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Br idgin g t h e Cu lt u r e Ga p: A Pr a ct ica l Gu ide t o I n t e r n a t ion a l Bu sin e ss Com m u n ica t ion by Penny Cart e and Chris Fox Kogan Page © 2004 (180 pages)
Packed wit h fascinat ing cases, cult ural awareness scales, com m unicat ion st yle t est s and pract ical t ips, t his lively guide will help anyone—of any nat ionalit y—t o becom e a bet t er com m unicat or. Ta ble of Con t e n t s Bridging The Cult ure Gap–A Pract ical Guide t o I nt ernat ional Business Com m unicat ion For ew or d I nt roduct ion Chapt er 1 - I nt erpret ing t he Part y Line Chapt er 2 - Knowing Your Place Chapt er 3 - Knowing t he Lim it s Chapt er 4 - Knowing t he Form Chapt er 5 - Making Present at ions Chapt er 6 - Making Deals Chapt er 7 - Knowing Yourself References I ndex
Ba ck Cove r As globalizat ion gat hers m om ent um , cont act bet ween business people from ot her count ries is becom ing m ore frequent . The m ore nat ional boundaries a com pany crosses, t he great er t he scope for m isunderst anding and conflict . To succeed int ernat ionally, it is essent ial t o be able t o break t he barriers of cult ure, language, and set pat t erns of t hinking. Bridging t he Cult ure Gap, writ t en by t wo of Canning’s m ost experienced t rainers, is a dist illat ion of m any years’ work and is based on t he real- life business sit uat ions of t heir int ernat ional client s. You’ll find out how t o… deal sensit ively wit h ot her cult ures; m ind your m anners; avoid hidden dangers; get people t o play ball; com m unicat e wit h st yle; win t he deal; and so m uch m ore. Packed wit h fascinat ing cases, cult ural awareness scales, com m unicat ion st yle t est s and pract ical t ips, t his lively guide will help anyone—of any nat ionalit y—t o becom e a bet t er com m unicat or. Whet her you are planning t o give a present at ion t o a cross- cult ural group or about t o negot iat e wit h an overseas client , Bridging t he Cult ure Gap will ensure t hat your cult ural awareness ant ennae are well t uned. Abou t t h e Au t h or s Penny Cart é has been Canning’s Research and Developm ent Direct or since 1988. During t hat t im e, she has run t ailored courses for m ult inat ional com panies from t he aut om ot ive, pharm aceut ical, chem ical and financial sect ors, and has t raveled ext ensively t hroughout Europe and Asia. She has writ t en and edit ed a wide range of cross- cult ural, m anagem ent skills and English for business t raining m at erials. Chris Fox j oined Canning in 1999, specializing in running courses for m anagers in t he pharm aceut ical, financial and aerospace sect ors who st yle t o suit t he expect at ions of an int ernat ional audience. He t ravels regularly t hroughout Europe, and beyond, liaising wit h client com panies and delivering courses. He has published papers and art icles on polit ical and cult ural t heory.
Br idgin g Th e Cu lt u r e Ga p– A Pr a ct ica l Gu ide t o I n t e r n a t ion a l Bu sin e ss Com m u n ica t ion Pe n n y Ca r t é & Ch r is Fox Pu blish e r ’s n ot e Every possible effort has been m ade t o ensure t hat t he inform at ion cont ained in t his book is accurat e at t he t im e of going t o press, and t he publishers and aut hors cannot accept responsibilit y for any errors or om issions, however caused. No responsibilit y for loss or dam age occasioned t o any person act ing, or refraining from act ion, as a result of t he m at erial in t his publicat ion can be accept ed by t he edit or, t he publisher or any of t he aut hors. First published in Great Brit ain and t he Unit ed St at es in 2004 by Kogan Page Lim it ed Apart from any fair dealing for t he purposes of research or privat e st udy, or crit icism or review, as perm it t ed under t he Copyright , Designs and Pat ent s Act 1988, t his publicat ion m ay only be reproduced, st ored or t ransm it t ed, in any form or by any m eans, wit h t he prior perm ission in writ ing of t he publishers, or in t he case of reprographic reproduct ion in accordance wit h t he t erm s and licences issued by t he CLA. Enquiries concerning reproduct ion out side t hese t erm s should be sent t o t he publishers at t he underm ent ioned addresses: 120 Pent onville Road London N1 9JN Unit ed Kingdom w w w .kogan- page.co.uk
22883 Quicksilver Drive St erling VA 20166- 2012 USA
© Penny Cart é and Chris Fox, 2004 The right of Penny Cart é and Chris Fox t o be ident ified as t he aut hors of t his work has been assert ed by t hem in accordance wit h t he Copyright , Designs and Pat ent s Act 1988. I SBN 0 7494 4170 4 Br it ish Libr a r y Ca t a logu in g- in - Pu blica t ion D a t a A CI P record for t his book is available from t he Brit ish Library. Libr a r y of Con gr e ss Ca t a login g- in - Pu blica t ion D a t a Cart é Penny. Bridging t he cult ure gap: a pract ical guide t o int ernat ional business com m unicat ion / Penny Cart é, Chris Fox. p. cm . I SBN 0- 7494- 4170- 41. Business et iquet t e. 2. I nt ercult ural com m unicat ion. 3. Business com m unicat ion.4. Nat ional charact erist ics. I . Fox, Chris, J., 1973– I I . Tit le. HF5389.C36 2004395.5’2- - dc22 2004003383 Typeset by Jean Cussons Typeset t ing, Diss, Norfolk Print ed and bound in Great Brit ain by Biddles Lt d, King’s Lynn, Norfolk Abou t Ca n n in g
Canning is a UK- based com pany whose expert ise lies in com m unicat ion. We help business and professional people from all over t he world t o com m unicat e effect ively wit h each ot her across linguist ic and cult ural barriers. Canning’s 60 t rainers and consult ant s have run courses at our cent res in t he UK, I t aly and Japan and in anot her 41 count ries on five cont inent s. Over 110,000 people have at t ended t hese courses since 1965. Canning was one of t he first t raining com panies t o offer specialist cross- cult ural skills program m es, t ailored for business. All t he t raining consult ant s who have cont ribut ed real- life st ories t o t his book are m em bers of our cross- cult ural skills t eam . Toget her t hey have first - hand experience of working in a variet y of fields in alm ost every count ry in Europe, as well as furt her afield in Africa, Asia and Nort h Am erica. Current cross- cult ural skills client s include Avent is, Gillet t e, Mat sushit a, Munich Re, Nissan, Novart is, Renault , Sam sung, Schneider, Toshiba and Vodafone. Abou t t h e a u t h or s Pe n n y Ca r t é is a m odern languages graduat e who has lived and worked in France, I t aly and Japan. During her 28 years wit h Canning, she has run t ailored courses for m ult inat ional com panies from t he aut om ot ive, pharm aceut ical, chem ical and financial sect ors, and has t ravelled ext ensively t hroughout Europe and Asia. She specializes in one- t o- one coaching – helping board direct ors and senior m anagers t o prepare for specific proj ect s. These have included: present ing t o int ernat ional financial analyst s; chairing a high- profile int ernat ional sum m it ; writ ing an int ernat ional HR policy docum ent ; re- est ablishing com m unicat ions bet ween t he m em bers of a m ult inat ional proj ect t eam ; t ranslat ing a brand vision int o English and evaluat ing it s universal appeal. As Canning’s Research and Developm ent Direct or since 1988, she has writ t en and edit ed a wide range of cross- cult ural, m anagem ent skills and English for business t raining m at erials. Ch r is Fox is a polit ics graduat e. He spent six m ont hs as a radio broadcast er in Belgrade during t he Balkan conflict before t aking up a posit ion at t he Universit y of Reading where he t aught polit ical and cult ural t heory. He t hen went on t o work as a researcher and negot iat or wit hin a t rade union before j oining Canning in 1999. He specializes in running courses for m anagers in t he pharm aceut ical, financial and aerospace sect ors who need t o develop t heir negot iat ion, present at ion and m edia handling t echniques and adapt t heir com m unicat ion st yle t o suit t he expect at ions of t heir int ernat ional part ners and audiences. He t ravels regularly t hroughout Europe, and beyond, liaising wit h client com panies and delivering courses. He has published papers and art icles on polit ical and cult ural t heory, and writ es regularly on Welsh rugby.
For e w or d Ant icipat ing and underst anding cult ural differences and being able t o adapt t he way you com m unicat e accordingly is t he foundat ion of any successful int ernat ional business. Reinsurance – t he business I am in – is, by it s very nat ure, global. I f we want t o be successful, we have t o be able t o do business in diverse cult ural and linguist ic environm ent s. What m ay work perfect ly well in, say, Norway can lead t o disast er in Japan. That ’s why, in 2002, we decided t o run an in- dept h negot iat ion t raining program m e for t he m em bers of our Middle East ern and African business unit s. The search for a t raining provider brought m e int o cont act wit h Canning, who were already a longst anding part ner of ours in t he field of negot iat ion t raining, and Chris Fox helped us put t oget her an expanded program m e, including on- going coaching. The t raining quickly dispelled t he m yt hs t hat surround int ernat ional negot iat ions. I ndeed, t hose of us who were looking t o learn m agic t ricks for inst ant negot iat ing success were init ially disappoint ed by t he seem ingly unspect acular observat ions and conclusions we were confront ed wit h. But we were soon flabbergast ed t o discover t hat , in pract ice, t hey m ade a real difference t o our negot iat ing abilit y. Most not ably, we realized t he huge, and oft en underest im at ed, im pact t hat language and gram m ar can have on t he result s of negot iat ions. Subsequent ly, Canning cust om ized t he t raining t o t he individual t eam s who, t hough t hey considered it t ough, were spurred on by m easurable progress in t heir result s. Alt hough it was originally a m anagem ent idea, t he m em bers of t he t eam s now insist on get t ing t his negot iat ion coaching regularly. This book is a pract ical, easy- t o- read guide for int ernat ional business people who, like m y t eam m em bers and I , are seeking t o adapt t heir com m unicat ion skills t o t he int ernat ional arena. I t will help t hem wit hin t heir own organizat ions, and when dealing wit h int ernat ional client s or suppliers. I t raises awareness of cross- cult ural differences, and serves as a reference for t hose who wish t o refresh t heir m em ory of specific DOs and DON’Ts. Most of all, it is full of real- life exam ples and pract ical advice which reflect t he experience and skills of it s m ast erful but unpret ent ious aut hors. Andreas Molck- Ude Head of Africa and Middle East Division Munich Re Ack n ow le dge m e n t s The cult ural preference scales t hat appear in t his book were developed by Canning and have been refined, over t he past 10 years, wit h t he help of our int ernat ional course part icipant s. We acknowledge, however, t hat t he t hinking behind t hem and som e of t he t erm inology we have used was originally inspired by t he research and t heories of Edward T Hall – high versus low cont ext com m unicat ion st yles, polychronic versus m ono- chronic t im e syst em s; Geert Hofst ede – individualist versus collect ivist ( ie group- orient ed) societ ies; and Fons Trom penaars – achievem ent versus ascript ion ( ie achieved versus given st at us) , universalism versus part icularism ( ie fixed versus relat ive t rut h) . These t hree expert s have cont ribut ed so m uch t o t he int ernat ional debat e on differing cult ural behaviours t hat t heir influence is bound t o be reflect ed in any serious exam inat ion of crosscult ural issues. The opinions expressed wit h regard t o t hese preferences, however, and any m ist akes of fact are ent irely ours. We acknowledge t he cont ribut ion of t he m any unnam ed client s whose real- life experiences form t he basis of t his book, and would like t o express our grat it ude t o all t hose colleagues and friends who have inspired, encouraged and helped us: Richard Pooley and Nigel Whit e for t heir invaluable advice and support while we were edit ing t he final t ext ; Sharon Davies for pat ient ly checking t he m anuscript before it was sent t o t he publishers; Richard Griffit hs, John King, Jill Madden, Kryst ina Mecner, Andrew Shaw, Jam es Shirreff, Kim Taylor, Gary Walker and Roz Wynt er- Bee for sharing t heir int ernat ional business experiences wit h us; Elizabet h Bawdon and Michael Norris for t heir percept ive com m ent s on int ernat ional present at ions; I van Hill for his insight s int o Scandinavian cult ure; and Dr Jehad al Om ari for allowing us t o include his com m ent s about t he Arab world. We also t hank Gerard Bannon, Sandy Macdonald and Murray Robert son for reading and com m ent ing on t he t ext .
I n t r odu ct ion Every year at Canning we m eet around 5,000 m anagers from all over t he globe. They com e from large corporat ions, m iddle- sized niche com panies and sm all consult ancy firm s in a wide range of sect ors. Som e of t hem are in t he early st ages of t heir career; ot hers have already clim bed t o t he t op of t he ladder. Som e of t hem work behind t he scenes – for exam ple, in an R&D lab or t he back- office of a bank; ot hers are out in t he field t rying t o find new cust om ers, or seeking out prospect ive j oint vent ure part ners; and an increasing num ber are being sent abroad t o lead t urn- key proj ect s or m anage a foreign t eam . No m at t er where t hey work or what t hey do, t hey all have one t hing in com m on: as t he globalizat ion process gat hers m om ent um , t heir cont act wit h people from ot her count ries is becom ing ever m ore frequent ; and t hey have found t hat t he m ore nat ional borders t heir com panies cross, t he great er t he scope for m isunderst anding and conflict . Every day we hear st ories about arrogant foreign bosses who m ake unreasonable dem ands; count erpart s who seem t o t ake real pleasure in being obst ruct ive or devious; audiences who unexpect edly react t o a present er’s proposals wit h host ilit y and aggression; negot iat ing part ners who t ry t o deceive or, for no apparent reason, cancel a deal at t he last m om ent . And as our client s describe t hese sit uat ions t o us, t heir frust rat ion – and oft en, anguish – is plain t o see. Som et im es, of course, t heir int ernat ional part ners are indeed being arrogant , devious or deliberat ely obst ruct ive. Most of t he t im e, however, com m unicat ions break down because t here’s a cult ure gap t hat neit her side is aware of; or because com pat riot s back hom e at head office won’t allow t heir m anagers in t he field t o adapt corporat e policy t o suit local needs. This book is based on t he real business sit uat ions our int ernat ional client s have described t o us. Below is a t ypical exam ple: A Swedish com pany had est ablished very clear global purchasing guidelines: no m ore t han 30 per cent of any part icular it em could be supplied by one vendor; and quot es had t o be obt ained from at least t hree different suppliers. Anders – t he regional m anager for Sout h- East Asia – was dist urbed t o not e t hat , despit e several rem inders, t he subsidiary in Viet nam didn’t appear t o be following t hese guidelines. I n fact , t he range of suppliers t hey used seem ed t o be very lim it ed, and m ost of t hem were Chinese. The subsidiary’s Chinese m anager seem ed very unconcerned when Anders raised t his problem wit h him . ‘Well, of course m ost of our suppliers are Chinese,’ he said. ‘I only use vendors I ’m relat ed t o.’ When Anders explained t hat t his pract ice would have t o st op because it was unet hical and ant i- com pet it ive, t he Chinese m anager was genuinely puzzled: ‘But I can’t see what t he problem is,’ he said. ‘My fam ily are m uch m ore loyal and reliable t han people I don’t know. I can call t hem any t im e of day or night . And, of course, t hey give m e m uch bet t er discount s. Surely you don’t want m e t o use suppliers I don’t t rust .’ Who do you ident ify wit h here? Anders who was convinced t hat nepot ism was unequivocally wrong, or t he Chinese m anager who regarded giving cont ract s t o his fam ily as a perfect ly norm al, logical and accept able t hing t o do? I f you were Anders, what would you do next ? And what im pact do you t hink your inst inct ive response would be likely t o have on t he Chinese m anager? There are clearly a num ber of cult ural differences t hat could affect t he out com e of t his sit uat ion. But what are t hey? And what lies behind t hem ? These are t he kinds of quest ions we ask you as each short business scenario unfolds. And t o help you answer t hem , we invit e you t o place yourself – and your foreign business part ners – on a series of cult ural preference scales. For exam ple:
We t hen offer you pract ical advice on how best you can bridge t he gap when t he person you’re dealing wit h falls at t he opposit e end of t he scale from you. The scales are designed t o help you gradually build up a pict ure of how your own cult ure differs from ot hers and why. For t hat reason, we suggest t hat you read t he chapt ers in t he order t hat t hey appear – at least , for t he first t im e. I f you st art wit h, say, Chapt er 3 – which is where you’ll find out how Anders responded t o his Chinese
subordinat e’s purchasing policy – you will have m issed som e key st eps in t he argum ent . Each of t he cult ural preference scales is necessarily t wo- dim ensional. And when, for exam ple, we t ell you t hat , in our experience, t he Am ericans lean t o t he left of a scale and m em bers of t he Arab world t o t he right , we realize t hat t his is a sweeping generalizat ion. There is huge cult ural diversit y am ong t he USA’s 270 m illion inhabit ant s; and t here are considerable differences bet ween, say, t he Saudis and t he Egypt ians. I n m aking t hese generalizat ions, our aim is sim ply t o st art you t hinking about t he broad im pact a part icular societ y’s hist ory, polit ics, social st ruct ures, educat ion and so on are likely t o have on it s m em bers’ beliefs, at t it udes and behaviour. The first four chapt ers focus on bridging t he cult ure gap during day- t oday com m unicat ions – bot h inside and out side t he global organizat ion – wit h m anagers, colleagues, subordinat es, suppliers and client s. Chapt ers 5 and 6 look at ways in which you can adapt your present at ion and negot iat ion skills t o suit t he expect at ions of your int ernat ional audiences and part ners. I n Chapt er 7, t he cult ural preference scales – plus list s of DOs and DON’Ts t hat sum m arize and expand on t he pract ical advice from t he previous chapt ers – are brought t oget her under five key headings: relat ionships, com m unicat ion, t im e, t rut h, and t he m eaning of life. The business sit uat ions you will find in every chapt er are real; but , wit h one or t wo except ions, t he nam es of t he com panies and m anagers in t hem are invent ed. For t he m ost part , we have used first nam es – even for people from cult ures where addressing colleagues m ore form ally is t he norm . That ’s because Takashi’s proj ect, Pascale’s client , or Helm ut ’s present at ion is m uch easier t o read and rem em ber t han Wat anabe- san’s proj ect , Madam e Carpent ier’s client or Herr Dokt or Baldauf’s present at ion. Where we felt a com pany’s ident it y could be t oo easily guessed, we have disguised or changed it s size and sect or. Occasionally, we give you a short script of how a conversat ion went ; while t hese script s are fait hful t o t he spirit of what was said, t hey are not verbat im . No writ er on cross- cult ural m at t ers can be obj ect ive. Your writ ers are bot h Brit ish. Penny is English, and Chris is Welsh. Bet ween us, we have nearly 40 years’ experience of working wit h people from ot her count ries. Even so, we recognize t hat every opinion we offer reflect s our own cult ural condit ioning. We have t ried very hard t o m ake sure t hat t hese opinions are not expressions of prej udice, and apologize in advance t o any individual who feels offended. I t ’s wort h rem em bering t hat you, t he reader, can’t be obj ect ive eit her. The way you int erpret what we have writ t en will be st rongly influenced by your own cult ural condit ioning. We are aware t hat you m ay com e from one of over 200 nat ionalit ies and t hat English m ay not be your nat ive t ongue. We have t ried t o keep our language as st raight forward as possible, wit hout m aking it t oo sim plist ic for our nat ive- speaking readers. Occasionally, we have felt t he need t o use a word or phrase t hat , in our experience, a high int erm ediat e non- nat ive speaker would be unlikely t o recognize or guess from t he cont ext . I n such cases, we offer a sim pler – but less colourful – alt ernat ive in bracket s next t o t he word. I f you’re a nat ive speaker, please bear wit h us ( be pat ient ) . You can eit her ignore t he bracket ed alt ernat ive, or pause for a m om ent t o reflect on why your int ernat ional part ners would find it hard t o under- st and you if you used such an expression yourself. Aft er all, using language sensit ively is one of t he key skills for anyone who wishes t o bridge t he cult ure gap.
Ch a pt e r 1 : I n t e r pr e t in g t h e Pa r t y Lin e Ove r vie w By unit ing we st and, by dividing we fall. ( John Dickinson, The Libert y Song, 1768) Cust om ers, shareholders and t he m edia soon lose fait h and int erest in a com pany t hat proj ect s a confused or inconsist ent im age. Which is why every business st rives t o present it self t o t he out side world as a unit ed ent it y wit h a single set of beliefs. The t rouble is, t he bigger a com pany becom es and t he m ore nat ional borders it crosses, t he harder it has t o work t o preserve t he unit ed front t hat is so vit al t o it s cont inued prosperit y. For m any m ult inat ionals, developing everyt hing cent rally – such as t he m essages t hey want t o broadcast and t he brands t hey m arket – is t he only answer. This cent ral norm or part y line is t hen dissem inat ed t hroughout t he organizat ion. This can work if t he people at HQ are prepared t o adapt t he part y line t o suit local needs – and if t heir colleagues in t he foreign subsidiaries are willing t o keep an open m ind. All t oo oft en, however, everyone assum es t hat t heir own at t it udes and beliefs are universal, right and norm al. I t doesn’t even occur t o t hem ( t he idea doesn’t ent er t heir heads) t hat people from ot her cult ures m ight see t hings from a different perspect ive. I t ’s only nat ural t o regard your own view of t he world as t he right one; and t o believe t hat anyone who doesn’t share it is st range or unusual. But t here is, in fact , no such t hing as norm al. Which is why part y lines can cause so m uch m isunderst anding, conflict and st ress – bot h for t he people who are t rying t o dissem inat e t hem , and for t hose on t he receiving end. The people at head office j um p t o t he conclusion t hat t he subsidiaries are being deliberat ely difficult or obst ruct ive; and t he people in t he subsidiaries aut om at ically assum e t hat t heir foreign bosses are arrogant m egalom aniacs who sim ply don’t care about t he problem s t heir direct ives are causing. Clearly, t here will be t im es when your int ernat ional colleagues are indeed being arrogant or deliberat ely obst ruct ive. Oft en, however, t hey will sim ply be t rying t o do what t hey genuinely believe is best for all concerned. I t ’s easy t o j um p t o negat ive conclusions about ot her people’s m ot ives if you m easure what t hey do and say against your own cult ural norm s. But not everyone looks at m ission st at em ent s and corporat e init iat ives in t he sam e way as you do; anot her cult ure’s working rhyt hm m ay be very different from yours; and your nat ural com m unicat ion st yle could well seem brusque – or excessively indirect – t o som e of your foreign colleagues.
M ission st a t e m e n t s At it s m ost general and abst ract , t he part y line is oft en declared publicly in t he com pany’s m ission st at em ent . As you m ight expect , however, not everyone int erpret s it in t he spirit t hat head office int ends: When t hree large engineering firm s – t wo from Nort hern Europe and one from t he USA – m erged, t hey invest ed a lot of t im e, m oney and resources in producing t he new com pany’s m ission st at em ent . At a sem inar designed t o bring m iddle m anagem ent t oget her, t he t op direct ors invit ed delegat es t o explain how t hey had dissem inat ed t he new core values am ong t heir local em ployees. Each of t he Nort hern European count ries involved ( Germ any, Finland, Sweden) had present ed t he st at em ent t o t heir t eam s at a series of short m eet ings held during working hours. The t eam s had discussed t he core values briefly, and t hat was t hat . To t heir em barrassm ent , very few of t he m anagers on t he sem inar could rem em ber t hem in any det ail. The Am ericans, on t he ot her hand, had m et regularly, out side working hours, t o discuss what t he new core values m eant t o each of t hem . They had t ranslat ed t he abst ract aim s int o concret e guidelines which t hey could relat e t o t heir daily work. Everyone carried a copy of t he st at em ent wit h t hem at all t im es and consult ed it regularly.
Each side had been very surprised t o hear t he ot her’s approach. Aft er a few beers in t he bar at t he end of t he day, one of t he Finns leaned across t o one of t he Am ericans and said: ‘What you said about t he m ission st at em ent – t hat was j ust bullshit for t he board, wasn’t it ?’ The Am erican was ast onished. ‘No’, he replied, ‘why would you t hink t hat ?’ I t was unt hinkable t o t he Nort hern Europeans t hat t he Am ericans could t ake t he m ission st at em ent so seriously. Equally, it was unt hinkable t o t he Am ericans t hat t he Nort hern Europeans could dism iss it so casually. Of course, t he t wo firm s had only recent ly m erged; so t hese t wo groups of m anagers were bound t o be ( couldn’t avoid being) influenced by t heir prem erger ways of doing t hings. But t hat doesn’t explain why t here was such a wide gap in t heir percept ions on t his part icular issue. I t ’s highly likely t hat cult ural condit ioning was also playing a m aj or part here. Have a look at t he pair of st at em ent s below:
Think about t hem in relat ion t o your working life, and what you personally value and t ry t o achieve. Then decide where you would place yourself on t he scales: on 50 at one end or t he ot her? Or som ewhere in bet ween? Mission st at em ent s oft en say t hings like: We believe t hat t he Zoet ica brand m ust represent a posit ive force in t he world. We will act in line wit h t his belief at all t im es. or We believe in t he int egrit y of hum an beings, and will t reat our em ployees, cust om ers and anyone com ing int o cont act wit h Zoet ica accordingly, invit ing t hem all t o be part of t he Zoet ica fam ily. These are, of course, honourable sent im ent s t hat no reasonable person could obj ect t o. The t rouble is, t hey’re fram ed in very abst ract t erm s. But t hen, of course, t hey have t o be. A com pany can’t
m ake a concret e and m eaningful st at em ent of int ent and values wit hout losing flexibilit y. And flexibilit y is what businesses need if t hey are t o survive. They’ve got t o be able t o t ake decisions quickly, and act upon t hem right away. They’ve got t o ret ain absolut e flexibilit y t o diversify, downsize, grow, and so on. The Am erican m anagers in t his sit uat ion would probably lean t owards t he t heoret ical end of t he scale. They t ook t he abst ract values expressed in t he m ission st at em ent very seriously and were prepared t o spend t heir own t im e discussing t hem in dept h. They had no t rouble t ranslat ing t hese general t heories int o concret e, pract ical guidelines t hat t hey could relat e t o t heir daily work. I f you like using abst ract concept s t o solve problem s, you m ay well respond t o your com pany’s m ission st at em ent as posit ively as t hese Am erican m anagers did. I f, on t he ot her hand, you lean t owards t he em pirical end of t he scale, you m ay find it hard t o t ake t his kind of abst ract t heorizing seriously. The Nort hern European m anagers here discussed t he core values briefly and dism issed t hem as m eaningless. What possible relevance could t hey have t o t heir daily working lives? We recent ly asked t he Germ an HR m anager of a large m ult inat ional how she felt about her com pany’s m ission st at em ent . She said: ‘Well, we have t o have one. I t ’s good PR. But , in pract ical t erm s, it isn’t wort h t he paper it ’s writ t en on.’ The Nort hern Europeans would probably share her view. That ’s why t hey couldn’t even rem em ber in any det ail what t he m ission st at em ent said; and why t he Finnish m anager was convinced t hat t he Am erican m anagers’ explanat ion of how t hey had dissem inat ed t he new core values was j ust bullshit for t he board. We’re not t rying t o suggest t hat all Am ericans would lean t o t he left of t his scale; nor t hat all Nort hern Europeans would fall t o t he right . But t here’s no denying t hat at t it udes t owards m ission st at em ent s do vary considerably from cult ure t o cult ure. And when an em piricist m eet s a t heorist t here’s considerable scope for m isunderst anding. The idea t hat anyone could t ake all t his abst ract t heorizing seriously didn’t even occur t o t he Finn, while his Am erican colleague was ast onished t o learn t hat t here were people in t he world who didn’t t ake it seriously.
Cor por a t e in it ia t ive s There’s no way you can undo a lifet im e’s condit ioning, of course. But , when you’re working int ernat ionally, you have t o m ake som e effort t o underst and and adapt t o t he way different cult ures see t hings. I f not , t he com pany’s at t em pt s t o proj ect a consist ent and harm onious ext ernal im age will lead t o considerable conflict and disharm ony int ernally: The Am erican HQ of an int ernat ional chem icals com pany produced a‘qualit y chart ’ which included t he following st at em ent : ‘Each and every one of us will t ake responsibilit y for t he qualit y of our product s.’ They sent t he chart t o t he Belgian, French, Germ an and UK subsidiaries, and asked t hem t o sign it and send it back. The Belgians, t he Brit ish and t he Germ ans com plied wit h t he request st raight away. But not hing was received from t he French. Several e- m ails were sent t o chase it up, but t hese rem ained unanswered. Finally Harvey ( t he Am erican boss) called Luc ( t he French m anager) t o find out what was going on. The conversat ion went som et hing like t his: Harvey: I ’m calling about t he qualit y init iat ive. Did you get t he chart we sent you last m ont h? Luc: Yes. Harvey: Oh you did get it . Good. So could you get everyone t o sign it and send it back t o us? By t he end of t he week, if you can. Luc: Well, no, I ’m afraid I can’t . I ’ve discussed it wit h t he t eam and none of us is willing t o sign it . Harvey: Not willing? Why not ? Luc: We don’t agree wit h it . Harvey: You don’t agree wit h it ? Luc: No. Harvey: But it isn’t a quest ion of agreem ent . All we’re asking for is your buy- in. Luc: Yes and, as I said, we can’t do t hat . I t ’s not logical. Product ion and qualit y cont rol are in Belgium .
