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Working Internationally

post # 78 — May 16, 2006 — a Careers, Client Relations, Managing post

Since I work around the world, I am frequently asked if the business issues I discover tend to differ from country to country or region to region.

The answer is that while the business issues tend to be very similar, the style with which you respond to them must chnage a great deal.

It is always true that to have a successful company, you must energize, excite and enthuse your people. However, it turns out that the way that you excite a Brit is not the same way you enthuse an American. (They even show their enthusiasm in different ways.) In fact, it can vary regionally: the best way to get through to a New Yorker doesn’t always work best in the rest of the US.

The same lesson applies in client relations. When I sent my article Marketing is a Conversation to a prominent UK lawyer, she observed that aggressive attempts to get to know the clients (at least in the fashion I described) would be considered very counter-cultural in the UK and Europe. The intentions and the motivations might be the same, but you would need to have a very sensitive ear to pick up what was being received well.

None of this says one cannot work well in foreign countries. It does say that a key to success is the need to pick up social clues quickly and integrate them into your style (a form of emotional intelligence). But then, that’s true domestically anyway!


Anna Farmery said:

As a blogger and podcaster from the UK i agree with the cultural differences. The next few months will be interesting to watch as the “world becomes flatter” will that mean a new global culture will evolve as we interact with each other 24/7. Although individuals will keep their own values I suspect cultures will become more integrated as outsourcing etc will lead to more interaction.

posted on May 16, 2006

Gareth Garvey said:

I agree that you need to be sensitive to the culture you are working in. As a Brit lving and working in Scaninavia I see diferences between countries that are very close together and speak similar laguages.

Your Lawyer example was no doubt based on a UK lawyer developing a relationship with a UK client. The client in this case will probably expect the ‘getting to know each other approach’ to be within the cultural norms of the country. These expectations will also be based on the reputation and percieved style of the lawyers firm and the industry in question.

In an international relationship both sides tend to make allowances for each others roots in the initial conversation and the client will expect and may accept different approach from an American compared to a Swede or a Frenchman. As in a personal relationship the differences can be both attractive and irritating.

For those of us involved in international work with large multi national teams the need to pick up and use the clues quickly is a day to day issue.

posted on May 17, 2006