought about the local holidays and that specifications need time and resources as well.”

I smiled. “What are you going to do next?”

“I don’t know. I feel a bit superfluous in the team now but I guess I will think about a marketing strategy for our team so senior management understands the value we bring to the firm.”

“Sounds good.”

We agreed to meet again in three months.

(to be continued)