Harvey: What difference does t hat m ake? Luc: How can we be held responsible for som et hing we have no cont rol over? Harvey: No one’s going t o hold you responsible. We’re j ust asking you t o pledge yourselves t o t he global qualit y init iat ive. Luc: But t he docum ent clearly says: ‘Each and every one of us will t ake responsibilit y for t he qualit y of our product s.’ We can’t possibly sign it . Harvey and Luc discussed t his quest ion again several t im es, wit hout success. Luc and his colleagues refused t o be m oved and t heir relat ions wit h t he Am ericans grew increasingly host ile. Ev ent ually ( finally) , t he Belgian count ry m anager int ervened and suggest ed a com prom ise t hat bot h sides were prepared t o accept . Luc and his colleagues would sign t he qualit y chart if Harvey gave t hem a writ t en assurance t hat t hey wouldn’t be held cont ract ually responsible for t he aim s t hat were st at ed in it . Harvey t hought t his was obvious and couldn’t under- st and why t hey were being so difficult . The French were equally perplexed: ‘I n t hat case’, t hey said, ‘t he chart is m eaningless. So why are you issuing it ?’ Relat ions bet ween t he t wo count ries rem ained host ile for som e t im e.
There’s no doubt in our m inds t hat Luc and his t eam were as com m it t ed t o product qualit y as Harvey was. So why did t his corporat e init iat ive lead t o so m uch m isunderst anding, frust rat ion and resent m ent ? At first sight , t he whole sit uat ion is very puzzling. The USA is fam ous for having an ext rem ely lit igious cult ure: few business deals are finalized unt il t he lawyers have drawn up a det ailed cont ract t hat covers every possible event ualit y; people will usually only sign a cont ract if t hey’re confident it is wat ert ight ( com prehensive and im possible t o m isint erpret ) ; t hey will t end t o consult it regularly t hroughout t he life of t he deal; and part ners who fail t o honour t heir cont ract ual obligat ions will m ost probably be t hreat ened wit h legal act ion. So why didn’t Harvey underst and Luc’s reluct ance t o sign t he qualit y chart ? Well, m ost of t he int ernat ional business people we work wit h would agree t hat t he USA also has a forward- looking cult ure where t aking an opt im ist ic, upbeat approach is t he norm ; and where people feel fairly com fort able st at ing t heir beliefs, hopes and int ent ions bot h openly and publicly. When Harvey was at school, for exam ple, he and his classm at es st art ed each day by put t ing t heir hands on t heir heart s and pledging t heir allegiance t o t he flag of t he Unit ed St at es of Am erica. For him , publicly confirm ing your com m it m ent t o qualit y is sim ilar t o pledging yourself t o ‘one Nat ion under God, indivisible, wit h libert y and j ust ice for all’. So it sim ply didn’t occur t o him t hat anyone would regard t he chart as a legal cont ract . That ’s why he was so puzzled when Luc said he didn’t agree wit h it : ‘But it isn’t a quest ion of agreem ent . All we’re asking for is your buyin’; and ‘We’re j ust asking you t o pledge yourselves t o t he global qualit y init iat ive.’ But , of course, Luc isn’t a nat ive English speaker and t he subt le vocabulary differences m eant not hing t o him . As far as he was concerned, Harvey was asking him t o agree t o t ake responsibilit y for som et hing he had no cont rol over. Luc t ried very hard t o explain his posit ion, but Harvey didn’t seem t o regist er what he was saying. That m ay be because t he t wo colleagues would lean t owards opposit e ends of t his scale:
As soon as t hey received t he qualit y chart , t he analyt ical French im m ediat ely t est ed t he logic of what t hey were being asked t o do. The wording was clear and unam biguous: ‘Each and every one of us will t ake responsibilit y for t he qualit y of our product s.’ Clearly, t hen, if t hey signed t he chart , it would have t he force of a cont ract . I f t here were a qualit y failure, t hey would be in breach of t hat cont ract . And Luc and his t eam could end up losing t heir j obs as a result . But qualit y cont rol was in Belgium . So t here was no way t hey could be held responsible. St raight Cart esian logic. And because Harvey refused t o acknowledge t heir argum ent , t he French im m ediat ely suspect ed his m ot ives. This was obviously a devious head office plot t o cut headcount wit hout m aking redundancy paym ent s. Harvey’s approach t o t he qualit y chart was far m ore int uit ive. Com m it t ing yourself t o product qualit y was unquest ionably t he right t hing t o do. Sure, product ion and qualit y cont rol were in Belgium . So obviously t he French couldn’t be held responsible for problem s t hat arose t here. But t hat didn’t prevent t hem from m onit oring cust om er sat isfact ion and responding fast and efficient ly t o com plaint s. And t hat was all he was expect ing t hem t o do. The t wo colleagues are viewing t he sit uat ion from opposit e poles. And t hey bot h assum e t hat t heir own view is t he norm . As a result , it doesn’t even occur t o Harvey t hat t here is any ot her way of int erpret ing t he qualit y chart t han his own. Sim ilarly, it doesn’t occur t o Luc t hat t he Am ericans would bot her t o issue such a chart – and ask him t o sign it – if t hey didn’t int end t o enforce it . So what could Harvey have done t o avoid all t his unnecessary dram a and ill- will? Well, have anot her look at t he way he handled t he phone call t o Luc. He didn’t m ake m uch effort t o find out what Luc’s concerns really were, did he? He was far t oo busy concent rat ing on him self and what he want ed. As a result , he pushed all t he wrong but t ons. According t o Am erican ant hropologist , Edward T Hall ( Underst anding Cult ural Differences, 1989) : The essence of effect ive cross- cult ural com m unicat ion is m ore t o do wit h releasing t he right responses t han wit h sending t he right m essages.
I n ot her words, you’ve got t o push t he right but t ons. To do t hat , you need t o keep an open m ind, t ry t o put yourself in t he ot her person’s posit ion, ask percept ive quest ions, and really list en t o what t hey are saying and how t hey sound when t hey say it . I f Harvey had done t hat , t he conversat ion m ight have gone very different ly: Harvey: I ’m calling about t he qualit y chart . 1 Did you have a chance t o discuss it wit h your people y et ? Luc: Oh yes. We’ve discussed it in great det ail. Harvey: OK … 2 And how do t hey feel about it ? Luc: I t ’s caused quit e a few problem s here, t o be honest . Harvey: Really? 3 What kind of problem s? Luc: Well, we don’t see how you can hold us responsible for som et hing we have no cont rol over. Harvey: But … 4 You know, Luc, I t hink t here’s som e kind of m isunder- st anding here. Tell m e, what is it you feel you have no cont rol over? Luc: I t ’s not a feeling. I t ’s a fact . The Belgians are responsible for product qualit y, not us. So we can’t sign a cont ract t hat says: ‘Each and every one of us will t ake responsibilit y for t he qualit y of our product s.’ I t isn’t logical. Harvey: 5 You m ean your people see t his chart as a cont ract ? Luc: Yes, of course. I sn’t t hat what it is? Harvey: Well, no. There’s not hing legally binding about it . I t ’s j ust an acknowledgem ent of what I hope we all believe in anyway. Luc: So why do you want us t o sign it ? Harvey: Well, it ’s what we norm ally do here in t he St at es. I t ’s a kind of sym bolic gest ure. You know, a way of pledging support for t he com pany’s aim s … 6 But I guess you guys t hought t here was som e kind of sinist er m ot ive behind it . Right ? Luc: Well, yes. People are very worried about losing t heir j obs, t hrough no fault of t heir own. Harvey: Losing t heir j obs? Well, Luc, let m e assure you t hat sim ply isn’t going t o happen … List en, how about if I com e over and … I n t he first conversat ion, Harvey concent rat ed on his own agenda. This t im e he focuses on Luc and his t eam . 1 Did you have a chance t o discuss it wit h your people yet ? elicit s a m uch m ore useful response t han Could you get everyone t o sign it and send it back t o us? From what Luc says, and probably his t one of voice t oo, Harvey realizes t hat som et hing is wrong. So he follows up wit h a couple of ope n qu e st ion s ( ones t hat st art wit h who, what , w h y, where, how et c) t o t ry t o find out m ore: 2 And how do t hey feel about it ?; 3 What kind of problem s? Luc’s reply surprises him and, at first , he inst inct ively want s t o cont radict him – But no one’s going t o hold you responsible – as he did in t he first conversat ion. Fort unat ely, he st ops him self j ust in t im e, acknowledges t hat t here m ay be a problem of int erpret at ion here, and probes furt her wit h anot her ope n qu e st ion : 3 You know, Luc, I t hink t here’s som e kind of m isunderst anding here. Tell m e, what is it you feel you have no cont rol over? I n his reply, Luc refers t o t he qualit y chart as a cont ract . This is j ust what Harvey needs t o know. But he’s very surprised. So he asks a closed quest ion ( one t hat invit es a Yes or No answer) t o check t hat he has underst ood Luc correct ly: 5 You m ean your people see t his chart as a cont ract ? Because Harvey shows int erest and a willingness t o underst and, Luc is beginning t o feel less defensive and now asks a close d qu e st ion him self: I sn’t t hat what it is? Negat ive quest ions – Don’t you like it ? Can’t you do it ? Didn’t it work? – are oft en used t o show surprise. So what Luc m eans is: I ’m very surprised t o hear you say it isn’t a cont ract , because t hat ’s cert ainly what we all t hink it is.
When Harvey reassures Luc t hat t here’s not hing legally binding about t he chart , Luc asks: So why do you want us t o sign it ? Harvey could get angry or exasperat ed here. But he doesn’t . He t ries t o work out where Luc is com ing from . This is a key m om ent in t he conversat ion. I t ’s when t he fog really st art s t o clear for Harvey. He explains what t he chart m eans t o him as clearly as he can. And t hen asks a close d qu e st ion t o check t hat he has correct ly deduced how t he French feel about it : 6 But I guess you guys t hought t here was som e kind of sinist er m ot ive behind it . Right ? Once Harvey knows t hat Luc and his colleagues are worried about losing t heir j obs, he realizes how m uch dam age t his seem ingly uncont roversial corporat e init iat ive has done t o m orale in t he French subsidiary. And he can st art t rying t o put t hings right . I m plem ent ing corporat e init iat ives is never easy. And t here’s no m agic form ula t hat will guarant ee success. But because Harvey was prepared t o quest ion his own assum pt ions and m ake an effort t o put him self in Luc’s posit ion, t he t wo colleagues now underst and one anot her m uch bet t er t han t hey did before. And t here’s a good chance t hat harm onious relat ions bet ween head office and subsidiary will be re- est ablished.
W or k in g r h yt h m s The need t o present a unit ed front m akes life difficult for everyone: t he people like Harvey who are t rying t o dissem inat e a part y line; and t he people like Luc who are on t he receiving end. I f you work in a subsidiary, you m ay end up regarding t he people from HQ as corporat e seagulls: t hey fly in, shit on you from on high, and fly out again. I t ’s hard enough t o resist HQ dikt at s when t hey are im posed from afar. I t ’s even harder when t he corporat e seagull builds a nest in your workplace. This is exact ly what happened at t he I rish product ion facilit y of a Swiss m ult inat ional: When t he head of t he I rish plant resigned, t he Swiss decided t o parachut e in one of t heir own people. The new Swiss m anager’s office was very close t o t he cant een and he was dist urbed t o not e t hat t he I rish em ployees were going for frequent and ext ensive coffee breaks. I nst ead of t aking j ust one 10- m inut e break in t he m orning, and one in t he aft ernoon – which was what happened in Swit zerland – t hey seem ed t o go t o t he cant een whenever t hey felt like it , and t o sit around laughing and j oking wit h t heir friends for 20 m inut es at a t im e. The new Swiss m anager decided t hat som et hing would have t o be done t o st op all t his t im ewast ing. So he m ade a unilat eral decision t o inst all coffee- m aking equipm ent in every depart m ent ; and announced t hat , in fut ure, t he cant een would only open at luncht im e. The I rish em ployees were not im pressed by t he new part y line. Far from wast ing t im e under t he old regim e, t hey had spent t heir coffee breaks sharing depart m ent al news, asking advice and generally net working. When t his forum was closed down, int erdepart m ent al com m unicat ion st art ed t o det eriorat e. I t wasn’t long before product ivit y at t his, t he com pany’s biggest plant , st art ed t o go down. The Swiss, of course, are fam ous for t heir at t achm ent t o t im e. And t his new m anager was clearly no except ion. I n fact , he would probably place him self t o t he far left of t his scale:
I f you’re from a m onochronic cult ure t oo, you m ay find t hat you inst inct ively do one t hing aft er anot her, in a linear fashion. And you probably feel t hat unless each m om ent is used for a specific purpose, it ’s wast ed. I f, on t he ot her hand, you lean t owards t he polychronic end of t he scale, you m ay well regard t im e as m ore elast ic, and you could even find yourself doing several t hings at t he sam e t im e. The Swiss Germ ans ( and, indeed, t he Germ ans) t end t o plan t heir t im e in a very st ruct ured and ordered way – and, in t his respect , it ’s t heir m ast er. As t hey work out Die Tagesordnung ( t he Daily Order) , t hey will oft en allot a specific and precise am ount of t im e t o each t ask – including t heir coffee breaks. So, while t he I rish are not part icularly polychronic, t hey cert ainly lie t o t he right of t he Swiss on t his scale. As a result , t heir working rhyt hm s are m ore relaxed. That ’s not t o say t hey get less done t han t heir Swiss count erpart s. They j ust use t heir t im e in a different way. And t hat was probably t he underlying cause of t his m isunderst anding. But t here is a puzzling aspect t o t his sit uat ion. As you will see in Chapt er 2, business hierarchies in bot h I reland and Swit zerland are relat ively flat . And in flat business cult ures, bosses t end t o consult widely, and subordinat es generally feel free t o express t heir own views fairly openly. So why didn’t t hat happen here? Why did t he new Swiss m anager behave in such an aut ocrat ic way? And why didn’t his I rish subordinat es challenge his decision? Maybe t he Swiss guy sim ply panicked. I t ’s not easy t aking over as m anager of a foreign subsidiary. When you first arrive in a new count ry, everyt hing st rikes you as very st range. The way people do t hings seem s com plet ely different from t he way you do t hings back hom e. You can feel so dislocat ed t hat you fail t o not ice t he m any sim ilarit ies bet ween where you are and where you com e from . What t he Swiss m anager saw was an undisciplined workforce who seem ed t o be blat ant ly ( very openly) t aking advant age of t he m anagem ent ’s goodwill. While he wouldn’t have behaved so aut ocrat ically
back hom e, he probably felt it was t he only t hing he could do under t hese st range new cir cum st ances. But what about t he I rish? Why didn’t som eone t ry t o explain how useful t he coffee breaks were? Well, perhaps t hey regarded HQ wit h suspicion and resent m ent . People in an overseas subsidiary oft en do, as you will know if you have ever worked in one. Com plaint s like: They have no idea of t he condit ions over here, and t hey’re not int erest ed; all t hey ever do is issue inst ruct ions; t hey never ask us what we t hink are com m onplace. I f t his was how t he I rish em ployees felt , t hey would have seen no point in challenging t he new boss’s dikt at . He was j ust doing what people from HQ had always done: shit t ing on t hem from on high. The lack of com m unicat ion in t his sit uat ion had a dam aging effect on all concerned: t he I rish, t he Swiss boss and t he com pany. The m oral t o t his t ale is clear: if you are being asked t o accept a part y line t hat conflict s wit h t he way you do t hings in your part of t he world, don’t j ust assum e t hat HQ’s m ot ives are sinist er, or t hat t he sole purpose of t he direct ive is t o m ake your life difficult . Try t o find out what ’s behind it . Ask som e quest ions, and list en t o t he answers wit h an open m ind. However hard it m ay be, t ry for a m om ent t o put yourself in HQ’s posit ion. And t hen, as clearly, calm ly and obj ect ively as you can, explain your own posit ion and t he im pact t hat t he new direct ive will have on you and your colleagues. This won’t guarant ee success, of course. But it has t o be m ore product ive t han keeping quiet and let t ing t hings go from bad t o worse.
Com m u n ica t ion st yle s I t ’s a problem t hat confront s t he corporat e seagull all t oo oft en. You arrive at t he subsidiary, issue your inst ruct ions, and t hen lat er discover t hat everyone has com plet ely ignored t hem : A large French com pany decided t o int roduce a new global purchasing policy. I n t he past , subsidiaries had sourced m any of t heir supplies locally. I n fut ure, t hey would be expect ed, where possible, t o use t he sam e suppliers as t he French parent com pany. The French purchasing m anager visit ed t he subsidiaries one by one t o explain t he new arrangem ent s. I n each case, she present ed t he fact s and figures very clearly, and m ade sure t he purchasing t eam s were fully aware of t he considerable cost savings t hat would be achieved. She had been expect ing a cert ain am ount of resist ance from t he Japanese subsidiary. So she wasn’t part icularly worried by t he surprised glances and exhalat ions of breat h t hat greet ed her announcem ent . Nor was she unduly concerned when one of t he t eam said: ‘This will be very difficult for us.’ Aft er all, t hey were bound t o say t hat . The im port ant t hing was t hat no one rej ect ed t he proposals. She went hom e feeling relat ively pleased wit h herself. Six m ont hs lat er, she was surprised t o see t hat t he Japanese had not m ade one single purchase t hrough t he new syst em . She phoned Tokyo t o find out what was going on. Her colleague said: ‘We m ade it very clear, when you were here, t hat we couldn’t use t his new syst em .’
I t ’s hard t o believe t hat t hey were all present at t he sam e m eet ing, isn’t it ? So what went wrong here? Were t he Japanese being deliberat ely t wo- faced and underhand? Did t hey t hink t hat if t hey pret ended t o go along wit h t he j oint purchasing proj ect t o t he French wom an’s face, t hey could sim ply ignore it once she had gone back t o France? And what about t he French wom an? Was she being arrogant , or j ust incredibly obt use? Well, in all probabilit y, bot h sides were behaving in what t hey regarded as a professional and st raight forward way. The Japanese t hought t hey had m ade it perfect ly clear t hat t hey couldn’t source t heir supplies from France. The French wom an was equally sure t hat t he Japanese had no serious obj ect ions t o t he new arrangem ent s. I t was j ust t hat t heir underst anding of t he word difficult was not t he sam e. The Japanese im pulse is t o preserve harm ony. For t hem , consensus rat her t han open disagreem ent or conflict is t he nam e of t he gam e, and t heir com m unicat ion st yle reflect s t his. I n t his cult ural cont ext t he word difficult , accom panied by eye and body language t hat every ot her Japanese would im m ediat ely underst and, m eans: This is absolut ely out of t he quest ion. There’s no way we can agree t o t his. But when t he French say difficult t hey m ean: Not easy, but not im possible eit her. Have a look at t his pair of st at em ent s:
Edward T Hall – t he Am erican ant hropologist we referred t o earlier – divides t he cult ures of t he world int o low cont ext and high cont ext com m unicat ors and a num ber of cross- cult ural expert s have adopt ed his t erm inology. Low cont ext com m unicat ors t end t o express t hem selves in explicit , concret e, unequivocal t erm s. There’s lit t le cult ural baggage or ‘cont ext ’ at t ached t o t he words t hey use and you can usually t ake what t hey say at face value. I f you are, for exam ple, Am erican, Germ an, Scandinavian or Finnish, you will probably fall int o t his cat egory. And when you’re doing business wit h ot her low cont ext com m unicat ors, you will probably find t heir com m unicat ion st yle reassuringly st raight forward and com prehensible. High cont ext com m unicat ors, on t he ot her hand, t end t o com m unicat e m ore im plicit ly. They expect
you t o be able t o int erpret what t hey m ean from your knowledge of t he cult ural values t hat lie behind t he words, what t hey’re act ually t alking about at t he t im e, t heir t one of voice and, of course, t heir eye and body language. I nt erest ingly enough, bot h t he French and t he Japanese would fall well t o t he right of t his scale. But , of course, t heir cult ural cont ext s are different . You m ay be a high cont ext com m unicat or yourself, but t hat won’t necessarily m ake it any easier for you t o underst and a high cont ext com m unicat or from anot her cult ure. I t didn’t occur t o t he French wom an t o check t hat she had underst ood her Japanese colleagues correct ly. As a result , a lot of t im e and m oney was wast ed and HQ’s relat ions wit h t heir subsidiary were disrupt ed. I f you’re a corporat e seagull, you can learn from her m ist ake. Don’t t ake what t he people in your subsidiaries say at face value. Wat ch t heir body language t oo. I f she had t aken not ice of t hose surprised glances and exhalat ions of breat h, t he French wom an would have realized t hat her Japanese colleagues weren’t prepared t o accept her proposals. Making sure you underst and exact ly what t he ot her person m eans won’t guarant ee success. But at least you will know where you st and. I n t his sit uat ion, for exam ple, t he Japanese refused t o accept t he part y line because t hey were worried about qualit y. I f t his concern had been brought out int o t he open, t he French could have discussed it obj ect ively wit h t heir Japanese part ners, and t ried t o find ways t o overcom e t heir concerns. I n Working rhyt hm s above, we looked at t he difficult ies a Swiss m anager had when he banned coffee breaks in an I rish plant . The I rish clearly have a m ore relaxed at t it ude t owards t im e t han t he Swiss. And t his m ay well have been one of t he reasons t he problem arose. But t he m isunderst anding was m ost probably com pounded by t heir differing com m unicat ion st yles. The Swiss are low cont ext com m unicat ors. I n fact , t hey generally fall t o t he far left of t his scale, while t he I rish ( along wit h t he Brit ish) would lean t owards t he right . And when a low cont ext com m unicat or m eet s a higher cont ext com m unicat or, t hey m ay bot h m isint erpret t he signals t he ot her is sending. When t he Swiss guy gave t he I rish t he bad news about coffee breaks, he probably did so in very frank and explicit t erm s: You are wast ing t oo m uch t im e laughing and j oking in t he cant een when you should be working at your desks. This is com plet ely unaccept able. I n fut ure, t he cant een will only open at luncht im e. You will find coffee- m aking equipm ent in your depart m ent . Please rem em ber t hat you are allowed one 10- m inut e break in t he m orning and one in t he aft ernoon. But t his approach would have com e across t o t he I rish as aut ocrat ic, im personal and cold. When we described t his sit uat ion t o Padraig, an I rish business acquaint ance of ours from Dublin, he t old us t hat if t he I rish have bad news t o give, t hey generally t ry t o sugar t he pill ( sweet en t he m edicine) . He illust rat ed his point by t elling us t he following j oke: A t ourist approaches t wo fellows and ask t hem how far it is t o t he t own. The first fellow assures t he t ourist it ’s j ust t wo m iles down t he road. The t ourist t hanks t hem and goes off. The second fellow t hen says: ‘Why did you t ell him t hat ? Don’t you know t hat it ’s four m iles?’ To which his friend replies: ‘Sure I know, but t he poor m an is walking.’ As you will see from t he ot her chapt ers in t his book, differing com m unicat ion st yles are a m aj or cause of m isunderst anding in t he int ernat ional arena.
Su m m a r y There are t hose who will t ell you t hat a process called ‘globalizat ion’ is creat ing an environm ent in which com panies can operat e virt ually anywhere in t he world under ident ical condit ions t o t hose back hom e. This is a dangerous belief. I t leads people t o assum e t hat t here is one norm , one way of doing t hings, one way of looking at t he world. As t he people in t he sit uat ions we have looked at discovered, t here is no such t hing as norm al. When you are doing business wit h different cult ures, t here will alm ost cert ainly be a gap, of one kind or anot her, bet ween your percept ions and t heirs. This need not st op you present ing a unit ed front . The key t o success is t o acknowledge t hat t here is a gap and t o m ake genuine at t em pt s t o bridge it . The m ost successful cross- cult ural com m unicat ors are t hose who are inst inct ively able t o push t he right but t ons. To follow t heir exam ple, you need t o:
keep an open m ind; t ry t o put yourself in t he ot her person’s posit ion; ask carefully chosen ope n qu e st ion s ( ones t hat st art wit h who, what , why, where, how et c) ; really list en t o t he answers; ask close d quest ions ( ones t hat invit e a Yes or No answer) t o check t hat any deduct ions you’ve m ade are correct .
Ch a pt e r 2 : Kn ow in g You r Pla ce Ove r vie w All m en, if t hey work not as in t he great t askm ast er’s eye, will work wrong, and work unhappily for t hem selves and for you. ( Thom as Carlyle, Past and Present , 1843) The m ult inat ional organizat ion m ay need t o present a unit ed front t o t he out side world, but in your daily business life you will be dealing wit h people who work behind t hat front . A dynam ic com pany is sim ilar t o a healt hy polit ical syst em . I f it is t o m ove forward and grow, it needs int ernal diversit y and com pet it ion. But , of course, t hese diverse individuals and com pet ing groups have t o be kept on t rack; synergies have t o be achieved; consensus has t o be reached; and final decisions have t o be t aken. Which is why virt ually every organizat ion – no m at t er how sm all – has som e kind of chain of com m and. Most com panies m ake an at t em pt t o show how t he hierarchy works by producing an organizat ion chart . This will cert ainly show you who is nom inally responsible for what , and who report s t o who. But how accurat ely does it reflect what happens on a day- t o- day basis? Does it t ell you, for exam ple, what t he balance of power really is, how far an individual’s aut horit y or responsibilit ies ext end, how m uch aut onom y t he people involved enj oy? Can you see, at a glance, how decisions are m ade, where an individual’s loyalt ies lie, who you should t alk t o when you want t o get t hings done and, m ost im port ant ly, how your colleagues expect t o be t reat ed? I n our experience, it does not . I m agine, for a m om ent , t hat you work in a com pany where t here are five levels of m anagem ent . You are at level 4 in depart m ent A. Your depart m ent works fairly closely wit h depart m ent B:
So 5A report s t o you. You report t o 3A. And so on. 5A needs 5B t o do som e urgent work for her by t he end of t he week. 5B has t old her he hasn’t got t im e. What would you expect your report ee t o do? Should she:
speak t o 5B again and persuade him t hat t he work has t o be done? ask you t o speak t o 5B? ask you t o speak t o 4B? speak direct ly t o 4B herself?
And what if you urgent ly need aut horizat ion t o m ake a subst ant ial change t o t he budget and your boss ( 3A) is away. How com fort able would you feel about t alking direct ly t o 2A, or even 1, about it ? Of course, a lot will depend on how big your com pany is and on how well you get on wit h t he various personalit ies involved. But t he way you inst inct ively answer t hese quest ions will also be st rongly influenced by where you com e from . When you’re on hom e t errit ory, you will usually know your place, and be aware of how your colleagues expect you t o behave. But once you st ep out side your own corporat e and nat ional cult ure, you m ay well find people whose expect at ions and behaviour are very different from yours. Once again, t here’s no such t hing as norm al. At t it udes t owards handling t he hierarchy, t aking responsibilit y, m onit oring perform ance and get t ing colleagues t o play ball ( cooperat e) will vary from cult ure t o cult ure.
H a n dlin g t h e h ie r a r ch y How you handle t he hierarchy will, t o som e ext ent , depend on where you would place yourself on t he following scale:
I f you expect your leaders t o hold rat her t han share t heir power, you m ay well believe t hat when 5A want s t o get 5B t o do som e urgent work for her, she should refer t o her boss ( 4A) . He can t hen ask 4B t o t ell his report ee ( 5B) what t o do. I f, on t he ot her hand, you believe your leaders should share power, you would probably expect 5A t o speak direct ly t o 5B wit hout get t ing t he bosses involved. When you’re working wit h people whose cult ure seem s t o have lit t le in com m on wit h yours, t here’s always a t em pt at ion t o believe t hat t hey will do everyt hing different ly. But , as som e of our client s have discovered, t hat ’s not always t he case: Since 2000, Canning has been working wit h t he Renault - Nissan alliance – first in France and lat er in Tokyo – t o prom ot e great er cult ural underst anding bet ween French and Japanese colleagues. I n t he early days of t he alliance, a group of French engineers in Paris t old t heir Canning cross- cult ural consult ant t hat it wasn’t always easy t o get t heir count erpart s in Tokyo t o play ball. The Japanese would list en carefully t o what t he French said and assure t hem t hat act ion would be t aken; but t hen weeks would go by and not hing would happen. A lit t le lat er, during a cross- cult ural sem inar in Tokyo, a group of Japanese engineers m ade very sim ilar com m ent s about t heir French count erpart s. I n bot h cases, our colleagues responded by sket ching t his diagram on t he flipchart :
Bot h t he French and t he Japanese engineers im m ediat ely underst ood what t hey m eant . ‘Ask your boss t o speak t o 5B’s boss.’ I n ot her words, handle t he hierarchy in j ust t he sam e way as you do at hom e. Bot h groups were equally ast onished: ‘Why on eart h didn’t we t hink of t hat ?’ Well because, in m any respect s, t he cult ure gap bet ween t he French and t he Japanese is fairly wide. So it didn’t occur t o t hem t hat , on t his part icular issue, t heir approach would be so sim ilar. But t he French and t he Japanese – along wit h people from Spain, Lat in Am erica, Sout h- East Asia, I ndia and Africa – would lean t owards t he right of t he hierarchy scale. And if you want t o get a count erpart t o play ball, you will probably need t o get t he bosses involved. I f t his French aut om ot ive giant had ent ered int o a j oint vent ure wit h som e fellow Europeans – Brit s, Scandinavians or Dut ch, for exam ple – it probably wouldn’t have occurred t o t hem t hat t heir new
part ners’ approach t o t he hierarchy would be any different from t heirs. But , in fact , business hierarchies in t he UK, Nort hern Europe and t he USA t end t o be fairly flat ; people are used t o being able t o challenge t heir leaders’ decisions; t hey expect t heir boss t o consult t hem , not issue dikt at s from on high; and if t heir colleagues are being t roublesom e, t hey t end t o t ackle t hem direct ly. I f one of our colleagues in Canning UK played t he hierarchy in t he French or Japanese way, your t wo Brit ish writ ers would probably be pret t y upset . That ’s because, in flat t er business cult ures, running t o t he boss every t im e t here’s a problem is oft en seen as bad form ( socially unaccept able) . And colleagues who m ake a habit of it are likely t o becom e very unpopular. Of course, France and Japan are not t he m ost vert ical cult ures you will com e across. There are som e count ries – like I ndia, for exam ple – whose social condit ioning places t hem at t he very far right of t he hierarchical scale. A Brit ish business acquaint ance of ours has vivid m em ories of t he first t im e he went t o I ndia on business; he was running his own com pany in t he UK at t he t im e: I was in t he m iddle of a m eet ing wit h a cust om er in Bom bay ( now called Mum bai) when m y fount ain pen fell off t he t able and on t o t he floor. As I bent down t o pick it up m y cust om er shout ed ‘Peon! ’ at t he t op of his voice. I was so st art led, I left m y pen where it was. A few seconds lat er, a sm all barefoot m an rushed in and m y cust om er st art ed t o reprim and him : ‘My guest ’s pen has fallen t o t he floor. Why were you not here t o pick it up? This is inexcusable. This m ust not happen again.’ Much t o m y em barrassm ent , t he poor m an apologized profusely t o m e, picked t he pen up, and placed it carefully on t he t able. When I t ried t o t hank him , m y cust om er said: ‘There’s no need t o t hank him . That is his j ob.’ I felt very uncom fort able indeed. I n t he UK, a boss who spoke t o his subordinat es in t his way would probably be t aken t o an indust rial t ribunal. That ’s not t o say t he UK has t he flat t est business hierarchies you will find. Richard Pooley, an English colleague of ours, has equally vivid m em ories of t he first t im e he went t o Sweden in t he early 1980s t o run a present at ion skills course: When t he part icipant s had finished preparing t heir first short present at ion, I said: ‘Now I ’d like each of you in t urn t o st and up in front of t he group and deliver your speech. Sven, why don’t you go first .’ Sven sm iled, t urned t o t he rest of t he group and said som et hing t o t hem in Swedish. I didn’t underst and a word of t he short discussion t hat followed. But I not iced t hat everyone cont ribut ed t o it . Sven t hen t urned t o m e, sm iled again and said: ‘Act ually, Richard, if you don’t m ind, we t hink Erik should go first .’ At t he coffee break, I asked t he group why t hey had been so surprised when I asked Sven t o go first . They explained t hat , in Sweden, t eachers were always careful not t o do anyt hing t hat would m ake t hem appear aut horit arian. They realized t hat who should m ake t he first present at ion was a relat ively m inor issue, and reassured m e t hat m y innocent suggest ion had not in any way offended t hem . ‘But , you see,’ said Sven, ‘I couldn’t possibly go first wit hout consult ing t he ot hers. I would have felt t hat I was pushing m yself forward. And t hat kind of behaviour is t ot ally unaccept able in Sweden.’
Swedish business hierarchies t end t o be very flat indeed. I n fact you could probably spend several days in a Swedish office wit hout even realizing who t he boss was. That ’s because, as Sven explained t o Richard, t hey are t aught from an early age t hat no one should believe t hey are bet t er, or wort h m ore, t han anyone else. Along wit h t he Danes and Norwegians, t he Swedes t end t o feel inst inct ively suspicious of people who push t hem selves forward, behave ext ravagant ly, or boast about t heir achievem ent s. Modest y is t he personal qualit y t hat t hese t hree cult ures seem t o value above all else; and if you describe one of t hem as ‘ordinary’, t hey will probably regard it as a com plim ent . Som e say t hat t his at t it ude has it s root s in t he social code t hat evolved am ong Scandinavia’s sm all rural com m unit ies. The peasant farm ers soon discovered t hat , if t hey were t o survive t he harsh condit ions of t he lat e Middle Ages, t hey needed t o work closely t oget her as a group. Such int erdependence required considerable equalit y of effort and reward: a farm er who t hought he was bet t er t han his neighbours m ight believe he deserved m ore t han t hem in ret urn for less effort . Such behaviour would dest abilize t he com m unit y and clearly could not be t olerat ed. The Lut heran reform at ion, which was em braced by t he Nordic count ries in t he course of t he 16t h cent ury, m ust also have played a significant part in reinforcing t he Scandinavians’ dislike of im m odest y, ext ravagance and self- glorificat ion. What ever it s origins, t his cent uries- old, unwrit t en social code st ill exert s a st rong influence t hroughout Scandinavia. I n 1933, Danish aut hor Aksel Sandem ose published a novel ( ‘A Fugit ive Crosses His Tracks’) condem ning t he negat ive im pact t hese values could have. Unable t o accept t he pet t y j ealousies and narrow- m inded behaviour he perceived in his own hom e t own, he m oved t o Norway. Jant e – t he im aginary sm all Danish port feat ured in t he novel – is based on t he hom e t own Sandem ose left . Jant e’s sm all- m inded, envious inhabit ant s live by t heir own ‘TenCom m andm ent s’ – or ‘Jant e Law’ – which include: ‘You shall not t hink you are special; You shall not t hink you are
cleverer t han us; ’ and ‘You shall not t hink you can t each us anyt hing.’ Few young Scandinavians t oday act ually read t his novel; but m ost will refer t o t he ‘Jant e Law’ t o explain t heir cult ure. As our colleague Richard discovered during t he present at ions sem inar in Sweden, people st ill t hink it ’s wrong for individuals t o push t hem selves forward; and m any ex- pat Swedes will claim t hat it was t he ‘Jant e Law’ m ent alit y t hat drove t hem out of t he count ry. Aust ralia is anot her count ry t hat celebrat es it s horizont al power relat ionships. The Aust ralians have t heir own version of t he ‘Jant e Law’. They call it ‘Tall Poppy Syndrom e’: because it ’s t he t allest poppy in a field t hat will be picked first , it ’s t he t allest poppy t hat is t he m ost vulnerable. I n ot her words, if you behave in an im m odest or egot ist ical way, you will be punished. The Aust ralians have lit t le respect for people who t hink t oo highly of t hem selves. And, in 1999, t hey showed quit e clearly t hat t his feeling runs very deep: John Howard, who was Prim e Minist er at t hat t im e, wrot e a new int roduct ion t o t he const it ut ion. I n it he included t he following st at em ent : ‘We value excellence.’ I t ’s a line t hat m any count ries include in t he pream ble t o t heir const it ut ion, and t hat m ost com panies expect t o see in t heir m ission st at em ent . But it provoked enorm ous cont roversy am ong t he Aust ralians. The m edia im m ediat ely at t acked Howard for t rying t o underm ine t he ‘Tall Poppy Syndrom e’. And when, during a radio int erview, he said: ‘I f t here’s one t hing we need t o get rid of in t his count ry, it ’s our Tall Poppy Syndrom e’, t he nat ion was out raged. I n a subsequent referendum , t he vast m aj orit y vot ed against t he new pream ble t o t he const it ut ion. To t he Aust ralians, st riving for individual excellence im plied pushing yourself forward or t rying t o be bet t er t han ot hers. And in a societ y where everyone is equal, such behaviour can be perceived as very divisive. So if you’re m anaging a t eam of Scandinavians or Aust ralians, rem em ber t he ‘Jant e Law’ and ‘Tall Poppy Syndrom e’. Don’t play t he heavy- handed ( aut ocrat ic) boss; consult t hem frequent ly; and don’t be surprised or offended if t hey challenge your decisions. Many I ndians, on t he ot her hand, have a st rong sense of t heir place in t he order of t hings. The Hindu cast e syst em has result ed in a rigid social st rat ificat ion which st ill exist s, despit e Mahat m a Ghandi’s best at t em pt s t o break it down. And, as t he Bhagavad Git a dict at es, t hey believe t hat it ’s bet t er t o do t he j ob you are born t o do t han t he j ob anot her was born t o do – even if you m ight do it bet t er. The vert ical hierarchy is nat urally det erm ined and should not be int erfered wit h or ignored. I n t he m id1990s, Canning ran a series of courses for t he St eel Aut horit y of I ndia. We worked wit h a num ber of different groups of I ndian m anagers. But in each case our brief was t he sam e: t o help t he part icipant s creat e and deliver m ore dynam ic and effect ive in- house t raining program m es. During t he early part of each course, t heir Canning t rainer asked each group a vit al quest ion: ‘What , in your view, is a m anager’s j ob?’ All t he m anagers in every group – m en and wom en alike – gave exact ly t he sam e unequivocal reply: ‘A m anager’s j ob is t o t ell people what t o do.’ And t hey were genuinely surprised, and even a lit t le puzzled, when our colleagues suggest ed t hat t here m ight be ot her ways of defining t he role. So if you’re m anaging an I ndian t eam , don’t expect t hem t o challenge your decisions, or com e t o you wit h suggest ions of how you m ight do t hings bet t er. As far as t hey’re concerned, you’re t he boss and m aking decisions is your j ob. Most societ ies believe t hat t here’s a nat ural, alm ost predet erm ined, order of som e kind and t heir business cult ures reflect t his. And when som eone from out side int erferes wit h t his nat ural order, people don’t like it at all: When Piet er, a Sout h African businessm an, secured a m aj or infrast ruct ural cont ract in Japan, he put t oget her a t eam of locals from his firm ’s Japanese subsidiary t o run t he proj ect . One night he had dinner wit h t he t eam leader, Yoshinori, a m an in his lat e fort ies. The conversat ion was rat her flat , so Piet er st art ed t alking about t he perform ance of t heir respect ive t eam s in t he recent rugby World Cup. ‘Your t eam was absolut e rubbish’, he said j okingly, and t hen wait ed for Yoshinori t o m ake som e sim ilar com m ent about t he Sout h Africans. But Yoshinori j ust nodded and sm iled. So Piet er t ried again: ‘But I guess t hat ’s norm al. I m ean, you don’t exact ly t op t he league in any sport , do you?’ Again Yoshinori nodded and sm iled. Piet er was very frust rat ed: all red- blooded m ales enj oy m aking fun of ot her people’s sport ing abilit y; so why didn’t t his guy st art m ocking t he Sout h African t eam ? As he left t he rest aurant , Piet er was beginning t o wonder whet her Yoshinori was t he right kind of person t o run such an im port ant proj ect .
The next m orning, he decided t o replace Yoshinori wit h Takashi – an MBA graduat e ( in his lat e t went ies) from a t op Am erican universit y – who was working in a j unior posit ion on t he proj ect . Piet er spoke first t o Yoshinori and t hen t o Takashi. The form er react ed t o t he news t hat he was
t o be m oved sideways wit h ext rem ely good grace. But , when Takashi was t old about his prom ot ion, he seem ed bot h dej ect ed and t errified. Over dinner t hat evening, a puzzled Piet er discussed Takashi’s react ion wit h a close Japanese friend. His friend nodded wisely and said: ‘The nail t hat st icks up will be ham m ered down.’ Piet er frowned: ‘What does t hat m ean?’ he asked. ‘I t ’s a well- known Japanese proverb’, his friend replied. He t hen went on t o explain t hat m oving som eone ofTakashi’s age so quickly and so publicly up t he hierarchy was rat her unusual. Takashi was probably em barrassed t o be pushed forward in t his way. And he would find it hard t o earn t he respect of his t eam m em bers. Next day, m uch t o Takashi’s relief, Piet er reinst at ed Yoshinori as t eam leader. The fact is, Piet er knew all about vert ical business cult ures – aft er all, he cam e from one. And he assum ed t hat , like his Sout h African com pat riot s, Takashi would be flat t ered and encouraged by such an early and rapid prom ot ion. But it isn’t enough t o know whet her a cult ure is flat or vert ical. You also need t o find out where it falls on t he following scale:
I f you com e from an individualist cult ure like Piet er, you probably t hink it is perfect ly norm al t o reward an individual’s effort wit h public praise or rapid prom ot ion. But , as his experience wit h Takashi shows, people from group- orient ed cult ures will oft en feel em barrassed t o be t reat ed different ly from t heir peers.
Ta k in g r e spon sibilit y Where you fall on t he individualist —group- orient ed scale will also affect your at t it ude t owards t aking responsibilit y. A colleague of ours was running a workshop for a Japanese m ult inat ional. The part icipant s were all Europeans, apart from one Japanese guy called Makot o. The Europeans were given t he opport unit y t o ask Makot o about aspect s of Japanese cult ure t hat puzzled t hem . And Makot o was encouraged t o ask sim ilar quest ions of t he Europeans. His first quest ion was very revealing: Why do Europeans always m ake excuses? And why do t hey never really say sorry? The Europeans were incensed, and dem anded exam ples. Makot o said: I f a European m isses a deadline, he will say it was because t here were bugs in t he soft ware, or a delivery didn’t arrive. I f a European has m ade a m ist ake, he will say it was because he was given t he wrong figures, or t he dat abase hadn’t been updat ed. These are excuses. Why doesn’t he sim ply apologize? Or bet t er, why doesn’t he t ry and solve t he problem ? The Europeans all argued t hat it was im port ant t o explain why a t ask had not been com plet ed. From Makot o’s perspect ive, however, t hey were sim ply blam ing som eone else for t heir own short com ings. I n Japan, people’s responsibilit ies t radit ionally t ended t o be far less com part m ent alized t han in Europe. And, even t oday, t he idea t hat t his is not m y j ob is st ill relat ively uncom m on. I t doesn’t m at t er what your j ob descript ion is, if som et hing needs t o be done, you deal wit h it yourself. Several years ago, Canning ran a course for som e senior European m anagers from a well- known Japanese m ult inat ional. At t he beginning of t he course, one of t he com pany’s t op Japanese m anagers gave t he Europeans a 40- m inut e present at ion explaining how he expect ed t hem t o behave. Below is t he t ext of one of t he m any slides he showed: Take every responsibilit y. Never give excuses. Think only how t o recover t he sit uat ion. Forget your j ob descript ion. Com m unicat e wit h your m anager frequent ly. You can perform your m anager’s j ob. Your m anager’s j ob is possibly your j ob. Do not refuse it because of j ob descript ion. You are responsible for your subordinat e’s j ob. The j ob it self m ust be t he aim of life. Though m any younger Japanese would say t hat t his is now an old- fashioned view, m ost accept t hat it st ill exist s inside a lot of t heir com panies. And few Japanese would disagree wit h what t his senior m anager said next : I f som ebody conflict s wit h ot hers and is excluded from t he com m unit y, he cannot survive. No prim a donnas ( people, like t he m ain wom an singer in an opera, who dem and special t reat m ent ) are welcom ed. No st rong leaders are needed. While leadership courses are now very popular in Japan, t he Japanese definit ion of leadership is not t he sam e as it is in, for exam ple, t he UK and t he USA. A colleague of ours recent ly asked t wo Brit ish m anagers t o draw a very sim ple pict ure t hat would illust rat e t heir idea of leadership; he t hen asked t wo Japanese m anagers t o do exact ly t he sam e t hing. The result s were fascinat ing. On bot h pict ures, t he leader was slight ly larger t han t he t eam m em bers. But t he Brit ish had placed t he leader t o t he far left of t he page – in ot her words, in front of t he t eam – and he or she seem ed t o be waving t he t eam m em bers forward, like an officer wit h a group of soldiers. The Japanese, on t he ot her hand, had placed t he leader t o t he far right of t he page – in ot her words, behind t he t eam – and he or she seem ed t o be t rying t o persuade t he t eam m em bers t o ‘go forward’ t o t he left of t he page. When asked t o explain t heir pict ures, t he Brit ish m anagers t alked about leading by exam ple, arguing t heir case well and m ot ivat ing by bot h praising and crit icizing. The Japanese m anagers, on t he ot her hand, t alked m uch m ore about coaching and t eaching. I n a vert ical cult ure t hat is also individualist , you m ight expect t he boss t o m ake t he decision and hand it down. But Japan is a vert ical and group- orient ed cult ure where harm ony m ust be preserved at all cost s, and individualist leaders are not appreciat ed. St rat egic or policy decisions are only t aken aft er a long and t horough consult at ion process called nem awashi. During nem awashi, m anagers have
a series of one- t o- one consult at ions wit h t heir t eam m em bers. These oft en t ake t he form of inform al chat s in t he bar or spont aneous conversat ions in t he office. People discuss as m any opt ions as t hey can t hink of. All t he im plicat ions are exam ined – t im e, m oney, people – and all t he subt let ies of facesaving are considered. So, by t he t im e t he decision is finally t aken, everyone’s com m it m ent t o it is guarant eed. The way in which m ore individualist cult ures challenge and disagree wit h one anot her at so- called decision- m aking m eet ings com es as a t errible shock t o m ost Japanese business people. For t hem , a round t able m eet ing is j ust a form alit y – t o rubber st am p ( rat ify) what has already been agreed during nem awashi.
M on it or in g pe r for m a n ce How far do you expect your subordinat es t o work on t heir own init iat ive? And how closely do you expect your boss t o m onit or what you’re doing? Again, expect at ions can vary considerably from place t o place, as Renat e – a Germ an businesswom an – found when she first m oved t o Paris t o work for a French com pany: I had always assum ed t hat m ost West ern Europeans worked in a sim ilar way. However, a few weeks int o m y first proj ect , m y new boss saw m e in t he corridor, drew m e t o one side and said: ‘I don’t seem t o have received any weekly report s from you.’ I replied: ‘Well, no. There’s not hing of any int erest t o t ell you yet . I ’m st ill doing t he groundwork.’ My boss gave a t ypical French shrug and said: ‘But t hat ’s no reason not t o writ e a report . This proj ect is m y responsibilit y and I need t o have regular feedback from every m em ber of t he t eam . I t ’s norm al.’ I was ast onished. When you’re running a proj ect in Germ any, your boss j ust let s you get on wit h it . You only writ e a report when you’ve got som et hing t o say. A French boss isn’t j ust t he m anager. He is le responsable. Everyone in t he depart m ent and everyt hing t hat happens t here is his responsibilit y. Which is why Renat e’s boss felt t he need t o keep a close eye on what she was doing. This was very different from Germ any where, as Renat e said, your boss usually leaves you t o work on your own init iat ive. And it t ook her som e t im e t o get used t o t he French way of doing t hings. Her boss’s at t it ude t owards responsibilit y also affect s t he way he int er- act s wit h his fellow m anagers. He will oft en be far t oo busy running his own lit t le em pire t o concern him self wit h what ’s happening in anot her depart m ent . Whereas Germ an, Brit ish and Am erican m anagers usually feel fairly free t o pop int o one anot her’s offices t o offer suggest ions or proposals, Renat e’s boss would probably regard such behaviour as unwelcom e int erference. As we saw in Chapt er 1, cult ure clashes can be part icularly painful when HQ t ries t o im pose it s own cult ural norm on all it s subsidiaries. Many of t he new m anagem ent t echniques t hat com panies adopt t o t ry t o creat e som e kind of com pet it ive advant age originat e in t he USA. Aft er all, it was t he Am ericans who t urned m anagem ent int o an academ ic discipline. But t he USA, for t he m ost part , has an individualist and hierarchically flat business cult ure. And som e of t heir m anagem ent st rat egies are sim ply not suit ed t o m ore vert ical societ ies: Sarah worked at t he London HQ of an Am erican invest m ent bank. As HR m anager, it was her j ob t o ensure t he sm oot h int roduct ion of a new 360- degree appraisal syst em in all of t he bank’s offices in Europe. But t he Spanish were refusing t o play ball. While t heir m anaging direct or and HR m anager bot h claim ed t o be in favour of t he syst em , t he ot her senior m anagers were not . Sarah had sent num erous e- m ails t o t he t wo m en suggest ing ways in which t he syst em could be im plem ent ed, and had also spoken t o each of t hem several t im es on t he phone. But t heir m essage was always t he sam e: ‘We agree t hat t he syst em should be int roduced. But our senior m anagers are resist ing it st rongly. They say it sim ply isn’t right for Spain.’ A 360- degree appraisal m eans t hat your perform ance is assessed not only by people above you in t he hierarchy, but also by your peers and subordinat es. I n som e cases, t he com pany’s client s are also invit ed t o subm it t heir com m ent s. So why did t he Spanish find t his idea so hard t o accept ? Well, Spain cert ainly has a st rongly vert ical business cult ure. But t hat ’s not t he only reason. I t ’s also because Spain would probably fall t o t he right of t he following scale:
The idea t hat businesses should be run along m erit ocrat ic lines is becom ing m ore and m ore com m on. So, at first sight , you m ay well place yourself t o t he left of t his scale. But is t hat how you really feel, or how you believe you ought t o feel? I f you’re a m an in your fift ies, for exam ple, how happy would you be t o report t o a wom an in her early t hirt ies? I f you’re from a fairly m ono- cult ural societ y, how would you feel if your com pany appoint ed a foreigner as CEO? I f you and m ost of your colleagues went t o one of t he t op universit ies, how would you all react if t he com pany recruit ed som eone wit h no academ ic qualificat ions as your new boss? This scale probably raises m ore issues t han you t hink. I n given st at us cult ures, how fast you work your way up t he hierarchy doesn’t j ust depend on how well you perform . For t he Spanish bankers in t he sit uat ion above, age and gender were also im port ant fact ors. I n Spain, and ot her vert ical/ given st at us cult ures, m anagers oft en t reat t heir subordinat es in a pat ernalist ic way. They look aft er t hem m uch as a fat her looks aft er his son. Not only will t hey cham pion t hem for prom ot ion or t he best j obs, and prot ect t hem from int ra- com pany disput es, but t hey will also advise t hem on personal m at t ers. How could a subordinat e possibly be asked t o anonym ously appraise such a fat her figure’s perform ance? The idea was com plet ely incom pat ible wit h t he Spanish m anagers’ cult ural values. Their at t it ude was quit e clear: I look aft er m y em ployees and if t hey’re not happy t hey will find som e way t o t ell m e – j ust as a son would t ell his fat her. And what about t heir daught ers, you m ay well ask? Well, unfort unat ely for Sarah, m any older Spanish m en – brought up in t he highly conservat ive years when Franco ruled t he count ry – st ill find it difficult t o accept t hat wom en should be t reat ed as equals in t he workplace. That ’s not t o say a wom an m anager can’t do business perfect ly effect ively in Spain or ot her pat ernalist ic cult ures. But she needs t o be aware of t heir values and expect at ions and, if necessary, adapt her behaviour accordingly. I n Spain – and I t aly, t oo – it ’s not unusual for a senior m anager who has ret ired t o ret ain considerable influence over t he st aff in t he com pany he used t o work for. Many Nort hern Europeans are am azed when t hey discover t his. Sarah was no except ion. But when, during an inform al chat , t he Spanish bank’s HR m anager suggest ed t hat t heir ret ired CEO m ight be able t o help her, she was perfect ly willing t o t ry playing t he gam e t he Spanish way. She called t he influent ial 65- year- old and arranged t o have dinner wit h him . Nat urally, she let him choose t he rest aurant and pay t he bill. And, even t hough it went against her fem inist principles, she dressed and behaved t o charm . During t he m eal, t hey discussed a wide range of different t opics, but none of t hem relat ed direct ly t o business. I t wasn’t unt il t he coffee and liqueurs arrived t hat t he ret ired CEO briefly m ent ioned t he 360- degree appraisal syst em . He knew all about t he problem s Sarah had been having. But he was sure t he m anagers would accept t he idea once he had spoken t o t hem . A few m ont hs lat er, Sarah was able t o report t hat t he Madrid office had agreed t o im plem ent t he syst em provided it was m odified t o suit local condit ions. The highly sophist icat ed form er CEO had obviously been able t o suggest a com prom ise t hat would sat isfy Head Office and suit t he Spanish m anagers’ leadership st yle. I f Sarah had not been prepared t o seek his help, t he out com e m ight have been very different . Trying t o im pose an appraisal syst em t hat was designed by an acquired st at us cult ure on m anagers from a given st at us societ y can cause serious long- t erm dam age t o t he relat ionship bet ween head office and subsidiary – as a num ber of our client s have discovered.
Ge t t in g pe ople t o pla y ba ll Wherever you com e from , you’re unlikely t o have m uch respect for colleagues who em barrass you in front of ot hers, bet ray a confidence, fail t o do t heir fair share of t he work, or break t heir word in som e way. When t hey com e from t he sam e cult ure as you, at least you have som e com m on point of reference t o m easure t heir behaviour against . Even so, it ’s not always easy t o work out what t heir m ot ives really are, or how far you can t rust t hem . And when t hey’re from a different count ry, it can be harder st ill: An int ernat ional com pany appoint ed t wo high pot ent ials – Jean- Claude from France, and Toshiyuki from Japan – t o run a proj ect t oget her. They seem ed t o get on well and, aft er m uch discussion, worked out a m odus operandi and det ailed schedule t hat t hey and t heir t eam s could agree t o. Toshiyuki went back t o Japan and subm it t ed a writ t en report , out lining what t hey had agreed, t o his boss. A few days lat er, Jean- Claude had a brilliant idea. There was a m uch m ore efficient way of handling t he proj ect . Jean- Claude discussed t he proposal wit h his French t eam and, before long, everyone concluded t hat it would work perfect ly. A delight ed Jean- Claude subm it t ed a revised schedule t o t he French st eering com m it t ee. He t hen called Toshiy uk i: Jean- Claude: I ’ve got som e good news. We’ve m anaged t o st ream line t he schedule. I ’ll m ail you t he det ails in a m inut e. But , basically, it m eans we’ll be able t o com plet e t he proj ect a couple of m ont hs earlier t han we t hought . Toshiyuki: You’ve changed t he schedule? Jean- Claude: Yes. I suddenly realized t hat if we split t he t eam s int o eight work groups rat her t han six, we could overlap phases t wo and t hree, and run phases five and six concurrent ly. Toshiyuki: You’ve changed t he work groups? Jean- Claude: Yes. I t ’s so sim ple, I don’t know why we didn’t t hink of it before. Toshiyuki: I see... But I t old m y boss t hat t he schedule had been finalized. I ’ve already subm it t ed m y report . Jean- Claude: Well, j ust t ell him we’ve had a bet t er idea. Toshiyuki: I t will be very difficult for m e t o explain t he changes t o him . Jean- Claude: I don’t see why. I m ean, changing t he schedule is going t o save a lot of t im e and m oney. I ’m sure he’ll be very pleased. The proj ect went ahead, but t he relat ionship bet ween t he Japanese and French t eam s det eriorat ed fast . Toshiyuki and his colleagues weren’t openly obst ruct ive, but Jean- Claude got t he im pression t hat t hey were som ehow ‘working t o rule’. Before long, t he proj ect had fallen seriously behind schedule, and t he group’s HR direct or was asked t o find out what was going wrong. He asked Canning t o run a series of cross- cult ural workshops. The first one was wit h t he Japanese t eam . Our consult ant asked t hem t o role play a few t ypical business sit uat ions and t hen discussed t he various cult ural issues t hat arose. During one of t hese discussions, Toshiyuki suddenly exploded: ‘But t hat ’s j ust t ypical of t he French! They never st ick t o an agreem ent . Jean- Claude changed t he proj ect schedule aft er I had subm it t ed it t o m y boss. This is t ot ally unaccept able. How can I ever t rust him again?’
Jean- Claude cert ainly didn’t cynically set out t o renege on ( break) an agreem ent , or t o m ake Toshi’s life difficult . Quit e t he reverse. His m ot ives were honourable, and he behaved in a way t hat his French colleagues would probably regard as norm al. But his act ions caused fat al dam age t o t he relat ionship. Once again, it ’s all down t o differing cult ural values. From t he Cart esian Jean- Claude’s perspect ive, if t here was a m ore efficient way of scheduling t he proj ect , t hen it was only logical t o adopt it . For him , t aking decisions like t his is part of a m anager’s j ob. I t ’s norm al. How could anyone possibly obj ect ?
Well Toshiyuki could, and did. From his perspect ive, a final agreem ent had been m ade. I n his consensus cult ure, m anagers don’t behave in such an individualist way. St rat egic and policy decisions are only t aken aft er long and careful nem awashi. And if you want t o change t hem , t here has t o be anot her equally t horough consult at ion process. When he changed t he plans, Jean- Claude had not only broken his word. He had also put his Japanese colleague in an em barrassing posit ion. Toshiyuki would lose face wit h his Japanese boss and probably wit h his Japanese t eam m em bers t oo. Jean- Claude was com plet ely unaware of how Toshiyuki felt . He had learnt a lot about Japanese cult ure before j oining t he proj ect t eam , and always m ade a genuine effort t o see t hings from his Japanese colleagues’ perspect ive. But , on t his occasion and on t his issue, it didn’t even occur t o him t hat t here was a cult ure gap. Unfort unat ely, it ’s occasions like t his t hat can present t he great est danger t o t he int ernat ional business person. St ereot ypes can be reinforced and relat ionships irrevocably dam aged wit hout your even realizing it . Clearly, learning how your int ernat ional colleagues expect t o be t reat ed and why t akes t im e. And no m at t er how carefully you do your hom ework, t here will always be som e cult ural gaps t hat you’re not aware of. So does t hat m ean m isunderst andings of t his sort are inevit able? Well, no. Not necessarily. I t ’s all a quest ion of how sensit ively you com m unicat e. I n fact , it was t he way Jean- Claude com m unicat ed wit h Toshiyuki t hat caused m ost of t he t rouble. You see, he focused exclusively on him self and his own agenda. And, in our experience, t hat is a m aj or cause of m isunderst anding and conflict , not only bet ween people from different cult ures, but bet ween com pat riot s t oo. No m at t er where you go in t he world, you’ll com e across som e people who seem t o be nat ural born com m unicat ors. Everyone respect s t hem ; everyone likes dealing wit h t hem ; everyone seem s t o be prepared t o m ake an ext ra effort t o help t hem . You can probably t hink of one or t wo of your own colleagues who fit t his descript ion. And if you analyse what t hese successful com m unicat ors do, you’ll find t hat t hey have one t hing in com m on. Whoever t hey’re dealing wit h, what ever t hey’re t alking about , however com m it t ed t hey are t o t heir own views and values, t hey show em pat hy wit h t he ot her person. Em pat hy is t he abilit y t o put yourself in som eone else’s posit ion; t o see t he world t hrough t heir eyes; t o im agine how t hey’re feeling. Clearly, t he m ore you have in com m on wit h som eone, t he easier it is t o show em pat hy. But if you want t o be a successful int ernat ional com m unicat or, you have t o develop t he abilit y t o em pat hize wit h everyone – even people who seem t o look at t he world from a com plet ely different perspect ive. The t rouble is, if you t ry t o work out how t hese people show em pat hy, you end up wit h a list of pract ices t hat are so obvious t hey sound sim plist ic: keep an open m ind; find out how people feel and what kind of pressures t hey’re under; im agine why t hey find it hard t o accept your proposals; ask quest ions and really list en t o t he answers. All of t his is plain com m on sense, isn’t it ? Well yes, it is. Unfort unat ely, when you’re under st ress, com m on sense can be one of t he first t hings t hat goes out of t he window. I f you’ve got a deadline t o m eet and your colleagues are refusing t o play ball wit h you, em pat hizing wit h t heir problem s is oft en t he last t hing you feel like doing. And if, like JeanClaude, you’re t ot ally convinced t hat your proposal is t he right one, it m ay not even occur t o you t hat Toshiyuki sees t hings different ly. But if only Jean- Claude had used a bit of im aginat ion, if only he had kept an open m ind, asked a few percept ive quest ions, and really list ened t o what Toshiyuki was saying, t he conversat ion m ight have gone very different ly: Jean- Claude: I ’m calling about t he proj ect schedule. I t hink I ’ve found a way t o save som e t im e – and quit e a bit of m oney t oo. Toshiyuki: Really? How? Jean- Claude: Well, if we split t he t eam s int o eight work groups rat her t han six, we could overlap phases t wo and t hree, and run phases five and six concurrent ly. Toshiyuki: Oh! Very big changes. Jean- Claude: Yes. I t would m ean reworking t he whole schedule, I ’m afraid. How would you feel about t hat ? Toshiyuki: I t would be very difficult for m e. Jean- Claude: Difficult ? I n what way? Toshiyuki: I t old m y boss t hat t he schedule had been finalized. I ’ve already subm it t ed a form al report .
Jean- Claude: Right ... What would he say if you t old him we want ed t o change it ? Toshiyuki: I t would be very difficult for m e. Everyone has been consult ed. The final schedule has been agreed. Jean- Claude: I see... Well, obviously I don’t want t o cause you any problem s wit h your boss. But as I said, it would save t he com pany a lot of t im e and m oney... What would you and your colleagues usually do in t his kind of sit uat ion? This t im e, Jean- Claude had t ried t o put him self in Toshiyuki’s posit ion before he picked up t he phone. Of course, given his cult ural condit ioning, it would have been hard for him t o ant icipat e his Japanese colleague’s reluct ance t o t ell t he boss t hat everyt hing was going t o be changed. But it didn’t t ake m uch im aginat ion or com m on sense t o realize t hat Toshiyuki m ight not be very ent husiast ic about revising t he schedule. Aft er all, t hey had j ust spent several weeks planning t he proj ect t oget her. So Jean- Claude was careful not t o present his colleague wit h a unilat eral decision. I nst ead, he:
m ade a t e n t a t ive pr oposa l I t hink I ’ve found a way t o save som e t im e – and quit e a bit of m oney t oo. a ck n ow le dge d t hat it would involve m aking subst ant ial changes I t would m ean reworking t he whole schedule, I ’m afraid. asked a se r ie s of ope n qu e st ion s and really list e n e d t o t he answers How would you feel about t hat ? Difficult ? I n what way? What would he say if you t old him we want ed t o change it ? What would you and your colleagues usually do in t his kind of sit uat ion? By showing em pat hy, Jean- Claude kept all t he channels of com m unicat ion open. As a result , at least he st ands som e chance of get t ing t he schedule changed wit hout dam aging t he relat ionship. Maybe Toshiyuki will suggest t hat Jean- Claude should ask t he French boss t o speak t o t he Japanese boss. Maybe he’ll have som e ot her proposal. Or perhaps he’ll sim ply repeat t hat t he whole sit uat ion is very difficult for him . I t ’s anyone’s guess. But what ever he does say, Jean- Claude is in a m uch st ronger posit ion t han he was at t he end of t he first conversat ion. He now knows t hat t his is a delicat e issue, and t hat he and his French colleagues will have t o t hink very carefully about t he best way t o handle it . I t ’s hardly rocket science, is it ? And yet a lot of t he int ernat ional business people we work wit h ( rocket scient ist s included) are frequent ly ast onished at how m uch difference asking a few quest ions and showing a bit of em pat hy can m ake: An I t alian lawyer, who had j ust st art ed a one- year secondm ent wit h a law firm in London, cam e t o Canning for a few days’ one- t o- one t raining. When Jam es, her t rainer, asked how she was get t ing on wit h her Brit ish colleagues, she said t hat she was finding it very difficult t o m ake friends: ‘I t ry t o be friendly and converse wit h t hem , but t hey are very cold; very closed. I t ’s always t he sam e. Aft er a few m inut es, t hey find som e excuse t o bring t he conversat ion t o an end.’ Jam es was rat her puzzled and suggest ed t hat t hey role play one of t hese conversat ions. The I t alian wom an agreed, and st art ed t alking... about herself. Ten m inut es lat er, she was st ill t alking. And she would probably have gone on a lot longer if Jam es hadn’t int errupt ed her. ‘Why’, he asked ‘didn’t you t ry t o find out som et hing about m e?’ The I t alian wom an said: ‘I n I t aly, when you want t o show t hat you are open and friendly, you do it by t elling people a lot about yourself.’ Jam es explained t hat t he reverse was t rue in t he UK: ‘I f you want t o m ake friends wit h your colleagues here, you need t o show int erest in t hem . And t hat m eans asking quest ions.’ The I t alian wom an looked doubt ful, but agreed t o t ry t o follow his advice when she got back t o her office. A few weeks lat er, she called Jam es: ‘You were right . Asking quest ions has really broken t he ice. I ’ve now m ade friends wit h several of t he wom en in t he office. And t he ot her day t hey invit ed m e t o j oin t hem for dinner.’
I t isn’t only count ries t hat have t heir own way of looking at t he world, and t heir own way of doing t hings. Different professional groups have t heir own ‘cult ure’ t oo. I t ’s a quest ion of whom or what you ident ify wit h. An Am erican m edical doct or, for exam ple, m ay feel she has m ore in com m on wit h a doct or from Syria t han she does wit h t he adm inist rat ors in her own hospit al. I nside every com pany t here are always cert ain groups or individuals who seem t o look at t hings from com plet ely opposing perspect ives: Financial cont rol:
You’re obviously going t o have t o cut your direct cost s. Ot herwise t here’s no way you’re going t o m eet t he profit t arget .
Profit cent re:
Quit e frankly I ’m not even prepared t o discuss m y direct cost s unt il you can j ust ify t he HQ charges we had t o pay last year.
Financial cont rol:
I t ’s sim ple enough. Unt racked cost s have t o be paid for by t he profit cent res. They’re allocat ed on t he basis of headcount , office space and t he volum e of t racked cost s. How else can we work it out ?
Profit cent re:
Good quest ion. How else could we work it out ? And, m ore t o t he point , what st eps are you t aking t o bring your own cost s down?
I t ’s a fam iliar sit uat ion, isn’t it ? These t wo colleagues com e from t he sam e nat ional and corporat e cult ure. They know t heir place in t he hierarchy, who’s responsible for what and how people expect t o be t reat ed. But t here’s st ill a ‘cult ure’ gap bet ween t hem . The financial cont roller is one of t he cops ( policem en) ; one of t he people – account ant s, audit ors, com pliance officers, qualit y cont rol execut ives, HR m anagers even – whose j ob it is t o m ake sure t hat everyone follows t he rules, and t hat overall corporat e obj ect ives are achieved. The profit cent re m anager, on t he ot her hand, is one of t he risk- t akers – t he people who go out int o t he m arket and bring back t he business t hat pays everyone’s salary. Clearly, bot h groups perform a vit al role. The com pany couldn’t survive wit hout eit her of t hem . But t he nat ure of t heir j obs m eans t hat t hey oft en find it hard t o ident ify wit h each ot her. The t rouble is, t hey’re never going t o bridge t his ‘cult ure’ gap if each of t hem persist s in focusing exclusively on him self and his own agenda. Take t he financial cont roller, for exam ple. He went t o t he m eet ing wit h a specific m essage t o deliver: You’ve got t o m eet t he profit abilit y t arget . And t o do t hat , you’ll have t o cut your direct cost s. Which m ay be perfect ly t rue. But t he profit cent re m anager went t o t he m eet ing wit h an equally specific and clear m essage t o deliver: The HQ charges we had t o pay last year were unaccept ably high. I f you don’t reduce your cost s, we won’t m eet our profit abilit y t arget . They st art ed out on opposit e sides and t hey st ayed t here. Of course, t here m ay not be any alt ernat ive t o cut t ing t he profit cent re’s direct cost s and, if so, t he financial cont roller will need t o show st eel ( be firm ) ; at t he sam e t im e, t he profit cent re m anager will cert ainly want t o com m unicat e his dissat isfact ion wit h t he HQ charging syst em and dem and adj ust m ent s t o it . But t hat doesn’t m ean t he conversat ion has t o t urn int o a bat t le. I nst ead of st art ing off wit h: You’re obviously going t o have t o cut your direct cost s. Ot herwise t here’s no way you’re going t o m eet t he profit t arget t he financial cont roller could have:
asked an ope n quest ion – one t hat st art s wit h who, what , why, where, how; really list e n e d t o t he answer; a ck n ow le dge d t he profit cent re m anager’s difficult ies and shown genuine e m pa t h y wit h him ; probed t he profit cent re m anager’s at t it ude t o cut t ing his direct cost s wit h a close d quest ion – one t hat invit es a Yes or No answer; a n sw e r e d his concerns calm ly and reasonably. I f he had, t he conversat ion m ight have gone very different ly:
Financial cont rol:
How do you feel about t he new profit abilit y t arget ?( ope n qu e st ion )
Profit cent re:
I don’t t hink we st and any chance of achieving it , t o be honest . I m ean, we’re st ill t rying t o build up t he m arket .
Financial cont rol:
Yes, I can see t hat it ’s going t o be m uch harder for you t han for t he m ore est ablished unit s. ( e m pa t h y) But your headcount is quit e high in relat ion t o t urnover. Do you see any scope for cut s t here? ( close d qu e st ion )
Profit cent re:
To be honest , laying off a couple of people isn’t going t o m ake m uch difference. My m aj or problem is t he HQ charge. I t account ed for nearly 30 per cent of our t ot al operat ing cost s last year. I m ean, t hat can’t be right , can it ?
Financial cont rol:
Well, I ’m sure we’ve only charged for t he services you used. But 30 per cent is very high, I agree. (a n sw e r) Why don’t we go t hrough t he figures t oget her and see if we can work out where...
This approach won’t guarant ee success. But at least t he t wo colleagues are list ening t o each ot her. At least t hey are t rying t o underst and one anot her’s point of view. And t hat has t o be bet t er for t he relat ionship t han t alking at each ot her from behind well- est ablished bat t le lines.
Su m m a r y Once you st ep out side your own corporat e and nat ional cult ure, you’ll find people whose at t it udes t owards power and aut horit y are very different from your own. And if you m easure t he way t hey behave against your norm s, you could end up m isint erpret ing t heir m ot ives: a Brit would probably suspect his French colleagues of duplicit y if t hey went behind his back t o t he boss; a French responsable m ight t hink his Germ an subordinat e was t rying t o cover som et hing up if she failed t o report back t o him regularly; and a Japanese m anager m ight t hink his European count erpart was being a prim a donna if he m ade a policy change wit hout consult at ion. The m odern business world is com plex, diverse and oft en st ressful. And t here’s no panacea t hat will m agically cure all t hese com m unicat ion problem s. But if you t ry t o show a bit of genuine em pat hy you’ll find t hat , at t he very least , it can be an effect ive painkiller. So rem em ber:
ask plent y of ope n quest ions – ones t hat st art wit h who, what , why, where, how; really list e n t o t he answers; probe for m ore inform at ion by asking close d quest ions – ones t hat invit e a Yes or No answer; a ck n ow le dge t he ot her person’s posit ion; a n sw e r t heir concerns calm ly and reasonably.
Ch a pt e r 3 : Kn ow in g t h e Lim it s Ove r vie w What is want ed is not t he will t o believe, but t he will t o find out , which is t he exact opposit e. ( Bert rand Russell, Scept ical Essays, 1928) I t ’s easy t o see why you need t o t ry t o adapt t o t he way your int ernat ional part ners int erpret t he part y line or handle t he hierarchy. But what can you do when you com e up against beliefs or pract ices which seem t o go against everyt hing t hat you believe t o be right ? People who cynically set out t o break t he law, or behave in a way t hat t hey know is m orally reprehensible exist in every cult ure: When an account ant in a subsidiary present ed t he annual report she had prepared, t he parent com pany CFO said: ‘You’ll have t o rework t hese figures. The bot t om line is four m illion below t he num ber we want .’ ‘Reworking’ t he figures t o produce t he bot t om line t he CFO want ed would have m eant deliberat ely disobeying account ancy convent ions and breaking t he law. So t he account ant refused. Several weeks lat er, t he com pany m ade her redundant . As she didn’t want t o get involved in a lengt hy and possibly career- dam aging court case, she decided not t o t ake any furt her act ion.
A sales m anager was sent by his com pany t o an em erging m arket count ry t o negot iat e an im port ant cont ract . On t he first evening, his host s t ook him out t o dinner and kept refilling his glass wit h wine and liquor. The sales m anager got very drunk. So m uch so, t hat when he was invit ed t o spend t he night wit h one of t he four beaut iful girls who had suddenly appeared on t he scene, he act ed com plet ely out of charact er and accept ed t he offer. Next m orning, his host s present ed him wit h t he cont ract and asked him t o sign it . ‘But we haven’t negot iat ed t he t erm s,’ said t he sales m anager. ‘Yes we have,’ said his host s. ‘The negot iat ion t ook place last night . Don’t you rem em ber?’ When he st ill refused t o sign, his host s st art ed t o t hreat en him . Aft er an ext rem ely uncom fort able half hour, t he sales m anager event ually m anaged t o leave wit hout signing anyt hing. When he got back hom e, he overcam e his em barrassm ent and t old his bosses exact ly what had happened. He t hen phoned t he prospect ive part ners and arranged t o m eet t hem on neut ral t errit ory t o negot iat e t he deal. He went t o t he next m eet ing wit h t wo colleagues and, t his t im e, none of t hem drank anyt hing st ronger t han m ineral wat er. By anyone’s st andards, presum ably even by t heir own, t he CFO and t he ‘negot iat ors’ in t hese t wo sit uat ions were doing t he wrong t hing. I n deciding how best t o deal wit h t hem , all our t wo business people could do was follow t heir own conscience. The account ant refused t o break t he law; on t he ot her hand, she wasn’t prepared t o t ake t he com pany t o court for fear of dam aging her long- t erm career prospect s. The sales m anager was st upid t o get drunk, and even st upider t o accept t he offer of sexual favours. But he followed his conscience once he had sobered up ( was no longer drunk) – even t hough t elling his bosses what had happened m ust have been em barrassing, and could even have lost him his j ob. Though t here’s plent y of m alpract ice in t he world, t here’s plent y of honourable conduct t oo. The advice below is as relevant t oday as it has ever been: Exercise caut ion in your business affairs, for t he world is full of t rickery. But let not t his blind you t o what virt ue t here is; m any persons st rive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism . ( Max Ehrm ann, Desiderat a, 1927)
On hom e ground, you will have a pret t y good idea of what you should or shouldn’t do; and you will
usually be able t o dist inguish bet ween t hose who are resort ing t o t rickery ( being deliberat ely dishonest ) and t hose who are t rying t o be virt uous. But when you’re dealing wit h people from different cult ures, it ’s not always easy t o work out whet her t hey’re over- st epping t he lim it s of what t heir societ y regards as accept able behaviour or not . That ’s because no t wo cult ures draw t he line bet ween what is right and what is wrong in exact ly t he sam e place. Som e m ay believe t hat rules, regulat ions and t he laws of t he land should be followed t o t he let t er ( lit erally) , what ever t he circum st ances; while for ot hers, t here are sit uat ions where bending t he rules, or finding ways round com plex and seem ingly senseless legislat ion, is perfect ly accept able. What one person regards as a gift , anot her m ay see as a bribe. One cult ure’s idea of fair com pet it ion m ay be perceived elsewhere as sharp pract ice. Your at t em pt s t o be discreet m ay be int erpret ed by som e as dishonest y.
Ru le s, r e gu la t ion s a n d t h e la w s of t h e la n d Where do you st and on bending t he rules? Whet her you believe rules should be followed t o t he let t er, or int erpret ed according t o t he circum st ances, you will find t hat not everyone shares your view: Thom as, a Swiss businessm an who had j ust m oved t o I t aly, needed som e legal advice. Gianni, an I t alian friend, gave him t he nam e of a good
lawyer in a reput able firm . ‘He’s not a part ner,’ said Gianni, ‘but he’s very com pet ent , and he won’t overcharge you.’ Though t he firm ’s hourly rat e was, in fact , fairly high, Thom as was very im pressed wit h t he young I t alian who welcom ed him int o his office t he following day, and decided t o engage his services. The m at t er was quickly resolved and Thom as asked t he lawyer what t he final bill was, and how soon he would receive it . The lawyer said: ‘Well, t hat depends on how you want t o pay; and, of course, on whet her you require an invoice.’ Thom as looked puzzled. ‘I t ’s up t o you, of course,’ t he I t alian added. ‘But a cash paym ent would save you quit e a lot of m oney.’ Thom as had heard t hat plum bers, elect ricians and even hairdressers in I t aly som et im es asked for cash t o avoid paying value added t ax. But he couldn’t believe t hat a firm of lawyers would be prepared t o break t he law in t his way. His response was inst inct ive: ‘I ’d like an official invoice, please.’ When he left t he lawyer’s office, he called Gianni and t old him what had happened. His friend was rat her surprised: ‘But why did you do t hat ?’ he asked. ‘You could have saved yourself som e m oney, and helped t he lawyer t o supplem ent his incom e. Non- part ners don’t earn very m uch, you know.’ I t was only t hen t hat Thom as realized t hat t he lawyer would have kept t he m oney for him self. ‘But t hat ’s com plet ely illegal,’ he said. ‘Well, t echnically, I suppose it is,’ replied Gianni. ‘But everyone does it . I m ean, what harm does it do?’ Thom as clearly com es from a fixed t rut h cult ure where rules are supposed t o be followed t o t he let t er, what ever t he circum st ances. People from Nort h Am erica, Aust ralia, and nort hern Europe t end t o lean t his way. Gianni, on t he ot her hand, com es from a relat ive t rut h cult ure where t he circum st ances dict at e t he way you behave. He gives his loyalt y t o his fam ily and t he people he is close t o rat her t han t o a set of abst ract rules. People from m uch of Sout h/ Sout h- East / East Asia, Africa and around t he Medit erranean t end t o lean t his way. And when som eone from a fixed t rut h cult ure com es up against som eone from a relat ive t rut h cult ure, t hey m ay well have t rouble int erpret ing one anot her’s m ot ives. Before Thom as j um ps t o t he conclusion t hat Gianni and his lawyer friend are law- breakers and cheat s who have no m oral code, he should pause for a m om ent and ask him self what lies behind t heir at t it udes and behaviour. Sim ilarly, Gianni should ask him self what m akes Thom as react in what seem s, t o him , such a rigid and unim aginat ive way. Where Thom as com es from , people t end t o have fait h in t he St at e. Swit zerland is fam ous for act ively involving all of it s cit izens in t he dem ocrat ic and lawm aking process. Honest , upst anding cit izens who have fait h in t he way t heir societ y is governed, and who believe t heir j udicial syst em is t ransparent and fair, t end t o regard obeying t he laws of t heir land as a m oral dut y. The lim it s are very clearly defined: for exam ple, paying t axes is right ; evading t hem is wrong. Gianni, on t he ot her hand, has lit t le fait h in t he St at e. I ndeed, he has developed a fairly cynical at t it ude t owards it . You only have t o look at t he lam ent able perform ance of successive I t alian
governm ent s t o underst and why. And t he legislat ion t hey have produced is so com plex, and t he bureaucracy so labyrint hine, t hat Gianni would find it difficult t o follow laws and procedures t o t he let t er even if he t ried. So he’s a pragm at ist . He has t o be. I f he weren’t , t he excessive regulat ion he lives wit h would paralyze him . What his lawyer friend suggest ed is cert ainly illegal. But t o Gianni’s m ind, it is not im m oral. The fact t hat he sees not hing part icularly wrong wit h breaking cert ain laws does not m ean t hat he has no m oral code. Far from it . I n his personal relat ionships he dem onst rat es a very high level of loyalt y and int egrit y. He genuinely want ed t o help bot h his Swiss friend t o save som e m oney and his lawyer friend t o supplem ent his incom e. The part ners of t he law firm earn huge salaries. So where’s t he harm in redirect ing a lit t le of t heir incom e t o a m ore deserving cause? I t ’s quit e possible, in any case, t hat t he part ners are aware of what t heir m ore j unior colleagues are doing, and have pragm at ically chosen t o ignore it . No one can expect Thom as t o do som et hing t hat he regards as m orally wrong. But , equally, he will find it hard t o do business successfully in a relat ive t rut h cult ure like I t aly if he im m ediat ely j um ps t o t he conclusion t hat Gianni and his lawyer friend have no m oral values. And when Gianni does business wit h people from a fixed t rut h cult ure, he m ay well have t o m odify his highly pragm at ic approach. I f not , t here’s a danger it will underm ine his business part ners’ confidence in his int egrit y. What ever kind of m oral dilem m a you’re confront ed wit h, t he golden rule is t o t ry t o evaluat e t he sit uat ion as calm ly and obj ect ively as possible: When a large Germ an com pany set up a plant in China, t hey sent Klaus– an experienced m anager in one of t heir hom e plant s – over t here t o run it . One Sunday, a couple of years lat er, Klaus was doing som e work on a report for HQ when he realized he had left a disk he needed in his office at t he plant . He decided t o go and pick it up. As he was about t o leave, he heard noises com ing from t he fact ory. No one worked on a Sunday, so he t hought he had bet t er invest igat e. He could hardly believe his eyes: one of t he product ion t eam s was running a line. What t hey were doing was obviously ‘unofficial’, but Klaus was careful not t o over- react . He sim ply shout ed a warm greet ing t o Mr Li ( t he forem an) , said he needed t o see him on Monday m orning, and t hen discreet ly left for hom e.
Next day, Mr Li t old him t he t rut h: ‘We were j ust t rying t o earn a lit t le ext ra incom e,’ he said. ‘I really am very sorry. But we were only using t he line; we bought in all our own m at erials from out side.’ Klaus knew t hat Mr Li was very well connect ed wit h local polit icians. So, again, he was careful not t o overreact . He sim ply explained t hat t he m achines had a specific ‘MTBF’ ( Mean Tim e Bet ween Failure) and t hat t hey were depreciat ed on t hat basis. Mr Li t hought for a m om ent and t hen m ade a suggest ion t hat would get round t he problem : he and his t eam could pay t he com pany a hire charge for t he use of t he line. Though t his was highly irregular, Klaus decided t o accept his proposal. The result was a very m ot ivat ed workforce and a very cooperat ive Mr Li. Unfort unat ely, t he ‘incom e’ had t o be recorded in t he account s, and it wasn’t long before Germ an HQ asked Klaus for clarificat ion. Klaus t ried t o explain t he reason for his decision and t he benefit s it had produced; but t he CFO refused t o list en and insist ed t hat Klaus put a st op t o t he unofficial product ion im m ediat ely. Two weeks lat er, t he local safet y st andards officer paid a surprise visit t o Klaus’s plant . He produced quest ionable evidence t hat t hey were in breach of cert ain safet y regulat ions and closed t he plant down. I t rem ained closed for six weeks. When it reopened, t he workforce never regained t heir previous levels of effort and m ot ivat ion. Who do you sym pat hize wit h here? The ent repreneurial, but seem ingly underhand, Mr Li? The highly principled, but obviously dogm at ic, CFO? Or t he pragm at ic, but possibly t oo liberal, Klaus? Once again, your answer will depend, t o som e ext ent , on how com fort able you personally feel about bending t he rules t o suit t he circum st ances. The Chinese product ion t eam cert ainly knew t hat what t hey were doing was highly irregular. But , did t hey t hink it was im m oral or illegal? Did t hey t hink anyone was going t o suffer, or lose out , as a result of t heir act ions? I f you consider t he norm s and at t it udes t hat are prevalent in Chinese societ y, you would probably conclude t hat t hey did not . But what about t he safet y st andards officer? Was it Mr Li who called him in? And if he did, what were his m ot ives? No one can know for sure, but Mr Li was very well connect ed wit h local polit icians. The fact is, despit e recent changes in t he fast - developing areas around cit ies like Shanghai and Guangzhou, China is st ill largely a vert ical, pat ernalist ic, Confucian societ y. Mr Li’s business world is int ensely personal and closely linked t o t he ext ended circle of fam ily and friends who are at t he cent re of his universe. The m em bers of t his ext ended circle have a st rong sense of dut y and responsibilit y t owards one anot her and will always be willing t o exchange favours. And Mr Li will t ry
t o achieve as m uch as possible t hrough t hese guanxi ( connect ions) . I n all his dealings wit h t hem , he will pract ise t he art of m ian zi ( giving face) . That m eans doing everyt hing he can t o m ake t he ot her person feel good, and t rying t o avoid conflict wherever possible. Personal connect ions are also used t o obt ain goods and services t hat would not be available on t he open m arket . Zhou houm en ( lit erally, going t hrough t he back door) has becom e com m on pract ice. This unofficial econom y far exceeds m ost black m arket s in it s size and com plexit y. Recent hist ory has t aught Mr Li t o live for t oday; t o t ake a pract ical, short - t erm approach. So it ’s not surprising t hat he and t he product ion t eam were quick t o seize t his golden opport unit y t o m ake a bit of ext ra m oney on t he side. Aft er all, what harm would it do? They weren’t st ealing t he com pany’s m at erials. And once t hey knew about t he MTBF problem , t hey were perfect ly willing t o pay for t he use of t he line. So was Klaus right t o legit im ize t his unofficial operat ion? That depends on your point of view. From t he CFO’s perspect ive, appropriat ing com pany propert y for privat e use was unquest ionably wrong. By giving in t o Mr Li, Klaus m ay have m ade his own life easier in t he short t erm . But he had given ent irely t he wrong signal t o t he Chinese workforce: here was a m anager t hey could m anipulat e. I n t he long t erm , showing t hat he was prepared t o bend t he rules could have disast rous consequences. To us, as Brit s, on t he ot her hand, it seem s t hat everyone would gain by Klaus’s creat ive com prom ise. But t hen t he Brit ish t end t o have a fairly deregulat ed m ent alit y; as long as people play fair, who cares about t he rules? Whet her Klaus’s decision was right or wrong is a m at t er of opinion. But t here’s no denying t hat t he way he react ed on t hat Sunday aft ernoon, and his behaviour t owards Mr Li t he following day, were absolut ely right . During his t wo years in China, Klaus had learnt a lot about t he local cult ure. He knew all about connect ions, giving face and going t hrough t he back door . So he wasn’t in t he least surprised t hat Mr Li had not t old him about t heir unofficial operat ion. The Chinese t eam had oft en wit hheld inform at ion from him in t he past . I ndeed, t o save face and m aint ain harm ony, t hey usually said very lit t le about problem s or irregularit ies. I nst ead, t hey t ried t o present him wit h as posit ive a pict ure as possible of what was going on. Klaus knew t hat t o m anage his Chinese t eam effect ively he needed t o invest plent y of t im e and effort in get t ing t o know t hem , and earning t heir t rust . And, perhaps m ost im port ant ly, he had learnt t hat if he want ed t o gain t heir cooperat ion, he needed t o m odify t he frank, direct and explicit com m unicat ion st yle t hat cam e nat urally t o him and his Germ an colleagues. So, on t hat Sunday aft ernoon, Klaus was very careful t o avoid a direct confront at ion wit h Mr Li. Of course, he was shocked t o see what was going on. But he didn’t show it . He rem ained calm , greet ed Mr Li court eously, and discreet ly t old him t hat he needed t o see him t he following day. The next m orning, he m aint ained a const ruct ive and posit ive at t it ude. He didn’t pass j udgem ent on Mr Li’s act ions. I nst ead, he pat ient ly t old him about t he MTBF problem . Given t his firm but fair approach, if Klaus had decided t o st op t he unofficial product ion t here and t hen, we believe he could have done so wit hout dam aging t he relat ionship. Back hom e in Germ any, Klaus would m ost probably have t aken t he sam e view as t he CFO. But he wasn’t back hom e. He was in China m anaging a t eam whose at t it udes and beliefs were different from his. So he did everyt hing he could t o t ry t o bridge t he cult ure gap. I f you find yourself in a sim ilar posit ion t o Klaus, we recom m end t hat you follow his exam ple:
don’t overreact or pass hast y j udgem ent s; keep an open m ind; ask yourself why you t hink what ’s happening is wrong; and why t he people you’re dealing wit h draw t he line in a different place; re- exam ine t he sit uat ion as obj ect ively as possible; look for ways of resolving it t hat will be accept able t o bot h part ies’ m oral values and beliefs; rem ain calm and const ruct ive at all t im es. Having gone t hrough t his process, Klaus decided t hat he could accept MrLi’s proposal t o pay a hire charge for t he use of t he line wit hout com prom ising his own, or indeed t he com pany’s, m oral beliefs. And if t he CFO had not wit hdrawn t he privilege, t he Chinese workforce would m ost probably have cont inued t o repay t heir Germ an boss’s flexibilit y and fairness wit h cont inued cooperat ion and product ivit y. Of course, if you had been in Klaus’s posit ion, you m ight well have m ade a different decision. Which is fine. No one can expect you t o condone som et hing t hat you believe t o be wrong.
What ever t he sit uat ion, you have t o rem ain t rue t o yourself.
Gift s, fa vou r s a n d br ibe s Bending t he rules is one t hing. But how com fort able do you feel about exchanging gift s and favours wit h t he people you’re doing business wit h? Your answer will, t o som e ext ent , depend on where you fall on t he following scale:
I n cult ures where business is personal, gift - giving and exchanging favours t end t o be com m onplace. Aft er all, what bet t er way of developing goodwill and dem onst rat ing your wish t o keep t he relat ionship going? The problem is, where do you draw t he line bet ween a gift and a bribe? How do you dist inguish bet ween reasonable business ent ert ainm ent and t hinly disguised corrupt ion? How do you ident ify t he point at which doing som eone a favour becom es sharp pract ice? Following t he m any corrupt ion scandals t hat have been report ed in t he press in recent years, t he world’s leading m ult inat ional com panies are being forced t o give t hese quest ions som e careful t hought . I n 2002, Transparency I nt ernat ional ( www.t ransparency.org) – t he global ant i- corrupt ion organizat ion – published a Corrupt ion Percept ions I ndex ( CPI ) and a Bribe Payers I ndex ( BPI ) . The form er looks at levels of perceived corrupt ion ‘at hom e’ in 102 count ries; t he lat t er at t he propensit y of com panies from 21 leading indust rial nat ions t o offer bribes ‘away from hom e’ in em erging m arket s. Bot h polls use t he sam e scoring syst em which ranges from 10 ( no corrupt ion) t o 0 ( widespread corrupt ion) . As you would expect , levels of corrupt ion ‘at hom e’ were, on t he whole, perceived t o be at t heir lowest in rich and polit ically st able dem ocracies, and at t heir highest in poorer, less developed count ries. Finland, Denm ark and New Zealand, for exam ple, got t he t hree highest ( t hat ’s t o say ‘cleanest ’) scores; while Bangladesh, Nigeria, Paraguay, Madagascar and Angola got t he t hree lowest ( or ‘dirt iest ’) scores. I t ’s wort h not ing, however, t hat only 32 of t he 102 count ries surveyed scored m ore t han 5. And while t he USA and t he leading m em ber st at es of t he EU fell int o t his cat egory, t he levels of perceived corrupt ion in each of t hese count ries varied considerably:
And even t hose nat ions whose levels of corrupt ion are perceived t o be low ‘at hom e’ have lit t le room for com placency ( self- sat isfact ion) when it com es t o t he way t heir com panies behave overseas. I n t he m aj orit y of cases, t he BPI score was lower ( ie ‘dirt ier’) t han t he CPI . I n som e inst ances, t he difference bet ween t he t wo scores was very pronounced: HongKong’s clean 8.2 at hom e, for exam ple, cont rast ed st arkly wit h a fairly dirt y 4.3 overseas. Am ong t he ot her count ries t hat got not iceably cleaner scores at hom e t han abroad were: Singapore, t he USA, t he UK, Japan, and Taiwan. Of t he count ries whose perceived levels of corrupt ion were low at hom e, only Aust ralia, Swit zerland, Aust ria and Belgium ( all of t hem fixed t rut h cult ures, not e) got sim ilarly clean scores for t heir conduct abroad. When t he CPI and BPI were published, a Vice- Chairm an of Transparency I nt ernat ional said: Developed count ries have a special hum anit arian responsibilit y, given t he resources at t heir disposal, t o invest igat e and prosecut e t he com panies wit hin t heir j urisdict ions t hat are bribing. Their bribes and incent ives t o corrupt public officials and polit icians are subvert ing t he orderly developm ent of poor nat ions, already t rapped as t hey are, in a vicious circle of crippling
povert y, hunger and disease. ( Tunku Abdul Aziz – Vice- Chairm an, Transparency I nt ernat ional – speaking in Malaysia on t he launch of CPI 2002) The t rouble is, when a m ult inat ional com pany is com pet ing for business in a count ry where bribing public officials is com m onplace, t hey’re confront ed wit h a real dilem m a: slip som eone som e m oney and get t he cont ract ; or m ake a st and against corrupt ion and lose t he business t o anot her firm who are prepared t o be less scrupulous. I t seem s t hat t here are st ill a lot of com panies around who operat e a double st andard: while publicly deprecat ing corrupt ion and expressly forbidding t heir em ployees from offering or accept ing bribes, t hey appoint a local agent t o act on t heir behalf overseas, and t hen t urn a blind eye t o ( deliberat ely ignore) how he spends t he large fees t hey pay him . Corrupt ion has always been wit h us, and no doubt always will, in som e form or ot her. Even so, Transparency I nt ernat ional’s m essage does seem t o be having som e im pact on t he way t he int ernat ional business com m unit y behaves. Mult inat ionals from som e count ries – part icularly t hose in Nort hern Europe – are now so anxious t o avoid any hint of corrupt ion t hat t hey won’t even allow t heir em ployees t o pay for a business associat e’s dinner; or, indeed, t o accept a m eal. And even in Japan – a relat ive t rut h cult ure, where business is personal – a num ber of leading com panies have now banned t he t radit ional, t wice- yearly exchange of gift s. Unt il recent ly, m ost Japanese business people present ed beaut ifully wrapped gift s t o a whole net work of business associat es during t he official sum m er ( o- chugen ) and wint er ( o- seibo) gift - giving seasons. I nt ernat ional, nat ional and individual beliefs do evolve, and behaviours do change. But it ’s a very slow process. Som e Japanese com panies m ay have banned t he t radit ional gift - giving, but t hat doesn’t necessarily m ean t hey have suddenly com e t o t he conclusion t hat t his age- old cust om is wrong or corrupt . Perhaps t hey’re sim ply adapt ing t o t he way t heir US and Nort hern European part ners behave. Or m aybe t hey j ust see it as a convenient way of cut t ing cost s wit hout losing face. Why som e com panies in t he USA and Nort hern Europe have banned business ent ert ainm ent is perhaps a lit t le easier t o underst and. Few people would see anyt hing wrong wit h t aking a client out t o dinner in a reasonably priced rest aurant once every six m ont hs or so. But t here are m any who would t hink t hat invit ing an overseas official and his wife for an all- expenses- paid t rip t o New York, Zurich or London was in t he sam e cat egory as bribery. As t here are m any grey areas bet ween t hese t wo ext rem es, it ’s hard t o est ablish clear- cut rules about what const it ut es accept able business ent ert ainm ent and what does not . For people from a fixed t rut h cult ure, it ’s far easier sim ply t o ban ent ert ainm ent alt oget her. That way, t he rule is absolut ely clear and everyone can follow it t o t he let t er. Adapt ing t o ot her people’s expect at ions wit hout going against com pany policy is rarely easy. But if you t hink obj ect ively and flexibly, you should be able t o find ways in which you can show warm t h wit hout com prom ising your own or your com pany’s m oral values. The Brit ish personnel m anager of a large m ult inat ional’s subsidiary in East Africa offers som e useful advice: Building a relat ionship wit h local officials is one t hing; paying bribes is quit e anot her. Our policy is absolut ely clear: we never, ever pay m oney t o anyone; and we never offer anyt hing in ret urn for a cont ract . But t o build t he relat ionship, we do offer help and, occasionally, sm all present s. For exam ple, one of t he m inist ers want ed t o send his son t o a public ( fee- paying) school in t he UK. I wrot e a let t er on his behalf t o a headm ast er I knew. Sending sm all birt hday present s t o an official’s children is anot her good way of building a warm relat ionship: it m eans a lot t o t hem t hat we know how old t heir children are. Dr Jehad Al- Om ari – Jordanian aut hor of books on Arab business cult ure and one of Canning’s associat e t raining consult ant s – offers very sim ilar advice: As business is personal, exchanging favours is very com m on in t he Arab world. There is no st igm a or sense of sham e at t ached t o t he giving and receiving of favours. So you should neit her be em barrassed t o ask for a favour, nor reluct ant t o grant one when asked. This is especially t rue for sm all favours: for exam ple, arranging t o visit your host ’s son who is st udying in t he West ; sending m edicine t o his sick m ot her; arranging t o m eet a friend at t he airport . These would be st andard favours t hat would not cost m uch financially, nor int erfere wit h general m oral codes.
Whoever you’re doing business wit h, you will find t hat som et im es even t he sm allest of favours can have an unexpect edly dram at ic effect . When a French m anager at Renault ( let ’s call him Yves) saw t hat one of his Japanese colleagues from Nissan ( we’ll refer t o him as Hideki) was in an em barrassing
sit uat ion, he didn’t hesit at e t o offer him som e highly pract ical assist ance. I t was in t he first few years of t he alliance bet ween t hese t wo com panies when t heir m anagers were st ill learning about one anot her’s cult ures and how best t o bridge t he gap bet ween t hem . The im pact of Yves’ spont aneous act of kindness t ook t he m em bers of bot h com panies by surprise: On t he first m orning of a t wo- day m eet ing in Paris, Yves not iced t hat every t im e Hideki st ood up, he kept self- consciously pulling his t rousers up. Yves t ook him discreet ly t o one side at t he coffee break. ‘I see you’re having problem s wit h your t rousers’, he whispered. ‘Yes’, said Hideki. ‘I forgot t o pack m y belt .’ Wit hout a m om ent ’s hesit at ion, Yves t ook his own belt off and handed it t o Hideki: ‘Here you are’, he said. ‘You can borrow m ine. I don’t need it .’ Hideki quiet ly t hanked him and unobt rusively put t he belt on st raight away. When he ret urned t o Tokyo, he sent t he belt back t o Yves wit h a warm let t er of t hanks. From t hat m om ent on, relat ions bet ween t he t wo m en and t heir t eam s im proved beyond recognit ion. News of Yves’ generous act spread t o ot her depart m ent s in Nissan. And t hose m anagers who t ended t o t hink t hese gaij in ( foreigners) were cold and unfriendly st art ed t o look at t heir French colleagues t hrough different eyes. The m oral t o t his t ale is clear: however different t heir cult ural values m ay be, your int ernat ional business associat es are hum an beings wit h t he sam e basic needs and em ot ions as you. Sm all act s of kindness t hat dem onst rat e em pat hy and concern can oft en do as m uch, if not m ore, for t he relat ionship t han expensive gift s or night s out on t he t own. Of course, t here will be t im es when som eone offers you a gift or ent ert ainm ent . As we’ve already seen, som e US and Nort hern European com panies have banned t heir em ployees from accept ing eit her. Many m ult inat ionals, however, t ake a slight ly m ore pragm at ic approach. An Am erican I T com pany we know of helps it s st aff dist inguish bet ween gift s and bribes by offering t he following advice: Don’t accept anyt hing t hat can’t be consum ed in a day. So t he occasional business dinner is OK; a weekend in t he Baham as is not . You can accept a bot t le of whisky wit h an easy conscience; but if som eone gives you a case of whisky, you’ll have t o send it back.
N e pot ism Som e cult ures put nepot ism in m ore or less t he sam e cat egory as corrupt ion. Ot hers regard giving j obs or cont ract s t o m em bers of t heir fam ily, or clan, as a perfect ly norm al, logical and accept able t hing t o do. On t he st at us scale we looked at in Chapt er 2, t he form er would probably lean t owards t he left ; t he lat t er t o t he right :
And when people from opposit e ends of t his scale m eet , t hey’re oft en genuinely puzzled by one anot her’s at t it udes: A Swedish com pany had est ablished very clear global purchasing guidelines: no m ore t han 30 per cent of any part icular it em could be supplied by one vendor; quot es had t o be obt ained from at least t hree different suppliers; and cont ract s were t o be awarded purely on t he basis of price, delivery t erm s, reliabilit y and qualit y. Anders, t he Swedish regional m anager for Sout hEast Asia, was dist urbed t o not e t hat , despit e several rem inders, t he subsidiary in Viet nam did not appear t o be following t hese guidelines. I n fact , t he range of suppliers t hey used seem ed t o be very lim it ed, and m ost of t hem were Chinese. The subsidiary’s Chinese m anager seem ed very unconcerned when Anders raised t his problem wit h him . ‘Well, of course m ost of our suppliers are Chinese,’ he said. ‘I only use vendors I ’m relat ed t o.’ Anders was shocked and rem ained silent for a m om ent . Then he calm ly explained t hat t his pract ice was against com pany guidelines. ‘But why?’ asked t he Chinese m anager. ‘Because it ’s unet hical and ant icom pet it ive. We’re not allowed t o do it in Sweden, and we can’t allow our subsidiaries t o behave in t his way.’ I t was t he Chinese m anager’s t urn t o be shocked: ‘But I can’t see what t he problem is,’ he said. ‘My fam ily are m uch m ore loyal and reliable t han people I don’t know. I can call t hem any t im e of day or night . They can’t escape m e. And, of course, t hey give m e m uch bet t er discount s. Surely you don’t want m e t o use suppliers I don’t t rust .’ Anders raised and lowered his eyebrows, and rem ained silent . Aft er som e t hought , he realized t hat t here was a lot of sense in what t he Chinese m anager was saying. He felt sure t hat HQ in St ockholm would be happy as long as t he Viet nam plant appeared t o be sourcing supplies from a num ber of different vendors. So he and t he Chinese m anager agreed t o creat e a num ber of ‘shadow’ com panies for each supplier. That way, t he nam es on t he invoices would be different and it would look as if t hey were com plying wit h t he 30 per cent rule. How do you feel about Anders’ decision? Would you have done t he sam e t hing? Or would you have insist ed t hat your Chinese colleague follow HQ guidelines? Anders would probably fall t owards t he acquired st at us end of t he scale above; he m ay well also feel t hat rules and procedures should be followed t o t he let t er. But when he was confront ed wit h t his m oral dilem m a, he followed t he golden rules: he was careful not t o overreact ; he asked him self why he t hought giving cont ract s t o relat ives was wrong; and why t he Chinese m anager t hought it was not only right , but act ually beneficial t o t he com pany; t hen he re- exam ined t he sit uat ion as obj ect ively as possible; and found a way of resolving it t hat was accept able t o him self, his com pany, and his Chinese colleague. Anders was only prepared t o accept t his com prom ise because he could see t hat it was beneficial t o t he com pany. But t here are occasions when fam ily loyalt ies seem t o be seriously disrupt ing efficiency and discipline: Jon, an Englishm an, was sent t o Bot swana t o run his bank’s m ain branch in Gaborone. All t he ot her m anagers and st aff were locals. During t he first couple of m ont hs, Jon not iced t hat t he m em bers of t he back- office t eam seem ed t o be t aking a lot of unofficial leave. I n m ost cases, t hey were asking for an official holiday on a Friday, and t hen calling t he bank t he following Monday t o say t hey wouldn’t be able t o ret urn t o work unt il t he Wednesday or Thursday. Jon asked Busang – t he bright , well- educat ed young back- office m anager – what was going on.
Busang went t hrough t he t im esheet s wit h him and offered a num ber of explanat ions: ‘This wom an had t o go t o a fam ily wedding; t hat m an had t o at t end his nephew’s circum cision cerem ony; t hese t wo people had t o go back t o t heir village and help wit h t he ploughing,’ and so on. ‘But why didn’t t hey ret urn t o work on t he Monday?’ Jon asked. Well because, apparent ly, t hey had m issed t he bus, or t he j ourney had t aken longer t han t hey had expect ed. When Jon explained t hat t hese unofficial absences were dam aging t he bank’s efficiency, Busang looked puzzled. ‘But when som eone’s away, we always share t heir work bet ween us,’ he said. Sensing t hat Busang was unwilling or unable t o exercise his aut horit y over t he t eam , Jon decided t o have a word wit h t he bank’s deput y m anager. As you have probably guessed, m ost of t he em ployees in t he back- office – and indeed t he bank – were m em bers of t he sam e fam ily or clan. When Jon said t hat t his was unaccept able, t he deput y m anager react ed in a very sim ilar way t o t he Chinese m anager in Viet nam . Unlike Anders, however, Jon was convinced t hat allowing nepot ism t o flourish was not in t he com pany’s int erest s. Clearly, firing people at t his st age wasn’t an opt ion. But Jon was able t o use t he deput y m anager’s argum ent t o put a st op t o t he unofficial leave- t aking: ‘You said t hat relat ives are easier t o cont rol t han out siders,’ he point ed out . ‘I n which case, I expect you and all t he depart m ent al m anagers t o exercise t hat cont rol. This absent eeism is unaccept able and I ’d like you t o m ake sure t hat it st ops right away. I f it doesn’t , people will lose t heir j obs.’ Though t he sit uat ion im proved dram at ically, Jon st ill felt very uncom fort able wit h t he fact t hat m ost of his st aff were relat ed t o each ot her. From t hat m om ent on, he t ook part in all recruit m ent int erviews and m ade sure t hat candidat es from out side t he clan were given equal considerat ion. Towards t he end of his first year in Bot swana, Jon was surprised t o discover t hat t he fam ily relat ionships inside t he bank could som et im es work in his favour: Busang’s own t im ekeeping had st art ed t o det eriorat e and he was always com plaining of being t ired. On som e occasions he arrived up t o an hour lat e and oft en left early. Jon asked t he deput y m anager what he t hought t he reason was: ‘Oh, he has a few problem s at hom e; his children have been ill,’ he said, som ewhat unconvincingly. ‘I ’ll have a word wit h him .’ But Busang’s perform ance didn’t im prove. I n fact , it seem ed t o get even worse. One day he went out of t he office very early and left an im port ant j ob undone. Jon was furious. So furious, in fact , t hat – wit hout nam ing nam es – he t old his chauffeur what had happened during t he drive hom e t hat evening. The chauffeur – a m an in his lat e fift ies – list ened in silence. As he pulled up out side Jon’s hom e, he t urned t o him and said: ‘I f you perm it , Sir, I would like t o t ell you about m y nephew. He works for our bank here in Gaborone. I n fact , it was he who recom m ended m e for t his posit ion as your driver. When our fam ily realized he was a bright boy wit h a lot of pot ent ial, we all paid for his educat ion. And now t hat he has a good j ob, of course, it ’s his dut y t o support anyone in t he fam ily who needs help. The problem is, he doesn’t earn enough at t he bank t o m eet all his obligat ions. So he’s had t o find a second j ob – j ust like a lot of young m en in his posit ion. For t he last six m ont hs, he’s been driving a t axi in t he evenings.’ Jon t hanked t he driver for his help, and fixed a m eet ing wit h Busang. He handled it as sensit ively as he could, but t he general m essage was: ‘I know what ’s been happening. I ’ll give you an x per cent salary increase, on condit ion t hat you give up t he evening j ob.’ The young m anager obviously knew t hat his uncle had int erceded on his behalf, and accept ed t he offer right away.
I t would not necessarily occur t o a m anager from an acquired st at us cult ure t hat his chauffeur would be able t o help him wit h a personnel problem . But , t o t he m aj orit y of t he world’s people, age brings wisdom ; elders are always consult ed and oft en obeyed – regardless of t he j ob t hey do or t he incom e t hey have at t heir disposal. Wit hout t he older m an’s int ervent ion, Jon would probably never have found out why t he back- office m anager’s perform ance had det eriorat ed so sharply. Nor would he have been able t o work out how best t o resolve t he sit uat ion. This European bank’s em ploym ent cont ract s specifically banned st aff from t aking a second j ob. So why didn’t Jon sim ply fire Busang? Well, because – as his chauffeur had explained – nearly all t he well- educat ed young people in Bot swana were in a sim ilar posit ion t o t he back- office m anager. So any successor would find it equally difficult t o m eet t heir fam ily obligat ions on t he salary t hat went wit h t he j ob. By showing em pat hy wit h Busang’s posit ion, Jon was able t o propose a solut ion t hat was firm but fair: ‘I f you want t o st ay at t he bank, you have t o give up t he second j ob; I realize you’re having problem s so I ’ll give you a salary increase.’ Now t hat he underst ood how t he fam ily relat ionships worked, Jon was confident t hat t he uncle would m ake sure Busang honoured t he agreem ent . Unlike Anders, Jon rem ained firm ly convinced t hat giving j obs or cont ract s t o fam ily m em bers was
unequivocally wrong; he didn’t accept Busang’s claim t hat t he bank’s efficiency was unaffect ed by t he unofficial leave- t aking; and he couldn’t allow him t o carry on doing a second j ob. Even so, he was careful not t o overreact . I nst ead of reprim anding Busang for his failure t o cont rol t he t eam – which is what he would probably have done back hom e in t he UK – Jon discussed t he problem wit h som eone who underst ood t he local cult ure. And when his deput y m anager argued t hat fam ily m em bers were easier t o cont rol t han out siders, he calm ly and very reasonably insist ed t hat t he m anagers should exercise t hat cont rol. I nst ead of issuing an official policy docum ent t hat would have been incom pat ible wit h local cult ural values, he quiet ly and pragm at ically decided t o t ake charge of t he recruit m ent process him self. And inst ead of firing Busang for doing a second j ob, he showed em pat hy wit h t he young m an’s posit ion and offered him a firm but fair solut ion t o his problem s.
D iscr e t ion ve r su s dish on e st y No exam inat ion of differing m oral values would be com plet e wit hout som e reference t o where you draw t he line bet ween discret ion and dishonest y. Successful relat ionships in every cult ure are based on t rust and m ut ual respect . And, m ost people would agree, it ’s virt ually im possible t o build t rust if t he ot her person t hinks you’re behaving dishonest ly or t elling out right lies. The t rouble is, what one cult ure perceives t o be an out right lie, anot her m ay regard as discret ion or even honourable behaviour: When an I t alian com pany want ed t o export specialist food and beverage product s t o Japan, it sought t he advice of a Dut ch consult ant who had lived and worked in t he count ry for m any years. He put t hem in t ouch wit h a local im port er/ dist ribut or wit h whom he had done business on m any previous occasions. Wit h t he Dut ch consult ant ’s help, t he Japanese im port er and I t alian export er reached agreem ent on sales volum es, bat ch sizes, delivery dat es, paym ent t erm s and so on, and a deal was set up. For 18 m ont hs, everyt hing seem ed t o go according t o plan. The I t alians delivered t he goods as agreed, and t he Japanese set t led t heir invoices in full and on t im e. As far as t he Dut ch consult ant could see, however, none of t he ret ail out let s who had been nam ed by t he Japanese dist ribut or as m aj or pot ent ial client s seem ed t o be carrying t he I t alian goods. The Japanese dist ribut or offered t he following explanat ion: ‘Most of our current client s repackage t he goods and sell t hem under t heir own nam e. But you should st art seeing t he I t alian brand in t he shops wit hin a few m ont hs.’ When, several m ont hs lat er, t here was st ill no sign of t he I t alian brand, t he Dut chm an was fairly sure som et hing was seriously wrong. So he went t o see his old Japanese friend and spoke frankly t o him about his concerns. The Japanese dist ribut or looked em barrassed, but was unable t o offer a sat isfact ory explanat ion. At t he end of t he m eet ing, however, he invit ed t he Dut chm an t o accom pany him t o t he warehouse. As soon as t hey got t here, t he Dut chm an realized what t he problem was. The warehouse was full of I t alian goods – m any of t hem past t heir sell- by dat e. The dist ribut or had not been selling anywhere near t he volum es t hat had been agreed. But he hadn’t felt able t o adm it t his t o his Dut ch business part ner.
I f t he Japanese dist ribut or hadn’t had such a st rong relat ionship wit h t he Dut chm an, he would probably have cancelled t he cont ract as soon as he realized t here was lit t le dem and for t he product . As it was, however, he felt a very st rong on ( personal obligat ion) t o m eet t he t arget s t hat had been agreed. And he couldn’t see any way of t elling t he Dut chm an what was really going on wit hout dam aging t heir relat ionship and losing face. I ndeed, his sense of obligat ion t o t he Dut chm an was so st rong t hat he was even prepared t o endanger him self financially t o honour it . The Dut chm an com es from a cult ure where people have been brought up t o t ell t he t rut h, what ever t he circum st ances. At t it udes t o t he t rut h run very deep. So even t hough he had considerable experience of working in Japan, it st ill t ook him a while t o underst and what was going on. Som eone wit h less experience of Japanese cult ure m ight have j um ped t o t he conclusion t hat t he dist ribut or was being deliberat ely dishonest or duplicit ous. Of course, t he Japanese dist ribut or wasn’t act ually t elling lies. But he was wit hholding t he t rut h. Everyone does t his t o one degree or anot her. Discret ion about com pany and personal m at t ers is a qualit y t hat is prized t he world over. And t here are occasions when even t he m ost brut ally frank people will keep opinions or inform at ion t hat m ay hurt or offend t o t hem selves. But what if t here’s bad news t hat you have t o com m unicat e? Do you t ell people as direct ly and as soon as possible? Or do you prepare t hem gent ly and gradually t o receive t he bad news? When I lived in t he UK, I phoned m y fam ily in Jordan every week. And, of course, I always asked for news of m y grandfat her. When he died, m y relat ives kept it from m e for several weeks. ‘How is he?’ I asked. ‘Oh, he’s not feeling t oo well.’ Then, ‘He’s not well at all’; t hen, ‘He’s gone t o hospit al’; t hen, ‘He’s in a crit ical condit ion.’ Throughout t his period, I was being m ent ally prepared t o t ake t he bad news. West erners m ight feel cheat ed or deceived; but I did not . I knew it had been done out of care for m e, t o cushion t he blow.
Dr Jehad Al- Om ari and his fam ily would fall t o t he right of t he t im e scale we looked at in Chapt er 1:
I f you lean t owards t he m onochronic end, you m ay not feel com fort able unt il t he bad news has been given and you can carry on working your way m et hodically t hrough your agenda. For Jehad, however, t im e is m ore circular. He feels no need t o get one t ask out of t he way before he st art s on anot her: I n t he Arab world it is t im ing rat her t han t im e t hat is im port ant . I n t he West , when you invit e people for drinks at 7.30 pm and dinner at 8.00 pm you expect t hem t o t urn up at t hat t im e. Am ong Arabs you serve dinner when t he t im e is right , when everyone is com fort able and ready t o eat . You follow t he m ood rat her t han t he schedule. I t ’s t he sam e t hing when you have t o break bad news. You don’t do it st raight away. You wait unt il t he t im e is right – when t he person is ready t o t ake it .
Su m m a r y As we saw at t he beginning of t his chapt er, wherever you work in t he world, you will occasionally com e across people who are doing t hings which, by alm ost any st andards, are deeply wrong. And when t hat happens, all you can do is follow your own conscience. Unless you are very unlucky, however, it ’s likely t hat m ost of t he people you m eet will be t rying t o do what t heir own cult ure regards as accept able. I t j ust seem s wrong t o you because you’re looking at it from your own cult ural st andpoint . When you’re working int ernat ionally, navigat ing your way sm oot hly t hrough t he m oral m aze ( labyrint h) will oft en require m ore t im e, m ore t hought and m ore flexibilit y t han it does at hom e. So rem em ber t he golden rules:
don’t overreact or pass hast y j udgem ent s; keep an open m ind; ask yourself why you t hink what ’s happening is wrong; and why t he people you’re dealing wit h draw t he line in a different place; re- exam ine t he sit uat ion as obj ect ively as possible; look for ways of resolving it t hat will be accept able t o bot h part ies’ m oral values and beliefs; rem ain calm and const ruct ive at all t im es. As t he people in t he sit uat ions we’ve looked at discovered, t here’s no room for casual assum pt ions or quick j udgem ent s. You m ay regard som et hing as norm al. But is it necessarily right ? I s what t he ot her person is doing really wrong? Or is it j ust unusual or irregular? Before you leap t o any hast y conclusions about an int ernat ional part ner’s m oral probit y, or lack of it , t hink carefully about your respect ive cult ural assum pt ions. Once you know and underst and your own lim it s and t heirs, you should be able t o work out how best t o bridge t he gap. There will be som e occasions when, like t he Swiss businessm an in I t aly, you decide t hat you can’t condone what t he ot her person is doing. There will be ot hers when, like t he Swede in Viet nam , you decide t hat you can accept what ’s happening wit hout com prom ising your m oral principles. We would never suggest t hat you ignore your own sense of right and wrong. But if you look in t he hist ory books, you’ll find plent y of exam ples of people – Galileo, t o nam e but one – who were harshly punished for act s t hat were m erely unusual, rat her t han wrong. Beware of falling int o t he sam e t rap. Don’t let an irrat ional fear of t he unusual lead you t o hast y decisions. And what ever decision you do reach, m ake every effort – as Klaus did wit h Mr Li – t o t reat people as t hey expect t o be t reat ed.
Ch a pt e r 4 : Kn ow in g t h e For m Ove r vie w Manners m aket h m an. ( William of Wykeham , 1324–1404, Mot t o of Winchest er College and New College, Oxford) Most psychologist s agree t hat hum an beings form an im pression of one anot her wit h light ning speed. This im pression is based on innum erable signals t hat neit her person m ay be consciously aware of sending. When you m eet som eone for t he first t im e, you’ll evaluat e t heir general conduct and int erpret t heir eye, face and body language wit hin m inut es, if not seconds. And as soon as t he ot her person st art s t alking, you’ll very quickly reach a decision about what t hey’re like: hm , honest , warm , full of fun – t his looks prom ising; or oh no, aggressive, arrogant, rude – I don’t t hink I ’m going t o enj oy working wit h t his one and so on. Good m anners are all about showing warm t h, considerat ion, deference and respect t o ot hers. But t he good m anners you learnt at your m ot her’s knee go way beyond saying please and t hank you or using t he correct form of address. Wit hout realizing it , you also absorbed t he right way t o use your eyes and body, t he right t hings t o say, t he right way of saying t hem , and t he right t im e t o say t hem . You know and inst inct ively follow t he form ( socially accept able behaviour) . And when you m eet people who don’t , you m ay well j udge t hem negat ively. The t rouble is, what you regard as good form m ay be considered very bad form som ewhere else – and vice versa. Even when you’re dealing wit h a cult ure whose social behaviours appear sim ilar t o yours, you can’t assum e t hat t hey’re exact ly t he sam e – as a French rugby player found when he j oined an English t eam : The English are not arrogant , j ust different . When I first cam e ( t o England) , I wondered why nobody shook m y hand when we m et at t he st art of t he day. I was hurt . But it is j ust t he cult ure... ( Thom as Cast aignede, Rugby World, February 2003) Business people all over t he world shake hands wit h visit ors when t hey arrive and when t hey leave. But t he French ( and a few ot her nat ionalit ies) also shake hands wit h everyone in t he office every m orning when t hey go int o work. And, as a Brit ish friend of ours who was living in Paris soon discovered: People are unbelievably offended if you forget . They looked at m e as if I had done som et hing really obscene. I t seem s t hat before Thom as arrived in t he UK he already had som e preconcept ions t hat t he English were arrogant . His t eam - m at es’ failure t o shake hands wit h him at t he st art of t he day sim ply reinforced t his st ereo- t ype. I f he had only st ayed in t he UK for a week or t wo, he m ight have gone hom e convinced t hat t he English were not j ust arrogant , but also cold and unfriendly. And he would probably have shared t his view wit h his fam ily and friends in France. That ’s oft en t he way one nat ion’s negat ive st ereot ypes of anot her are built up. I t was only when Thom as had lived and worked am ong t he English for a while t hat he realized t hey had t he sam e im pulse t o be court eous and warm as any ot her nat ion. They j ust had a different way of showing it . I t ’s ast onishing t hat such a m inor difference in social form could creat e so m uch m isunderst anding. But it happens all t he t im e. There will always be som e kind of gap bet ween your social convent ions and t hose of your int ernat ional business part ners. Finding out what t he m ain differences are and m aking a conscious effort t o honour local cust om is relat ively easy. Bat t ling against your own subconscious can be m uch harder. I n m any respect s, t he way you relat e t o people is inst inct ive. And t he way you int erpret t he signals t hey’re sending is involunt ary. Buried som ewhere deep inside you is t he belief t hat your own social form is universal. And before your conscious m ind has t im e t o rem ind you t hat t hese people com e from a different cult ure, your subconscious has already int erpret ed t heir behaviour in t he light of your own social norm s – oft en unfavourably.
I t ’s hard t o build a warm and const ruct ive business relat ionship wit h som eone if your inst inct s have t old you t hey’re arrogant , rude, cold, dishonest or what ever. This chapt er t akes you t hrough som e of t he areas in which social form differs from one cult ure t o anot her. Our own experience has t aught us t hat t he m ore you know about t he differences and t he bet t er you underst and t hem , t he easier it will be t o overcom e any negat ive j udgem ent s your subconscious m ind m ay form .
Gr e e t in g pe ople We st art ed wit h t he apparent ly superficial quest ion of when you shake hands wit h people. However, it ’s not j ust w h en you shake hands, but also how t hat sends different signals t o different people. We asked t hree colleagues – A ( m ale) , B ( m ale) and C ( fem ale) – t o shake hands wit h a Germ an, a Swiss, a Frenchm an, a Frenchwom an, an I t alian and a Brit . Colleague A gripped each person’s hand very st rongly indeed, B’s grip was firm but not excessively so, C exert ed no pressure at all wit h her hand. We t hen asked each person for t heir im pressions: A ( m a le ) – ve r y fir m gr ip Germ an and Swiss: He had a good firm handshake. And he looked m e st raight in t he eye. He seem s very honest and st raight forward. Frenchm an, Frenchwom an, I t alian: Ouch! He gripped m y hand so firm ly, he alm ost crushed m y bones. People who do t hat are usually aggressive and pushy. My first im pression is not favourable. Brit: Oh dear! This guy’s going t o be a real bore. B ( m a le ) – fir m bu t n ot e x ce ssive pr e ssu r e I t alian: His handshake was OK. But he didn’t st rike m e as being a very warm person. He st ood such a long way away from m e. Everyone else: Good firm handshake. More or less what I would expect . Looked m e in t he eye. I wouldn’t have any t rouble t rust ing him . C ( fe m a le ) – n o pr e ssu r e a t a ll Germ an, Brit : ( recoiling in horror) : Argh! That ’s horrible! I ’d t ry t o keep an open m ind but t hat ’s given m e a very bad first im pression. I don’t t rust her. She’s not m y kind of person. And she st ood right on t op of m e. I hat e people who invade m y personal space. Swiss: A lot of wom en have gent ler handshakes t han m en. But , personally, I like a wom an who grips m y hand firm ly. I t shows t hey’re st rong and st raight forward. I wouldn’t give t his wom an a j ob. She’s got no spirit . Frenchm an, Frenchwom an, I t alian: I t was soft er t han I would expect – even for a wom an. I f a m an shook hands wit h m e like t hat , I would t hink he was dishonest . Of course t hese are very personal react ions and if you t ried t he sam e experim ent wit h som e ot her people from t he sam e cult ures, you m ight well get a different response. What ’s m ore int erest ing is t he cult ural condit ioning t hat lies behind som e of t hese com m ent s. The I t alian, for exam ple, t hought t hat B m ight not be a very warm person because he st ood such a long way away from m e. And t he Germ an and Brit t hought t hat C was invading t heir personal space and it m ade t hem feel very
uneasy . One of t he first t hings you absorb at your m ot her’s knee is how com fort able people feel wit h physical cont act and closeness. And, as our colleague Dr Jehad al Om ari discovered, t he form varies considerably from cult ure t o cult ure: When I first cam e t o t he UK as a st udent , I was st ruck by t he lack of hum an int eract ion. I did som e part - t im e work in a shop in Guildford. One day t he fem ale m anager had a visit from anot her wom an. Aft erwards, she said t he wom an was her aunt . I found it hard t o believe. No hugs, no kisses, not hing. Where I com e from , t here’s so m uch t ouching. As a child, you are handed from one lap t o anot her. As a boy, you oft en carry one of your cousins or relat ives around wit h you. You see Arab children whose cheeks are covered in red m arks; t hey com e from kissing. From t he m om ent you are born, you’re t aught t o express yourself physically as m uch as verbally. And it doesn’t st op when you grow up. When you m eet som eone you have not seen for a while, you kiss – even one m an t o anot her.
During m y first year at college in t he UK, m y Arab friends and I enj oyed shocking t he Brit ish. We would kiss each ot her on bot h cheeks – j ust t o see t heir react ion. I t t ook som e t im e for t he j oke t o wear off. Aft er I had lived in t he UK for several years, I visit ed Jordan. I was walking along t he st reet wit h one of m y m ale cousins when he held m y hand. My reflex act ion was t o wit hdraw m y hand im m ediat ely. I had not realized how Brit ish I had becom e! I t t ook m e a few m inut es t o rem em ber t hat I was now at hom e and t hat it was perfect ly norm al for t wo m en t o hold hands. I t ook hold of m y cousin’s hand again. This was m y first lesson in learning how t o be at ease wit h bot h cult ures. Jehad obviously falls at t he far right of t he scale below: Click To expand
The I t alian in our handshaking experim ent would lean t owards t he physically close end of t he scale t oo. He t old us, for exam ple, t hat when he greet ed his friends wit h a handshake, he would also squeeze t heir arm wit h his left hand. And if t hey were very close friends or fam ily, he would find it quit e nat ural t o kiss t hem – m en and wom en alike. The Brit and t he Germ an, on t he ot her hand, would be likely t o place t hem selves in t he m iddle or slight ly t owards t he physically dist ant end of t he scale. I f a m an kissed eit her of t hem , or walked along t he st reet holding t heir hand, t hey would probably feel ext rem ely uncom fort able. A while ago, Chris – t he Welsh, rugby- playing co- writ er of t his book – worked for a week in London wit h a Turkish m anager. As he said goodbye at t he end of t he course, t he Turk gave Chris a perfect ly norm al ( by Brit ish st andards) handshake. A few weeks lat er, t hey m et one anot her by chance in I st anbul. The Turk beam ed wit h delight , rushed up t o Chris, gave him a hug, and kissed him on t he cheek. Despit e t he fact t hat Chris is an experienced cross- cult ural t rainer, his inst inct ive react ion was: Help! Why’s he kissing m e? He never did t hat in London. This is really em barrassing. Aft er a few seconds, of course, he was able t o overcom e t his subconscious react ion and analyse t he sit uat ion obj ect ively. I n London, his Turkish friend had adapt ed his behaviour t o suit Brit ish expect at ions. Now he was at hom e in Turkey, t here was no reason why he shouldn’t greet friends in t he way t hat cam e nat urally t o him . I f it ’s up t o t he visit or t o know and honour local cust om s, t hen presum ably t he next t im e Chris m eet s his Turkish friend in I st anbul, he should init iat e t he hugging and kissing him self. Well no, not if it m akes him feel awkward and uncom fort able. He would only com e across as clum sy or insincere. But he should be careful not t o show surprise or em barrassm ent when his Turkish friend hugs him . And, of course, not t o allow his own social condit ioning t o lead him t o false or negat ive j udgem ent s. Everyone who t ook part in our handshaking experim ent said t hat t hey found it hard t o t rust people who didn’t look t hem in t he eye. But t hey were all European. To t he Japanese and ot her Asian cult ures, people who look you in t he eye t oo direct ly and t oo long can appear aggressive and
disrespect ful. So if a Germ an and a Japanese m eet , should Klaus t ry t o keep avert ing his gaze? And should Takashi force him self t o st are non- st op int o Klaus’s eyes? Well, t hey should bot h m ake an effort t o m odify t heir behaviour slight ly, of course. But you can’t undo a lifet im e’s condit ioning; you can’t be expect ed t o act in a way t hat m akes you feel uncom fort able or unnat ural. What you can do, however, is st op yourself from j um ping t o t he wrong conclusions. Klaus isn’t being aggressive or deliberat ely t rying t o behave disrespect fully; Takashi isn’t being devious or dishonest . They’re bot h t rying t o be court eous. They’ve j ust got different ways of showing it . So where would you place yourself on t he physically dist ant scale? I f you’re from an individualist cult ure ( for exam ple, t he USA, t he UK, Nort hern Europe) , you will probably fall som ewhere in t he m iddle. But if you’re from a group- orient ed cult ure, you m ay well fall sharply t owards one end of t he scale or t he ot her. Arabs, Africans, I ndians, Sout h Am ericans, Sout hern I t alians and Greeks t end t o be very t act ile. Wit h t hem , handshakes can go on forever, and t hey’re likely t o st and very close t o you. I n East and Sout h- East Asia, on t he ot her hand, people t end t o be far m ore physically dist ant . I n Japan, for exam ple, physical cont act bet ween business people in t he office is alm ost non- exist ent . I nt erest ingly enough, however, when Japanese colleagues are socializing t oget her in t he bar aft er work, t hey seem t o becom e m ore t act ile and it ’s not unusual t o see t hem t ouching one anot her on t he arm or pat t ing som eone on t he back. While bowing rat her t han handshaking is t he cult ural norm , m ost Japanese businesspeople t hese days expect t o shake hands wit h t heir foreign business associat es. But it ’s wort h rem em bering t hat , if you grip t heir hand t oo firm ly, t hey could assum e you’re being aggressive. So if your nat ural handshake is very firm , you’ll need t o m ake a conscious effort t o apply slight ly less pressure when you’re greet ing your Japanese business part ners.
M a k in g sm a ll t a lk So you’ve got t hrough t he int roduct ions successfully. Regardless of how your business part ners shook your hand, how direct ly t hey looked you in t he eye, and how close t hey st ood t o you, you’ve kept an open m ind about what t hey’re like. Good. Now let ’s get down t o t he sm all t alk. How long should it go on, do you t hink? Two m inut es, five m inut es, 10 m inut es, 45 m inut es? Ah, well, once again your answer will be influenced by what ’s considered good form where you com e from . As we’ve already seen, som e cult ures prefer t o focus on business first and personal relat ionships lat er; ot hers feel t he need t o build a personal relat ionship before t hey can do business. At t he beginning of any m eet ing wit h som eone from t he Arab world, for exam ple, people expect t o spend plent y of t im e ( 45 m inut es would not be unusual) get t ing t o know one anot her, or cem ent ing t he relat ionship, and t he conversat ion can ext end t o all aspect s of life ( fam ily, hobbies, t ravel, current affairs, t he econom y et c) . And even when t he business t alk finally st art s, people oft en cont inue t o int ersperse it wit h m ore sm all t alk and pleasant ries. I n Japan, t oo, t he aim at early m eet ings will be t o develop personal t rust . And while Takashi m ay not engage in social pleasant ries for very long – especially if he’s forced t o do so in English or anot her foreign language – he’ll probably expect t o spend plent y of t im e exchanging inform at ion about your t wo com panies before he’s ready t o discuss specific business proposals. I n m ore funct ional cult ures, on t he ot her hand, people expect t o st art on t he business agenda wit hin m inut es of sit t ing down. Wit h Germ ans, Swiss, Scandinavians and Finns, for exam ple, sm all t alk is oft en no m ore t han a couple of sent ences. So if t he person you’re m eet ing spends longer on sm all t alk t han you regard as norm al, hide any irrit at ion you m ay inst inct ively feel; and overcom e any urge you m ay have t o force t he pace. Rem em ber, it ’s unlikely t hat t hey’re t rying t o annoy you or wast e your t im e. They’re sim ply following what t heir cult ure regards as good form . Sim ilarly, if t he ot her person launches st raight int o business wit hout what you would regard as even t he m inim um of pleasant ries, don’t assum e t hey’re being deliberat ely cold or unwelcom ing. They’re probably j ust t rying t o be professional and businesslike – qualit ies t hat t heir cult ure put s a high value on.
Pla yin g t h e con ve r sa t ion ga m e Of course, it ’s not j ust how long you spend on sm all t alk t hat differs from cult ure t o cult ure. The way you act ually play t he conversat ion gam e also sends signals t hat m ay be m isint erpret ed by your int ernat ional business part ners. I once visit ed an Englishm an, called Paul, who had been working in Germ any for m any years. He st art ed t elling m e about his com pany. As he spoke, I int errupt ed him several t im es wit h com m ent s and quest ions – in an int erest ed and friendly way t hat would be considered quit e norm al in t he UK and t he USA. Paul began t o look m ore and m ore annoyed. Finally, I realized why. I said, ‘You don’t like m e int errupt ing you, do you, Paul?’ He said, ‘No, I find it really irrit at ing. Quit e rude, in fact .’ He had been in Germ any for so long t hat he was no longer used t o t he int eract ive way his com pat riot s discuss t hings. He expect ed m e t o let him finish before I t ook m y t urn. The Englishwom an wasn’t rudely or aggressively shout ing Paul down, nor was she cont inually cut t ing across what he was saying. That would be considered bad form virt ually everywhere. She was j ust showing a friendly and respect ful int erest . She was playing t he conversat ion gam e according t o t he rules of her cult ure. Maybe if Paul had been Germ an, she would have t ried not t o int errupt him . But he wasn’t ; he was a fellow Englishm an, and so it t ook her a while t o realize what t he problem was. Som e cult ures ( t he UK and t he USA, for exam ple) expect conversat ion t o be fairly int eract ive. To t hem , int errupt ing wit h t he odd relevant com m ent or quest ion is good form . The Am ericans, for exam ple, will oft en m ake com m ent s in t he affirm at ive t hat build on what t he ot her person is saying, while t he Brit ish t end t o int eract by asking quest ions. And when people from t hese t wo cult ures are confront ed wit h a business part ner who sit s and list ens t o t hem in absolut e silence, it can m ake t hem feel uneasy. They m ay wonder if t hey have said som et hing wrong, or even j um p t o t he conclusion t hat t he ot her person is cold or lacking in personalit y. Ot her cult ures ( t he Japanese and t he Finns, for exam ple) are used t o wait ing t heir t urn t o speak. For t hem , conversat ion is oft en like a series of m ini- m onologues. They’re not used t o being int errupt ed, and when t hey m eet som eone who expect s t o conduct a conversat ion in a m ore int eract ive way, t heir inst inct s m ay t ell t hem t hat he or she is ill- m annered, disrespect ful or superficial. Such cult ures are oft en very com fort able wit h silence. I t shows t hat you’re t hinking about what has been said. Wit h t hem , rushing t o fill t he silence can send com plet ely t he wrong signal, as a Brit ish salesm an discovered on his first - ever t rip t o Finland: The first guy I m et was unbelievably t acit urn ( unwilling t o converse) . Everyt hing I said was greet ed wit h a long silence. To be honest , I t hought t here was som et hing wrong wit h him – you know, som e kind of personalit y disorder. Being a t ypical Brit , I believed at t he t im e t hat everyone in t he world could be charm ed wit h a bit of sm oot h- t alking. So, every t im e t here was a silence, I filled it . This was a fat al m ist ake. I soon learned t hat t he Finns act ively m ist rust people who are t oo effusive. How do you inst inct ively play t he conversat ion gam e? Your answer will, t o som e ext ent , depend on where you would place yourself on t he scale below:
At t he far left of t he scale you would probably find t he Finns, while people from t he Arab world would be likely t o place t hem selves at t he far right . The Brit ish and Am ericans would probably lean t owards t he right , while t he Germ ans and Swiss m ight well lean t owards t he left . I nt erest ingly enough, t hough, while t he Germ ans are not used t o int errupt ing people m id- flow, t hey are not part icularly
com fort able wit h silence. I n t his respect , t hey are m ore sim ilar t o t he Brit ish and Am ericans.
Ch oosin g w h a t t o sa y a n d h ow t o sa y it You’re bound t o draw conclusions about what people are like from what t hey choose t o say, and how t hey choose t o say it . The t rouble is, t he way even t he m ost basic and universal sent im ent s are expressed can vary considerably from cult ure t o cult ure. Take saying t hank you, for exam ple. I t ’s som et hing every child learns t o do from a very early age. And you’ll find an equally short and sim ple equivalent – m erci, gracias, dankeschön, arigat o and so on – of t hese t wo ‘im port ant lit t le words’ in virt ually every language. But t hat doesn’t necessarily m ean t hat t he way your int ernat ional colleagues inst inct ively express t heir grat it ude will be t he sam e as yours. I n cult ures where t here’s a st rong oral t radit ion, for exam ple, t he use of m et aphors, poet ic language and colourful t urns of phrase are usually m uch adm ired. When Penny was working, a while ago, wit h a senior businessm an from Saudi Arabia, he t hanked her for a very sim ple piece of advice she offered him by saying: These are j ewels you are giving m e. Really j ewels. I am so grat eful. Using a m et aphor t o express his grat it ude cam e perfect ly nat urally t o him . That ’s because, from a young age, he had list ened t o his elders in t he m aj lis. This is a large room in which t he m en of t he t ribe regularly gat her t oget her t o discuss fam ily affairs and t o socialize. Though t he nam e of t he room varies from place t o place ( for exam ple: m adeef in Syria and I raq, m adafa in Jordan, diw anihey in Kuwait ) , t hese gat herings are com m onplace t hroughout t he Arab world. And it ’s t here t hat young boys sit wit h t he m en and learn t he art of conversat ion and st oryt elling. Good racont eurs are m uch adm ired so nat urally t he boys are keen t o m em orize t he st ories t hat are t old and t o im it at e t he m et aphors and colourful language t hat is used. I n ot her part s of t he world – m uch of Nort hern Europe, for exam ple – people t end t o express t hem selves m ore plainly and sim ply. During a recent one- week int ensive language course, one of t he group m em bers – a Germ an – had t o t ake a m orning off t o at t end a m eet ing. Nat urally our colleague was anxious t o help him cat ch up wit h t he rest of t he group. So she spent her lunch break t yping up a sum m ary of everyt hing he had m issed. When she handed t he not es t o him aft er lunch, he sim ply said: Thank you. To him , t his was a perfect ly norm al and well- m annered response. But som eone from a cult ure where people express t hem selves m ore effusively and colourfully m ight well have found it rat her t erse, and even have concluded – quit e wrongly – t hat t he Germ an was cold or ungrat eful. And, of course, t he kind of language t he Saudi Arabian used m ight well m ake a plainspeaking Nort hern European feel uncom fort able or even suspicious of t he ot her person’s m ot ives. So even som et hing as sim ple as t he way you choose t o say t hank you can be open t o m isint erpret at ion. That ’s why docum ent s t hat have been t ranslat ed from anot her language som et im es sound st range or even slight ly com ical. You see, it isn’t j ust a quest ion of convert ing t he act ual words or phrases t hat are used in one language int o t heir nearest equivalent in anot her. You have t o really underst and t he cult ural sent im ent s, at t it udes and assum pt ions t hat lie behind t he words and t hen find t he m ost appropriat e way of expressing t hem in t he ot her language. I f, for exam ple, a Frenchm an says C’est pas norm al, t he inexperienced t ranslat or m ight be t em pt ed t o go for I t ’s not norm al. But t hat would be a pret t y inaccurat e and m isleading t ranslat ion. I n French, t he word norm al has a cult ural cont ext . I t brings t o m ind t he whole French at t it ude t owards logic, t heir Cart esian sense of t he right way t o t hink and t he right way t o do t hings. So if Jean- Claude t ells you C’est pas norm al, he expect s you t o be able t o int erpret what he m eans. Depending on t he sit uat ion, it m ight be That ’s com plet ely unaccept able; or, You’re going about t his in com plet ely t he wrong way; or He has absolut ely no right t o do t hat . As we saw in Chapt er 1, low cont ext com m unicat ors ( such as Am ericans, Germ ans, Scandinavians, Finns) t end t o express t hem selves in explicit , concret e, unequivocal t erm s. There’s lit t le cult ural baggage or ‘cont ext ’ at t ached t o t he words t hey use and you can usually t ake what t hey say at face value. High cont ext com m unicat ors ( such as Arabs, Japanese, French) t end t o com m unicat e m ore im plicit ly. They expect you t o be able t o int erpret what t hey m ean from your knowledge of what lies behind t he words, what t hey’re act ually t alking about at t he t im e, t heir t one of voice and, of course, t heir eye and body language. English has becom e t he lingua franca of int ernat ional business. So, is it a high cont ext or a low cont ext language, do you t hink? Well, t he fact is, you can’t always equat e language wit h cult ure. When George Bernard Shaw described t he Brit ish and t he Am ericans as ‘t wo nat ions divided by a com m on language’ he wasn’t j ust referring t o t heir accent , or t he odd difference in vocabulary. Most
Am ericans – apart from people who com e from t he narrow East Coast belt – are relat ively low cont ext . Like t he Germ ans, t hey will t end t o say what t hey m ean in a fairly explicit , open and direct way. The Brit ish, on t he ot her hand, are relat ively high cont ext – but in a rat her different way from , say, t he French. Our cult ural condit ioning has t aught us t hat m aking direct and open crit icism s, issuing unequivocal orders, or m aking a fuss ( unnecessary dem ands or com plaint s) is very bad form . So what ever t he m erit s or dem erit s of a sit uat ion, we will aut om at ically underst at e t hem ; and if we have a difficult m essage t o deliver, we will inst inct ively t ry t o soft en it . We t hink we’re being sensit ive or showing a very reasonable wish t o com prom ise. Most of t he rest of world t hinks we’re being indecisive, pessim ist ic, insincere, t wo- faced, sarcast ic ... and so on. Many of our com pat riot s are com plet ely unaware of t he im pact our com m unicat ion st yle has on ot her nat ionalit ies. Your writ ers have known about it for a long t im e. And we’ve had a lot of pract ice adapt ing our approach t o ot her nat ionalit ies’ expect at ions. Even so, everyt hing we say or writ e bet rays our cult ural condit ioning – as our Am erican readers, in part icular, will have not iced from t he very first page of t his book. The difference in Brit ish and Am erican com m unicat ion st yle doesn’t j ust m ean t hat t he t wo nat ions m isj udge one anot her. They oft en m isunderst and each ot her t oo. I f you’re Am erican and your Brit ish boss says: You m ight like t o consider changing t he launch dat e, what do you t hink he m eans? A: This is an opt ion you should consider, but t he final decision is yours. or B: I ’d like you t o change t he launch dat e, please. Well, as you’ve probably guessed, he m eans B. Would you have realized t hat before you read t his chapt er? We know of som e Am ericans whose boss said som et hing sim ilar, and t hey t hought he m eant A. So t hey considered changing t he launch dat e, and decided against it . Their Brit ish boss was not im pressed. How you com m unicat e is cent ral t o who you are and how you perceive yourself. And few people are willing – or indeed able – t o behave in a way t hat conflict s wit h t heir own self- im age. But you don’t need t o t ransform yourself int o a com plet ely different person every t im e you do business wit h som eone whose values are different from yours. All you need t o do is be curious, be observant , and keep an open m ind. The bet t er you under- st and yourself and ot hers, t he less likely you are t o m isint erpret your part ners’ m ot ives. And t he easier it will be for you t o avoid sending t he wrong signals t o t hem . Put yourself in t he following sit uat ion: You’re running an int ernat ional proj ect wit h very t ight deadlines. Your colleague, Susan, knows t hat she needs t o send you a det ailed progress report at t he end of every m ont h. I t ’s now 5 July and Susan’s June report has only j ust arrived – nearly a week lat e. To m ake m at t ers worse, som e of t he figures are inaccurat e. You decide t o call her. How would you inst inct ively handle t he conversat ion wit h Susan? Would you feel m ore com fort able t aking approach A, or approach B? Appr oa ch A You: I ’m calling about your June report . I t was a week lat e and som e of t he figures were inaccurat e. Susan: Yes, I know. I ’m sorry about t hat . A couple of m y people were off sick. You: Yes but , Susan, you m ust respect t he deadlines. I f you don’t , we’ll fall behind schedule. And, in fut ure, please m ake sure t hat you check all t he figures very carefully. Appr oa ch B You: I ’m calling about your June report . Susan: I was j ust about t o call you. I ’m sorry it was lat e, but a couple of m y people were off sick. You: Oh dear … The t hing is, I ’ve j ust been t hrough t he figures and I ’m afraid som e of t hem don’t seem t o add up.
Susan: Don’t t hey? Oh, I ’m sorry. I had t o put t hem t oget her very quickly. You: Right . But what about t his m ont h? Will you be able t o spend a bit m ore t im e on t hem ? Susan: Yes, of course. You: Great . Because, as you know, t here’s an im port ant deadline com ing up, and we’ll be in real t rouble if we m iss it . Clearly, approach A is low cont ext . The speaker says what he m eans clearly, direct ly and explicit ly. Susan knows, wit hout any doubt , what she has t o do. Approach B, on t he ot her hand, is high cont ext – in a peculiarly Brit ish way. The speaker t ries t o avoid direct crit icism or recrim inat ion. And inst ead of using an im perat ive, he asks a quest ion. His m essage is t he sam e as speaker A’s, but he t ries t o soft en it . Of course, we’re not t rying t o suggest t hat every Germ an, Scandinavian or Am erican you m eet would always be as frank, direct or explicit as speaker A; nor t hat every Brit would be as diplom at ic, indirect or im plicit as speaker B. What people say and t he way t hey choose t o say it depends, above all, on t he relat ionship, what ’s gone before, and t he act ual sit uat ion. When t wo Brit s are having a t ough discussion, t hey’re capable of using as m any im perat ives and concret e m essages as lower cont ext cult ures do. And when t he sit uat ion dem ands it , people from lower cont ext cult ures are equally capable of expressing t hem selves m ore indirect ly or im plicit ly. But , t here’s no denying t hat t he way people inst inct ively com m unicat e does vary from cult ure t o cult ure. And unless you are aware of t hese differences, you m ay well m isj udge your int ernat ional colleagues’ m ot ives. I f Susan were Brit ish, for exam ple, and speaker A always spoke t o her in t his way, she could easily form t he im pression t hat he was aut ocrat ic, insensit ive and uncom prom ising. And if she were Germ an, Am erican or even French, she m ight end up t hinking t hat speaker B was diffident , indecisive and, possibly, insincere. I t ’s very hard for non- nat ive speakers of any language – however fluent t hey are – t o know exact ly what im pact t hey’re m aking, or indeed t o underst and exact ly what t heir nat ive- speaking part ners are saying. The high–low cont ext com m unicat ion gap com pounds t hese problem s. So if you’re dealing wit h som eone whose com m unicat ion st yle and nat ive t ongue are different from your own, you need t o t hink carefully about t he way you’re expressing yourself and t o m onit or t he ot her person’s react ions very closely. And if t hey seem confused, irrit at ed or offended, don’t j ust carry on; st op and ask t hem what ’s wrong. When Rosie, a colleague of ours, was giving som e advice t o a Germ an client , she couldn’t underst and why he looked so annoyed. You don’t look very happy , Diet er , she said. What ’s t he problem ? He replied: Well, you’re t he t rainer; I expect you t o give m e t he answers, not ask m e t o supply t hem . When she t hought about what she had said, she realized t hat all her suggest ions had been phrased, in t ypical Brit ish fashion, as quest ions: Why don’t you…; Wouldn’t it be bet t er if you…; How about …; What if you…. But , of course, t o t he low cont ext Diet er, t hese t urns of phrase sounded t oo indirect and indecisive. He expect ed t he t rainer t o phrase her advice m ore posit ively and explicit ly: I t hink you should…; I recom m end t hat you…; I n m y experience, t he best way t o solve t his problem is…. Because she had been prepared t o ask Diet er what was wrong, Rosie was soon able t o clear up t he m isunderst anding. Diet er learnt som et hing im port ant about Brit ish com m unicat ion st yle, and Rosie m ade sure she phrased her subsequent suggest ions m ore posit ively and explicit ly.
Tr yin g t o be fu n n y Oft en t he Brit ish cannot be serious because t hey are afraid of m aking fools of t hem selves ... They know and accept t he rules of t he gam e, but ot herwise not hing is sacred. Nor do t hey draw t he line at self- irony. That is why t hey are predest ined t o m ake com prom ises, t he precondit ion for a life wit hout absolut e t rut hs. ( Thom as Kielinger, Crossroads and Roundabout s, 1997) I rony involves saying t he opposit e of what you m ean. So it ’s a relat ively high cont ext way of com m unicat ing. The Brit ish love it and m ost people – from am bassadors t o shop assist ant s, t ycoons t o t axi drivers – use it alm ost wit hout t hinking. Unfort unat ely, t his st yle of com m unicat ion doesn’t always t ravel well: Two Brit ish wom en in t heir early t hirt ies were on holiday in Florida. One evening, t hey went t o a bar where t here was m usic and dancing. An Am erican m an, also in his t hirt ies, polit ely went up t o one of t he wom en and asked her if she would like t o dance. She wasn’t int erest ed in dancing, but she didn’t want j ust t o say ‘No t hanks’ in case she offended him . So she sm iled pleasant ly and said: ‘I won’t j ust now, t hanks. The old war wound’s playing up again’ ( m y war inj ury is causing problem s) . I t was a line she had used, on a num ber of occasions, in London. Brit ish guys would usually laugh, m ake an equally ironic com m ent , and t hen walk away wit h t heir egos int act . But t he Am erican guy looked at her sym pat het ically and said: ‘Hey, t hat ’s t oo bad. Which war were you in?’ When t he wom an explained t hat she had been j oking, he walked away looking confused.
Of course, t here are plent y of Am ericans who would have seen t he j oke and responded wit h an ironic, or hum orous, com m ent of t heir own. You only have t o wat ch an episode of t he popular Am erican cart oon series, The Sim psons, t o see t hat irony is alive and well in t he USA. I t ’s j ust t hat , for m any Am ericans, irony doesn’t seem t o be t he ‘default ’ form of com m unicat ion as it is for m ost Brit s. As a result , Am ericans m ay som et im es t ake t heir Brit ish count erpart s’ ironic com m ent s lit erally and, if t hey do, t his can lead t o genuine m isunderst anding on bot h sides. So if you’re Brit ish, you would be well advised t o t ry t o avoid using irony when you’re doing business int ernat ionally. And if you’re Am erican, or any ot her nat ionalit y for whom irony is not t he norm , t ry not t o j um p t o t he conclusion t hat t he Brit ish are m aking fun of you, or being deliberat ely opaque. As oft en as not , t hey’re m aking fun of t hem selves, or t rying t o defuse a t ense or em barrassing sit uat ion. Every cult ure has a sense of hum our; everyone enj oys laughing and j oking wit h t heir friends. But not everyone laughs at t he sam e t hings: A group of high pot ent ials in a m ult inat ional com pany had flown t o HQ from all over Europe and t he USA t o at t end t he first m odule of an in- house t raining program m e. Som e of t he sessions were t o be run by t he com pany’s own t rainers; ot hers by som e of our colleagues from Canning. The first t wo- hour session was facilit at ed by one of t he in- house t rainers – a Norwegian. To ‘break t he ice’, t he Norwegian facilit at or asked each part icipant t o draw a selfport rait using any com binat ion of squares, circles and t riangles. The unnam ed sket ches were t hen pinned on t he wall, and t he Norwegian explained what t he t hree different sym bols signified. He finished wit h t riangles which, he solem nly t old t hem , relat ed t o erot ic charact erist ics. As he had hoped, t he group seem ed am used by t his announcem ent and t he ice was indeed broken as t hey t ried t o guess who had drawn which sket ch.
The part icipant s were t hen invit ed, one by one, t o st and up and give a short self- int roduct ion. Aft er each present at ion, t he rest of t he group had t o t ry t o m at ch t he speaker wit h one of t he sket ches. The last speaker was an Am erican wom an called Bet h. When she t old t he group which sket ch was hers, St eve – a Brit ish m an – quiet ly j oked t o his French neighbour: ‘But t hat can’t be her. The t riangles aren’t big enough.’ When he said ‘t riangles’ he briefly placed his hands in front of his chest . There was a ripple ( sm all wave) of laught er from t he people sit t ing near him . The group t hen went t o t he coffee lounge for t heir m orning break. Short ly aft er t he break, t he Norwegian approached t he Canning t rainers – who were working in an adj oining room – and said: ‘I need your help. The Am ericans are t hreat ening t o wit hdraw
from t he program m e.’ Our colleagues accom panied him int o t he sem inar room and encouraged t he group m em bers t o discuss what had happened. One of t he Am ericans spoke first : ‘What St eve said about Bet h and t he way t he rest of you guys laughed const it ut es sexual harassm ent . Back hom e, all of our em ploym ent cont ract s include a sexual harassm ent clause. Don’t yours?’ Well, no, t hey didn’t . And it was clear t hat som e of t he Europeans found it very hard t o underst and t heir Am erican colleagues’ react ion: ‘How could anyone t ake offence at such an innocent j oke?’ Whet her you sym pat hize wit h t he Am ericans or t he Europeans, t he m oral t o t his t ale is clear: what you t hink is a harm less bit of fun m ay well cause serious offence elsewhere. By all m eans show t hat you have a sense of hum our, but st ick t o safe, inoffensive t opics. And be aware t hat if you m ake sexist j okes in t he USA, you could well end up being t aken t o court . Rem em ber, t oo, t hat in a lot of places ( such as Germ any, Scandinavia, France, Japan) , j okiness in m eet ings and present at ions m ay be seen as frivolous and unprofessional. So when you’re doing business wit h people from t hese cult ures, keep your j okes for t he bar, rest aurant or sauna.
Avoidin g h idde n da n ge r s I f you passed t hrough Heat hrow airport in early 2003, you m ay have not iced a series of large advert ising post ers in which an int ernat ional bank highlight ed it s cross- cult ural expert ise. The post ers feat ured a range of gest ures, colours, num bers, and sym bols t hat m ean different t hings in different places: for exam ple, m aking a circle wit h your t hum b and fore- finger which says OK in t he USA, but som et hing very vulgar in Medit erranean count ries and t he Middle East ; or red, which signifies danger in m uch of t he West ern world, but sym bolizes good luck t o t he Chinese; and so on. Clearly, it ’s useful t o know about differences such as t hese. Ot herwise, you could – wit hout realizing it – do som et hing which causes em barrassm ent , dist ress or offence t o t he people you’re working wit h. I f, for exam ple, you put four candles on a Japanese colleague’s birt hday cake, he m ay m isint erpret your kind gest ure: in Japan, four is a very unlucky num ber; it sym bolizes deat h. I f you want t o get som e flowers for your French or I t alian host s, don’t buy chrysant hem um s; t hese are t he flowers t hat people t radit ionally put on t heir fam ily graves on All Saint s Day. When you’re in a m eet ing wit h som eone from t he Middle East , keep your feet plant ed firm ly on t he ground; showing an Arab t he soles of your feet is t he gravest of insult s. And if you com e from t he Arab world, be careful about t he kind of quest ions you ask your European colleagues: When I first cam e t o London from t he Middle East – at t he age of 14 – I was m et at t he airport by a com pany represent at ive whom m y fat her had asked t o look aft er m e. As we were driving from London t o Norwich, I put m y foot in it : ‘Who did you vot e for at t he last elect ion?’ I asked. ‘Young m an,’ he replied, ‘you don’t ask t hat kind of quest ion over here.’ I found it odd and offput t ing t hat I could not ask personal quest ions; t hat is how I had learnt t o deal wit h people. Now I had t o find anot her rout e. And if you’re Am erican or European, avoid t alking about your Arab colleagues’ fem ale relat ives: I n t he Middle East you can ask quest ions; any quest ions. The only quest ions you do not ask are about m ot hers or sist ers. A Saudi friend once invit ed an Am erican banker t o dinner at his house and int roduced him t o his wife. The following day, in an at t em pt t o be polit e, t he banker said: ‘Your wife is lovely.’ He was shocked when t he Arab replied: ‘My wife is not t he subj ect for conversat ion.’
There are a num ber of hidden dangers such as t hese. And it ’s wort h t aking t he t rouble t o find out what t hey are before you st art doing business in a cult ure t hat is new t o you. Gest ures, sym bols, num bers, colours, rit uals for exchanging business cards, correct seat ing arrangem ent s, drinking and dining et iquet t e, t aboo t opics of conversat ion and so on do, of course, vary from count ry t o count ry. But , unlike m any of t he less obvious differences t hat we’ve focused on in t his chapt er, t hey are fairly well and widely docum ent ed. You can find out what t he m ain DOs and DON’Ts are from any reput able count ry guide. And we st rongly recom m end t hat you do so. Aft er all, it would be a pit y t o put a prom ising business relat ionship at risk by doing som et hing t hat is relat ively easy t o avoid.
Su m m a r y The im pulse t o be court eous is universal. And m ost of t he people you m eet will be as keen t o show warm t h, considerat ion, and respect as you are. But , as we’ve seen, you can’t assum e t hat t hey will do so in exact ly t he sam e way as you. No m at t er how carefully you do your hom ework, you’re bound t o find yourself in som e sit uat ions where you sim ply don’t know what t he form is. Which is why it ’s so im port ant , at all t im es, t o keep your eyes and ears open:
be observant ; be curious; be sensit ive t o how ot hers are behaving, and t o t he im pact your behaviour seem s t o be having on t hem ; m ake a conscious effort t o adapt t o t he st yle and rhyt hm t hat com es nat urally t o t he people you’re dealing wit h; if t hey appear confused, irrit at ed or offended, ask quest ions and t ry t o clear up t he m isunderst anding; by all m eans show t hat you have a sense of hum our, but st ick t o safe, inoffensive t opics; above all, don’t j um p t o hast y conclusions about what t he ot her person is like.
Ch a pt e r 5 : M a k in g Pr e se n t a t ion s Ove r vie w You don’t see som et hing unt il you have t he right m et aphor t o perceive it . ( Thom as Kuhn, The St ruct ure of Scient ific Revolut ions, 1970) I m agine, for a m om ent , t hat you are an area sales m anager wit h a com pany t hat produces fast m oving consum er goods. Last quart er – January t o March – t he result s for your region were very bad. I n fact , sales were 10 per cent below t arget . Underst andably, t he sales direct or want s t o know why t here was such a serious short fall, and how you propose t o reverse t he sit uat ion next quart er. He has asked you t o m ake a present at ion t o him and t he finance direct or bet ween 10.00 and 10.30 next Monday m orning. There were a num ber of reasons for your area’s poor perform ance and none of t hem was your fault . You have all t he fact s and figures t o show what went wrong and why. The overriding problem , however, was t hat you sim ply don’t have enough sales represent at ives t o cover t he region. You point ed t his out last Oct ober when you subm it t ed your budget , but HQ rej ect ed your proposal t o recruit ext ra st aff. As you sit down t o prepare your present at ion, which of t he approaches below do you inst inct ively feel it would be bet t er t o t ake?
Spend m ost of t he present at ion looking back over t he last quart er m aking sure t hat your bosses underst and exact ly what went wrong and why.
Say very lit t le about t he last t hree m ont hs; concent rat e, inst ead, on explaining how, wit h one or t wo ext ra sales represent at ives, you’ll be able t o m eet , and m ost probably exceed, next quart er’s t arget .
And how do you propose t o give your bosses all t he fact s and figures you’ve prepared?
Show a series of slides as you are m aking your present at ion.
Give t hem a writ t en handout t o st udy at t heir leisure aft erwards.
And what about t im ing? How do you plan t o use t he 30 m inut es you’ve got ?
Spend m ost of t he t im e present ing wit h five m inut es or so at t he end for quest ions.
Make a brief speech and leave at least 20 m inut es for quest ions and discussion.
Clearly your decisions would depend, t o a large ext ent , on how well you know t he bosses, what kind of people t hey are, and what t hey’re int erest ed in. What ’s gone before and how m uch is at st ake ( t o be gained or lost ) would be key fact ors t oo. But if you found yourself in a sim ilar posit ion t o t his area m anager, which of t hese approaches would com e m ore nat urally t o you? And if you were one of t he bosses, what would you expect from t his present at ion? Which of t he approaches would you be m ore inclined t o list en t o? I t ’s quit e possible t hat you are wondering why we’re asking t hese quest ions. I t ’s perfect ly obvious which of t he approaches is right, you m ay be t hinking. Why are t hese people insult ing m y
int elligence? Well, act ually, we aren’t t rying t o insult your int elligence. The fact is, what people expect from a present at ion varies from cult ure t o cult ure. For exam ple, som e people t hink t he best present at ions are t horough and det ailed wit h plent y of support ing fact s and docum ent at ion; ot hers will only list en t o you if you’re brief and select ive. Som e audiences are im pressed by a logical st ruct ure; ot hers by a creat ive one. Som e present ers inst inct ively aim t o inform ; ot hers t o persuade or ent ert ain. So while it m ay have been im m ediat ely obvious t o you t hat approach A or B was t he right one, you can’t assum e t hat your int ernat ional colleagues will share your view. But surely, you m ay say, t here m ust be som e right s and wrongs t hat are universal; som e present at ion st yles and t echniques t hat are guarant eed t o succeed wit h any audience? Well, we wouldn’t go so far as t o say t here are universal right s and wrongs. But t here is one golden rule t hat successful present ers t he world over follow: no m at t er what m essage t hey’re t rying t o get across, t hey put t he audience first . That m ay sound sim ple and obvious. But , as our int ernat ional client s oft en t ell us, it isn’t always easy t o do. When you’re having a conversat ion wit h som eone, you can see or hear t heir react ions. And, provided you’re willing t o t ry t o put yourself in t heir posit ion, you can adapt what you say and t he way you say it as t he conversat ion progresses. But when you sit down t o prepare a present at ion, t he m em bers of your audience aren’t around. You have t o put t he whole t hing t oget her, from st art t o finish, wit hout any input or feedback from t hem . And you m ay well be t em pt ed t o concent rat e on t he m essage you want t o deliver and what you want t o achieve. As we keep repeat ing, however, focusing on yourself and your own agenda is t he m aj or block t o successful com m unicat ion, what ever cont ext you’re operat ing in. I f you want your audience t o really sit up and list en, you have t o m ake sure t hat everyt hing you say and every visual you show is int erest ing and relevant t o t hem . And you can only do t hat if you put yourself in t heir shoes ( posit ion) at every st age. Planning and delivering an effect ive present at ion is hard work – even if you know your audience well and t hey’re from t he sam e nat ional and corporat e cult ure as you. When t hey’re from a different count ry and you don’t know t hem personally, it can be harder st ill. I n our experience, t he great est challenges for an int ernat ional present er are: choosing a st yle t hat will suit t he audience’s expect at ions; put t ing t he m essage you want t o deliver int o a concret e cont ext t hat your audience can relat e t o; and speaking in a way t hat will be clear and accessible.
Ch oosin g t h e r igh t st yle As we m ent ioned in Chapt er 2, m any of t he m anagem ent t echniques t hat businesses adopt originat e in t he USA. So, t oo, do m any of t he t echniques t hat are t aught on int ernat ional present at ion skills courses. The Am ericans, perhaps m ore t han any ot her cult ure, seem inst inct ively t o t ry t o build a personal rapport wit h t heir audience and t o put t heir m essage across persuasively and posit ively. I n t his respect , we believe, t hey have a lot t o t each t he rest of t he world. But , as our int ernat ional client s oft en t ell us, t hey also have a lot t o learn: When a Swiss com pany decided t o award ‘loyalt y’ point s t o t heir cust om ers, t hey asked t heir in- house I T depart m ent t o develop t he soft ware t hey needed t o operat e t he schem e. The proj ect was scheduled t o t ake t wo years. Aft er 18 m ont hs, however, it ran int o serious difficult ies. Two and a half years lat er, t hey were st ill t rying t o solve t hem . The com pany m oved Connie, one of t heir bright est and m ost com pet ent Swiss m anagers, on t o t he t eam . They gave her six m ont hs t o get t he syst em up and running. By June – t he new deadline – she had indeed est ablished t he basic fram ework and solved t he m aj or difficult ies. The relat ively m inor problem s t hat rem ained could, she decided, be sort ed out gradually over t he next t wo years – at a cost of 5 m illion Swiss francs per year. The Swiss m anager who was responsible for t he loyalt y schem e accept ed Connie’s proposal. A couple of m ont hs lat er, however, he left t he com pany and was replaced by an Am erican called Robert . One of t he first t hings Robert did was t o ask Connie for a progress report on t he proj ect . She prepared a well- st ruct ured, inform at ive and clear present at ion. She had, in fact , perform ed a m iracle during her six m ont hs on t he t eam . But , being Swiss, it didn’t occur t o her t o ‘sell’ herself or highlight t he rem arkable j ob she had done. I nst ead, she explained – in t he calm , m et hodical, low- key st yle t hat cam e nat urally t o her – why t he proj ect had run int o difficult y and what progress had been m ade. She t hen m oved on t o what t he rem aining problem s were, how long it would t ake t o solve t hem , and how m uch it would cost . Robert was not im pressed. All he heard was ‘a num ber of problem s rem ain’ and ‘it ’ll t ake t wo years and an addit ional budget of 5 m illion a year t o solve t hem ’. As far as he was concerned, Connie had failed t o reach t he t arget s she had been given; t he problem s had t o be solved by t he end of t he current year; and he was going t o put in a new t eam t o m ake sure t hat t hey were. Connie didn’t t ry t o argue wit h him . She sim ply applied for a j ob in a different depart m ent and left t he new t eam t o t ake responsibilit y for t he proj ect . By t he end of t he year, t hey seem ed t o have creat ed m ore problem s t han t hey had solved. The proj ect cont inued for a furt her t wo years and went way over t he budget Connie had proj ect ed. The Swiss were all convinced t hat if Robert had left Connie t o handle t he proj ect her way, it would have been com plet ed m uch fast er and cheaper.
So why didn’t Robert accept Connie’s proposal? Well, we can’t read his m ind. But Connie, who had worked wit h Am ericans before, was convinced t hat it was because he had been unable t o bridge t he gap bet ween Am erican and Swiss cult ure. ‘I n m y experience,’ she t old us, ‘Robert ’s react ion was t ypically Am erican. They always t ake t he short - t erm view. They never want t o hear about problem s; j ust quick solut ions. And t hey expect you t o t ell t hem everyt hing is wonderful, even if it isn’t . Well, I ’m sorry, but t hat ’s not t he way we do t hings in Swit zerland.’ I n our view, Connie was probably right about t he cult ure gap. She and Robert would be likely t o fall at opposit e ends of t he following scales:
As everyone knows, of course, t he USA is a relat ively young count ry. I t was only in 1620 t hat t he Pilgrim Fat hers set t led in Plym out h, Massachuset t s – t he first perm anent colony in New England. There have been m any waves of ot her im m igrant s since t hen, m ost of t hem t rying t o escape t he religious persecut ion, polit ical unrest or ext rem e povert y of t he old world; and all of t hem at t ract ed by t he freedom and opport unit ies t hat were on offer. Bet ween t he 1840s and t he early 1920s, for exam ple, som e 30 m illion people im m igrat ed t o t he USA. These im m igrant s were det erm ined t o build a new and bet t er life for t hem selves. They were convinced t hat , wit h hard work and a lit t le luck, t here would be no lim it t o what t hey could achieve. Nat urally enough, t heir at t it udes and expect at ions have had a st rong influence on Am erican cult ural values. According t o The St uff Am ericans are Made Of ( Ham m ond and Morrison, 1996) , t here are seven cult ural forces t hat define Am ericans:
t hey insist on choice; t hey pursue im possible dream s; t hey are obsessed wit h big and m ore; t hey are im pat ient wit h t im e; t hey accept m ist akes; t hey have an urge t o im provise; t hey have a fixat ion wit h what is new. These seven forces, say Ham m ond and Morrison, link t oget her like t his: Our freedom of choice allows us t o t ackle an ‘im possible’ dream t hat is bigger t han anyt hing we’ve done before; we want t o achieve it now; but fail in our init ial at t em pt s; we t ry again and t hrough som e sort of im provisat ion succeed, only t o wonder what ’s new so t hat we can st art all over and m ake anot her choice. I t ’s hardly surprising, t hen, t hat Robert was unim pressed by Connie’s low- key present at ion, rej ect ed her t wo- year schedule, and decided t o put a new t eam in. But , as we’ve seen, t his was t he wrong decision. There are plent y of people in t he world – from count ries as diverse as Japan, Swit zerland and t he UK – whose cult ure has t aught t hem t o t ake a longer- t erm view; who inst inct ively express t hem selves in a low- key way; and who would be em barrassed t o t alk openly about t heir own achievem ent s. That doesn’t m ean t hey’re incom pet ent , pessim ist ic or lacking in dynam ism . But Connie was t he present er, you m ay say. So surely it was up t o her t o adapt her st yle t o suit Robert ’s expect at ions. Well, yes, you’re quit e right . She should have t ried t o sound m ore posit ive and even, perhaps, t o em phasize t he rem arkable progress t hat had been m ade during t he first half of t he year. But , she was a Swiss wom an, working at t he Swiss headquart ers of a Swiss com pany. She knew, of course, t hat Robert spoke no Germ an. And she was perfect ly happy t o m ake her present at ion in English. But it didn’t occur t o her t hat she needed t o adapt her st yle t oo. I n any case, she knew she had done a first rat e j ob; and she knew her Swiss bosses valued her highly. As far as her career and reput at ion were concerned, Robert ’s opinion was irrelevant .
For m ost present ers, t hough, choosing t he right st yle t o suit t heir audience is vit al: George, a senior fund m anager wit h a Brit ish asset m anagem ent firm ( let ’s call t hem BAM) , cam e t o Canning t o polish up a present at ion he was going t o m ake t o his firm ’s largest Am erican client . His aim was t o persuade t he Am ericans t o renew BAM’s m andat e. The t rouble was, t he perform ance figures for t he previous and current year looked very bad, and t he Am ericans were t hreat ening t o t ake t heir business elsewhere. George would have j ust half an hour t o change t heir m inds. He was planning t o spend m ost of t hat t im e looking back over t he previous 18 m ont hs, and j ust ifying t he way in which BAM had m anaged t he fund. His t rainer persuaded him t o t ake a m uch m ore upbeat approach. I nst ead of looking at what had gone wrong in t he past , George t ried t o focus on t he good result s BAM could achieve in fut ure: ‘St ay wit h BAM and we’ll beat t he t arget you have set us’ was his new cent ral m essage. This new approach m ade his present at ion m uch short er. George pract ised it again and again, paying part icular at t ent ion t o his t one of voice. By t he end of t he t wo- day coaching session, he knew t he int roduct ion and conclusion off by heart . And he really sounded posit ive and opt im ist ic. The following week, George phoned his t rainer in t rium ph: ‘They’ve renewed t he m andat e,’ he said. ‘Thank God you m ade m e change m y cent ral m essage! When I arrived, t heir consult ant t old m e I only had 5 m inut es, not 30. So I j ust went in and present ed t he int roduct ion and conclusion. According t o t heir consult ant , t he t rust ees were very im pressed t hat I had been able t o adapt so flexibly t o t he t im e const raint . And t hey had confidence in m e because I sounded so posit ive and didn’t give t hem any of t he “ usual Brit ish bullshit ” .’
On t he st rengt h of t his five- m inut e present at ion, over a hundred m illion dollars of pension fund m oney were allocat ed. All of us carry around very fixed im ages of ot her cult ures. These st ereo- t ypes are oft en negat ive, and nearly always t he result of m easuring what foreigners do or say against our own cult ural norm s. When George’s client referred t o t he usual Brit ish bullshit , we knew exact ly what he m eant . On our cross- cult ural workshops, we always ask t he part icipant s how t hey perceive ot her nat ionalit ies. And we have discovered t hat t he im age t he Am ericans and Brit ish have of one anot her is rem arkably consist ent . For exam ple, on one course we ran for t he European head office of a m aj or Am erican com pany, t he expat riat e Am erican m anagers said t hat , in t heir view, t he Brit ish were:
always t alking about problem s, not solut ions; always focusing on what has happened, and not on what will happen; gloom y ( pessim ist ic) and depressing, even when t hey are giving good news; rude and disrespect ful; badly prepared. The t rouble is, t aking t he kind of upbeat , posit ive at t it ude t hat im presses t he Am ericans doesn’t com e nat urally t o t he Brit ish. As we saw in Chapt er 4, our cult ure values underst at em ent , irony and self- deprecat ion. Maybe t hat ’s why t he Brit ish m anagers on t he course t old us t hat , in t heir view, t he Am ericans were:
always over- opt im ist ic; not prepared t o analyse a problem properly in order t o reach workable solut ions; boast ful and superficial; not prepared t o disagree wit h superiors, even when t hey are wrong; badly prepared. A few years ago, Canning was considering t he possibilit y of offering an e- learning service. We invit ed a num ber of soft ware consult ancies t o present t heir proposals for a t ailored solut ion. One of t he consult ancies was Am erican and t hey flew t wo of t heir vice- president s over t o t he UK t o do som e research and m ake t heir proposal. The present ers were friendly, dynam ic and ent husiast ic. They st art ed t heir present at ion som et hing like t his: I t ’s a real privilege for us t o be here. And we’re very
excit ed about t he prospect of handling t his proj ect for you. They t hen spent what seem ed like 20 m inut es t elling us, in glowing t erm s, about t heir personal experience and m any successes. As t hey spoke, t hey showed us slide aft er slide, and anim at ed graphic aft er anim at ed graphic, t aken from t he e- learning program m es t hey had developed for ot her client s – few of whom seem ed t o be in t he sam e business as Canning. When t hey finally st art ed t alking about us, it was im m ediat ely clear t hat t hey had lit t le underst anding of our t raining st yle or our client s’ needs. During t he quest ion and answer session at t he end, we raised m any obj ect ions t o t heir proposals. I nst ead of t rying t o answering t hese obj ect ions, t hey sim ply said t hings like: We’ve got a lot of experience in t his field. We’ll be able t o work t hrough t hat kind of issue when t he proj ect ’s under way. The audience were all int ernat ional com m unicat ion t rainers who were m ore prepared t han m ost t o m ake an effort t o bridge t he cult ure gap. And if t hese present ers had been able t o show us t hat t hey really underst ood our business, we would have forgiven t hem for t he em phasis t hey had placed on t heir own achievem ent s and successes. But because t hey weren’t prepared t o engage wit h t he problem s we raised, we left t he present at ion feeling m ildly angry t hat t hey had wast ed so m uch of our t im e. And even we allowed ourselves t o t hink, for a few m om ent s, t hat t heir perform ance had been t ypically Am erican. I n ot her words, t hat it had conform ed t o m ost of t he negat ive im ages in t he list above. Clearly, when you’re present ing int ernat ionally, you have t o m ake a conscious effort t o avoid reinforcing negat ive st ereot ypes such as t hese. I f not , t here’s a danger you will alienat e t he audience alm ost as soon as you open your m out h. That ’s not t o say you should t ry t o change your nat ural st yle so radically t hat you feel uncom fort able. No one could have expect ed t he Am erican soft ware consult ant s t o st op sounding ent husiast ic and posit ive. I ndeed, we believe t hat put t ing your m essage across persuasively and posit ively is som et hing t hat all present ers should aim t o do. But t here has t o be som et hing behind t he posit ive noises you’re m aking. You’ve got t o show t he audience t hat you underst and t heir needs and expect at ions. And you’ve got t o m ake sure t hat everyt hing you say is relevant and int erest ing t o t hem . The Am erican consult ant s seem ed t o have m ade lit t le effort t o underst and us. And t he m any successes and achievem ent s t hat t hey present ed were sim ply not relevant . That was why we found t hem superficial and boast ful. I f t hey had put us first , we would probably have been very favourably im pressed by t heir upbeat and dynam ic st yle. Sim ilarly, when Canning was helping George from BAM t o prepare his present at ion, we did not , for one m om ent , expect him t o say anyt hing t hat m ade him feel uncom fort able. We didn’t , for exam ple, ask him t o t ell his client s how excit ed he was about t he prospect of m anaging t he fund next year. We sim ply suggest ed t hat , t o suit t he expect at ions of his Am erican audience, he should t ry t o look forward rat her t han back. And once he did t hat , he was able t o find a cent ral m essage: St ay wit h BAM and we’ll beat t he t arget you have set us, t hat his client s could relat e t o. His whole present at ion was st ruct ured around t his upbeat , forward- looking m essage. So when he only had t im e t o deliver t he int roduct ion and conclusion, it cam e across loud and clear t o his client s. All t he m ore so because he t ried very hard t o sound posit ive and opt im ist ic. I t would be wrong t o assum e, from t he exam ples we’ve looked at , t hat t he Brit ish and Am ericans are at opposit e ends of every scale. The t wo cult ures act ually have a lot of views and values in com m on. Bot h nat ions would, for exam ple, probably fall t o t he left of t he following scales:
Of course, t here are plent y of Am erican and Brit ish present ers who include a lot of det ail and t alk at considerable lengt h. The Am erican soft ware consult ant s spent 20 m inut es t elling us about t heir successes and achievem ent s; and George originally planned t o t alk t o his client s for half an hour. But t he Am erican present at ion didn’t succeed; and George’s original st ruct ure and st yle would have lost
him t he m andat e. I n general, Am erican and Brit ish audiences respond best t o present at ions t hat are short and select ive. As you m ight expect , not every cult ure shares t heir expect at ions: An English m anager was at a m eet ing in Milan. The I t alian part icipant s belonged t o a net work of professional service com panies who want ed t o pool t heir skills. Each of t he delegat es had been asked t o prepare a brief present at ion of t heir com pany. The Englishm an was annoyed t o find t hat his fellow delegat es ignored t he request t o keep t heir present at ions brief and in som e cases spoke for as long as 20 m inut es. When it was his t urn t o speak, he delivered a t wom inut e present at ion. I t had a clear m essage, was well st ruct ured and gave t he key inform at ion relevant t o his list eners. As he sat down, t here was an awkward silence; and t hen polit e applause. Aft er t he m eet ing, which finished t wo hours lat e, an I t alian friend cam e up t o t he Englishm an. ‘Why,’ he asked, ‘didn’t you explain in m uch great er det ail t he m any t hings I know your com pany can offer t he group?’
Where you would place yourself on t he short –long and select ive–com prehensive scales will be heavily influenced by t he educat ional norm s in your count ry. At school and universit y in I t aly, t he exam inat ions are oft en oral. So, t hroughout t heir educat ion, I t alian st udent s are t aught all t he rhet orical skills; and t hey learn t o give long, im pressive speeches t hat will show t heir exam iners how m uch t hey have learnt and t hought about t he subj ect . Nat urally enough, when t hey com e t o m ake a business present at ion, t hey t ake t he sam e approach. They aim t o be eloquent and posit ive; and, of course, t o speak for as long as it t akes t o show t he audience t hat t hey have t hought of all t he point s. The Brit ish educat ion syst em , on t he ot her hand, encourages a crisper, m ore concise st yle. When your writ ers were at school, we had lessons and exam s where we had t o précis t ext s – in ot her words, reduce several pages of com plicat ed prose int o one short , sim ple paragraph. As we m ent ioned above, we were also condit ioned, from a very early age, t o underst at e our abilit ies and give our m essages indirect ly. When t he Englishm an m ade his short , low- key present at ion, he was really sending t he signal ‘less is m ore’. This would have been fine for a Brit ish audience, but t he m essage was com plet ely lost on ( m isunderst ood by) his I t alian list eners. The st ruct ure he chose cam e across t o t hem as over- sim plist ic and far t oo low- key. They expect ed him t o illust rat e t he fact s wit h relevant exam ples and opinions, t o argue his case wit h eloquence, and t o proj ect a posit ive and upbeat at t it ude. To m ost Brit s, t he word rhet oric describes a speech t hat sounds im pressive, but isn’t act ually sincere or useful. For t he I t alians, however, it ’s t he art of speaking eloquent ly, im pressively and persuasively. Rhet orik is also an im port ant part of t he academ ic and business school syllabus in Germ any. But t he Germ ans seem t o int erpret t he word in a different way again. I n his com parat ive st udy of Germ an and Brit ish cult ure ( Crossroads and Roundabout s, 1997) , Thom as Kielinger suggest s t hat his fellow Germ ans m ost value people who are konsequent ( logical, consist ent , uncom prom ising) and grundlich ( t horough) . So, for t hem , Rhet orik is t he art of present ing a logical and det ailed sequence of argum ent s – as reflect ed in t he dialect ical m et hods of Hegel and Marx. For Germ an st udent s t o pass t heir oral exam s, t here’s no need for t hem t o put forward a lot of new or original ideas. They sim ply have t o learn all t he fact s and present t hem in a logical and t horough way. Maybe t hat ’s why t he Germ ans t end t o dislike present at ions t hat sound like a sales pit ch. While t he I t alians, Am ericans and Brit s would fall t o t he left of t he scale below, t he Germ ans would m ost probably fall t o t he right :
So, if you’re present ing t o a Germ an audience, avoid t he hard sell. Try, inst ead, t o const ruct a logical and convincing argum ent using plent y of relevant fact s. And if you’re Germ an, rem em ber t hat – wit h t he possible except ion of t he Scandinavians, Finns and Japanese – few ot her cult ures are as fascinat ed by exhaust ive list s of fact s as you are. So m ake a conscious effort t o select only t he dat a t hat support your cent ral m essage and are relevant and int erest ing t o your audience. I f you don’t , t here’s a very real danger t hat t hey will fall asleep. That doesn’t m ean you should abandon your logical approach – part icularly if you’re present ing t o t he French. The French, like t he Germ ans, would fall at t he far right of t his scale:
The French enj oy debat e, value eloquence and, above all, expect t he present er t o give t hem a logically consist ent argum ent t hat can’t be dem olished. I n French schools, pupils are t aught t o present t heir argum ent s in a very Cart esian way: t hèse, ant i- t hèse, sy nt hèse ( t hesis, ant it hesis, synt hesis) . As we m ent ioned earlier, m any of t he t echniques t hat are t aught on int ernat ional present at ion skills courses originat e in t he USA. And t he Am ericans t end t o st at e t heir cent ral m essage at t he beginning of t heir present at ion. But t his t echnique does not com e nat urally t o t he French. That ’s because a good cent ral m essage is effect ively a synt hesis or conclusion. And t he French are t aught from an early age t o lead up t o t he conclusion st ep by st ep – not st at e it upfront at t he beginning. I t ’s quit e possible t hat , at t his point , your head is st art ing t o spin. Don’t worry! There m ay be over 200 count ries in t he world, but we aren’t going t o t ry t o t alk about all of t hem . The cult ures we have looked at , and t he scales we have shown you, cover t he m ain st yle differences you will com e across. Before you can adapt t o your audience’s expect at ions, you need t o do t wo t hings: first , analyse your own st yle and preferences as obj ect ively as possible; and second, resist t he t em pt at ion t o believe t hat you are right and t he rest of t he world is wrong. I f you know yourself, keep an open m ind and m ake every effort t o know your audience, you can always find a way t o bridge even t he widest cult ure gap.
Fin din g a con cr e t e con t e x t I n a t ypical year, m any of t he int ernat ional business people we work wit h have t o at t end at least 25 present at ions. But when we ask t hem how m any of t hese present at ions t hey would describe as really im pressive or m em orable, t heir answer is nearly always t he sam e: No m ore t han 20 per cent . So what do t he present ers who belong t o t his elit e m inorit y do t hat set s t hem apart from everyone else? Well, part of t he answer is in t he quot at ion at t he head of t his chapt er: t hey realize t hat people only see som et hing when t hey have t he right m et aphor t o perceive it . I m agine for a m om ent t hat you work for a large pharm aceut ical com pany which is about t o launch an ant i- fungal cream . As product m anager, it ’s your j ob t o present t he new cream and ways of selling it t o each of t he four regional sales t eam s in your count ry. So what do you t hink you should do: deliver exact ly t he sam e present at ion t o each of t he four t eam s; or t ry t o adapt it each t im e? I n our experience, m ost people would see not hing wrong wit h delivering exact ly t he sam e present at ion t o each of t he t eam s. And m any would also assum e t hat , in t his sit uat ion, it would be perfect ly accept able t o let t he fact s speak for t hem selves. Aft er all, t hey argue, t here’s no need t o agonize over what m ight appeal t o t hese audiences. They all work for t he sam e com pany and t hey’re all salespeople. So t hey’re bound t o be int erest ed in t he product and how t o sell it . Well, yes, t hat m ay be t rue. But it doesn’t m ean t hey will necessarily be fascinat ed by what you have t o say. What if t hey already know a lot of t he inform at ion you’re planning t o present ? What if t hey’ve already decided t hat som e of your new sales policies are wrong or unsuit able for t heir region? What if t he m em bers of one t eam are at war wit h t heir colleagues in one of t he ot her t eam s? I t doesn’t m at t er how relevant you t hink t he subj ect m at t er is, you’ve st ill got t o t ry t o put it in a cont ext t hat t he audience can relat e t o. And, as every audience is different , you’re going t o have t o change t he cont ext t o suit each one. We don’t believe you can creat e a universal present at ion t hat will be equally relevant and m em orable t o a series of different list eners. What int erest s and appeals t o one group m ay well bore or irrit at e anot her. The sit uat ion we asked you t o im agine – like all t he sit uat ions in t his book – was a real one. Aft er som e research and careful t hought , t he product m anager concerned cam e up wit h a neat way of m aking his m essage relevant t o each of t he t eam s. He had discovered t hat nearly all t he sales represent at ives were keen foot ball fans. So he worked out a way of describing t he new sales st rat egy in foot balling t erm s: t he sales t eam was t o be divided int o st rikers who would go out and find new cust om ers, defenders who would concent rat e on cult ivat ing exist ing cust om ers, sweepers who would be sent out t o solve problem s, and so on. He was sure t hat t his m et aphor would be equally at t ract ive t o each of t he four sales t eam s. But he knew it would have even great er im pact if he could show t hem a pict ure. That was when he realized how he could t ailor his present at ion t o each region. He got his graphics depart m ent t o prepare four different visuals. Each one showed foot ball players wearing t he colours of t he t op local t eam . When he showed t he visual, t he sales reps im m ediat ely ident ified wit h t he players and st art ed t easing one anot her. On a couple of occasions, t heir j okes gave t he product m anager a clearer under- st anding of t heir needs. And he was able t o adapt his present at ion accordingly. But what can I do, our client s oft en ask us, if I don’t know t he people I ’m present ing t o? Well, if you don’t know t he m em bers of your audience personally, ask yourself what you know about t hem as a group: are t hey, for exam ple, all engineers; do t hey all com e from I ndia; are t hey all in t heir t went ies? You have t o keep asking quest ions about t hem unt il you find som e com m on denom inat or. But what if t he audience do different j obs, com e from different count ries, and are all different ages? you m ay ask. Surely t he only com m on denom inat or t hen is t he inform at ion I ’m going t o present . Well, no. You’re forget t ing t he m ost im port ant t hing t hey have in com m on. They’re all hum an beings. And no m at t er where t hey com e from or what t hey do, all hum an beings have cert ain needs and aim s in com m on. I t ’s j ust a quest ion of finding which of t heir needs and aim s you could m ost effect ively appeal t o in t his part icular present at ion. Oft en, t he answers won’t com e t o you st raight away. But if you want your audience t o really t ake not ice of what you’re saying, you need t o persevere. Finding a cont ext and developing a concret e im age your audience can relat e t o t akes t im e, pat ience, effort , and a bit of im aginat ion. But it isn’t rocket science. I n fact , as t he exam ple below shows, it ’s
oft en t he sim plest ideas t hat work best : Our colleague Richard was running a present at ions course for a group of six Finns. They worked for a large indust rial conglom erat e whose core business was paper product ion. On t he first day, Richard invit ed each of t hem t o m ake a short present at ion about t heir com pany. The first five present at ions were alm ost ident ical: ‘Our com pany em ploys t housands of people in m any different count ries. We have fact ories in t his t own, t hat t own and t he ot her t own. We produce paper, paper- m aking m achinery, drilling plat form s, power plant s...’ and so on, and so on, and so on. Richard was desperat e for a cup of coffee. Even so, he decided t o get t he last present at ion out of t he way before t he m id- m orning break. The sixt h guy was called Mat t i and his present at ion went som et hing like t his: Mat t i: Richard. Richard: ( surprised) Yes? Mat t i: Which newspaper do you read? Richard: ( even m ore surprised) The Guardian.
Mat t i: Ah! That ’s a paper for st udent s and left - wingers, right ? Richard: (im pressed) Well, I suppose it is, yeah. I st art ed reading it when I was a st udent . Though I ’m m ore of a liberal dem ocrat t hese days. Mat t i: OK. But what problem s do you have when you read The Guardian? Richard: Well, I don’t always agree wit h t heir polit ics. And t hey m ake a lot of spelling m ist akes. Mat t i: And what about your hands? What do t hey look like when you have finished reading t he paper? Richard: My hands? Well, pret t y dirt y usually. I t ’s a real nuisance. Mat t i: Exact ly. And you’re one of our cust om ers, Richard. We supply over 30 per cent of t he newsprint t hat ’s used in t he UK. And we want you t o have clean hands. That ’s why our R&D people are t rying t o find a way of keeping t he ink on t he paper and off your hands. You see… Richard was hooked. He forgot all about t he coffee break and would have been happy t o let Mat t i speak for far longer t han t he t hree m inut es he had been allot t ed. Mat t i ended up present ing m ore or less t he sam e inform at ion as his five colleagues. But unlike t hem , he put Richard first . He focused on t he hum an elem ent and found a concret e exam ple t hat Richard could im m ediat ely relat e t o. As a result , Richard really list ened t o him and, t o t his day, st ill rem em bers what he said. Clearly, Richard and Mat t i have quit e a lot in com m on. They’re bot h Europeans; t hey’re bot h from developed, st able dem ocracies; t hey’re bot h widely t ravelled. So it was relat ively easy for Mat t i t o put him self in Richard’s shoes. Finding t he right cont ext for an audience whose cult ural values and expect at ions are very different from yours can be m ore challenging. That ’s because m any of your percept ions are so inst inct ive t hat it doesn’t even occur t o you t hat t here’s anot her way of looking at t he world. This was cert ainly t he case for Al – a young Am erican Peace Corps volunt eer – whom Richard worked wit h in Africa in t he 1970s: Al was in his early t went ies when he arrived at t he j unior high school in a large village in sout hern Africa t o t each m at hem at ics. The village consist ed of t radit ional m ud hut s where t he 40,000 inhabit ant s lived, t he school ( eight large rect angular buildings) , a church and a hospit al ( bot h built by Scot t ish m issionaries) . At first , Al was very im pressed wit h t he pupils’ ent husiasm and apt it ude for his subj ect . But when he m oved on t o geom et ry – st art ing wit h squares, rect angles and t riangles as he did in t he St at es – t hey seem ed t o lose int erest . They sim ply couldn’t see t he point of t he exercises t heir t eacher was asking t hem t o do. Aft er a part icularly frust rat ing lesson, Al went for a walk t o clear his head. He clim bed a nearby hill, st ood at t he t op, and looked down at t he village. ‘But of course! ’, he t hought . ‘Most of t he buildings in t he village are circular. No wonder t hey’re not int erest ed in right angles. Why
didn’t I see t hat before?’ Next day, he st art ed t he m at hs class by saying: ‘I want you t o im agine you’re an eagle. You’re looking down on t he village. What do you see?’ The children im m ediat ely drew a lot of circular hut s and walls. ‘OK,’ said t he t eacher. ‘So how m uch space do you have in each hut ? And how far is it from t he edge of t he hut t o t he edge of t he wall?’ From t hat m om ent on, t he children were hooked. They eagerly learned about ‘pi’, and were soon working out circum ferences and areas. And t hey were j ust as int erest ed when t he t eacher m oved from circles t o t angent s and from t angent s t o angles. From a West ern perspect ive, it m akes no sense t o st art wit h circles and end wit h squares. I n fact , t hat ’s doing t hings t he wrong way round. But for t hese young Africans, it was t he right way round . And t he Am erican t eacher only realized t hat when he st art ed t o see t he world t hrough his pupils’ eyes. Making a conscious effort t o st ep out side your own cult ural preconcept ions is t he key t o finding t he right cont ext for your int ernat ional audiences. Sooner or lat er, you will m ake or at t end a present at ion where one of t he visuals is a m ap. When you learnt geography at school, you probably assum ed t hat t he m aps your t eachers gave you were universal. Aft er all, everyone lives in t he sam e world and count ries are a fixed shape and size. And it probably never occurred t o you t hat different cult ures see t he world, lit erally, t hrough different eyes: A Swedish professor was present ing t he result s of som e clinical t rials at an int ernat ional pharm aceut ical sym posium in Florence. A high proport ion of t he delegat es were from t he Middle East and Asia. To show where t he people who had t aken part in t he t rial cam e from , t he professor had a slide wit h a m ap of t he world on it . I nst ead of illust rat ing his point , however, t he slide seem ed t o be confusing t he audience. Som e of t hem frowned, ot hers exchanged glances, and one or t wo of t hem raised t heir eyebrows. From t hat point on, t he professor sensed t hat he had lost t he audience’s at t ent ion. ‘I can’t underst and what t he problem was,’ he confided t o a friend several days lat er. ‘I m ean, t his is t he slide I used. Can you see anyt hing wrong wit h it ?’ His friend looked at t he slide for a m om ent , sm iled and asked: ‘Where did you get t his m ap from ?’ The professor replied: ‘I don’t know. The people in our graphics depart m ent produced all t he slides. Why?’ His friend said: ‘Well, t hey shouldn’t have put Sweden right at t he cent re of t he m ap, should t hey?’ The professor looked puzzled: ‘But t hat ’s where m ost of t he clinical t rials t ook place.’ His friend shook his head and point ed t o t he t iny landm ass t hat represent ed t he I ndian sub- cont inent : ‘Yes, but m ost of your audience cam e from t his part of t he world. I expect t hey were pret t y shocked t o see t hat you t hought Sweden was t hree t im es t he size of I ndia.’ The world m ap t hat m any Am ericans and Europeans are used t o seeing is based on Mercat or’s proj ect ion. And according t o Mercat or’s proj ect ion, Nort h Am erica is bigger t han Africa, Scandinavia is bigger t han I ndia, and Europe is bigger t han Sout h Am erica. But , in fact , t his is a gross dist ort ion of t he world. A m ap using an equal area proj ect ion ( eg Arno Pet ers’) reveals t hat Nort h Am erica is far sm aller t han Africa; I ndia is t hree t im es t he size of Scandinavia; and Sout h Am erica is t wice t he size of Europe. When we show a Pet ers’ world m ap on our present at ion courses, som e of t he part icipant s react quit e negat ively. They declare t hat it ’s wrong; t hat t he cont inent s are shaped wrongly. Maybe t hey expect t he indust rialized count ries t o look bigger t han t he developing ones because t hey’re richer. Or m aybe t hey’ve sim ply never realized t hat t he world m aps t hey’ve always used give an inaccurat e im pression of each count ry’s size and are, t herefore, not universally accept ed. That was cert ainly t he case wit h t he Swedish professor. The last t hing he want ed t o do was offend or alienat e his audience. I f only he had asked som eone from I ndia or t he Middle East for t heir advice while he was preparing his present at ion. I t ’s such a sim ple and obvious t hing t o do. And yet , in our experience, it ’s som et hing t hat far t oo m any present ers forget – part icularly when t he present at ion t hey’re preparing involves a lot of creat ive work: A large European com pany were t rying t o sell t heir high- t ech syst em s t o client s around t he world. They t ailored each present at ion t o t he individual client ’s int erest s, but t here was one key m et aphor and visual t hat t hey always used: ‘Your problem s,’ t hey t old t heir client s, ‘are like lions – wild, unpredict able, and hard t o cont rol. But wit h our syst em s, you can be a lion t am er. You can subdue t he lions and keep t hem under cont rol.’ This worked very well unt il t hey went t o a count ry in Africa. As soon as t hey showed t he visual, t he audience looked horrified. The lion was a sym bol of t heir count ry, and t he im age t hat cam e across t o t hem was of a colonial power subduing t heir St at e. The Europeans lost t he cont ract t o a com pet it or. The t rouble was, t hese Europeans had invest ed a lot of t im e, m oney and effort in developing t he liont am er im age. I n any case, it had already been t ried out on a num ber of audiences and worked very well. So t hey didn’t see any reason why it shouldn’t succeed wit h t heir prospect ive African client s t oo. For t he int ernat ional present er, t his is a dangerous posit ion t o be in. I t ’s only hum an nat ure t o
believe t hat an idea you’ve worked hard t o creat e is sure t o succeed. But before you get t oo at t ached t o it , you need t o check it out wit h a local expert , and act on t he advice t hey give you. And you should never assum e t hat , j ust because an im age has already succeeded wit h one audience, it will necessarily have t he right im pression on anot her. Rem em ber, every audience is different . What engages and am uses one group of people m ay m yst ify or offend anot her.
Spe a k in g w it h im pa ct There’s one t hing, however, t hat every audience in t he world has in com m on. I f a present er uses language t hat is unclear, or speaks in an over- com plicat ed or m onot onous way, t hey will fall asleep. Try reading t he sent ence below out loud: Wit h t he inst allat ion of our new m anufact uring soft ware plat form , and t he im plem ent at ion of t he seven- st ep qualit y init iat ive which, as som e of you are probably aware, represent a subst ant ial invest m ent of som e 15 m illion, our ult im at e obj ect ive, once t hese t wo proj ect s have been im plem ent ed at t he end of next year, is t he achievem ent of opt im al product ion perform ance, a reduct ion in lead t im es, and an overall im provem ent t o cust om er service... I t sounds horrible, doesn’t it ? I f you speak like t his, you’ll lose your audience’s at t ent ion before you even get t o t he end of your first sent ence. So what ’s going wrong here? Well, m ore or less everyt hing, t o be honest . For a st art , t here are far t oo m any nouns: inst allat ion, im plem ent at ion, invest m ent , obj ect ive, achiev em ent, perform ance, reduct ion , im provem ent . And look at t hem . They’re all very long – t hree syllables or m ore; and m ost of t hem are very abst ract . Can you act ually visualize im plem ent at ion, achiev em ent, or perform ance? You cert ainly couldn’t draw a pict ure t o explain what t hese abst ract ions m ean. And list en t o t he rhyt hm : inst alLATion, im plem enTATion, inVESTm ent , and so on. I n every case, t he st ress falls on t he next t o last syllable. That kind of rhyt hm is guarant eed t o send an audience t o sleep – as your writ ers know from long experience of list ening t o t he first present at ions our client s m ake when t hey com e on one of our courses. So why do people use t hese long abst ract nouns? Well, for t he nat ive speaker of English, t hey’re t he kind of words you find in very form al, writ t en docum ent s – econom ic report s, academ ic t heses and cont ract s, for exam ple. So t hey probably t hink t hat using t hem in t heir present at ion will m ake t hem sound m ore int ellect ual or im pressive. And, of course, a lot of non- nat ive speakers use t hese words all t he t im e – part icularly t he Germ ans and t he I t alians – because t hat ’s t he way t hey speak in t heir own language. But English is a language t hat loves verbs. I f you want your audience t o be able t o visualize what you’re saying, you need t o t alk about people doing t hings. For exam ple: We’re going t o inst all som e new product ion soft ware. We’re going t o set up a bet t er qualit y cont rol syst em . We’re invest ing m ore t han 15 m illion in t hese proj ect s. What we’re aim ing t o do is boost out put , cut lead t im es, and im prove cust om er sat isfact ion. All t hese verbs are short – no m ore t han t wo syllables. And t he m inut e you st art using t hem , you can help your audience underst and what you’re saying by st ressing t he part s of t he sent ence t hat you t hink are im port ant . For exam ple: We’re going t o inst all som e NEW product ion SOFTware and SET UP a BETt er qualit y conTROL syst em . You see, in nat ural spoken English, every sent ence is a com binat ion of long beat s and short beat s, rat her like t he drum rhyt hm in a pop song. As soon as you st ress t he im port ant part s of t he sent ence, you adopt t his nat ural rhyt hm . And you st art sounding like a real person t alking t o ot her real people – rat her t han som eone who is reading from a script , or delivering a pedant ic lect ure. So t he sent ence we asked you t o read out loud has far t oo m any long, abst ract nouns. But t hat ’s not t he only t hing t hat ’s wrong wit h it . The sent ence it self is m uch t oo long. Successful int ernat ional present ers keep t heir sent ences short and sim ple. I f you t ry t o put t oo m any ideas int o one sent ence, you’ll be forced t o use subordinat e clauses: which , as som e of you are probably aware, represent a subst ant ial invest m ent of som e 15 m illion; and once t hese t wo proj ect s have been im plem ent ed at t he end of next year. And subordinat e clauses m ake it very difficult for your list eners t o rem em ber
how t he sent ence began. I f you want t o speak wit h im pact , aim for one idea per sent ence. And, where possible, keep your sent ences act ive: inst ead of: once t hese t wo proj ect s have been im plem ent ed ( passive verb const ruct ion) say: once we’ve im plem ent ed t hese t wo proj ect s ( act ive verb const ruct ion) inst ead of: The new m achines were checked by us. say: We checked t he new m achines. Of course, t here will be occasions when you need t o use a passive const ruct ion. You m ay well prefer, for exam ple, t o say a lot of m ist akes were m ade rat her t han t he sales direct or m ade a lot of m ist akes. But when you’re not worried about saying who did what , act ive sent ences generally have far great er im pact . So if you follow all t he advice above, and also t ry t o add som e ‘you- appeal’ – in ot her words, m ake sure t hat what you’re saying is relevant t o t he audience – t his speech m ight sound som et hing like t his: What can we do t o boost our out put ? How can we cut lead t im es? How can we im prove cust om er service? These are quest ions you’ve been asking for som e t im e. And t oday, I ’ve got som e answers for you. We’ve decided t o spend 15 m illion updat ing our syst em s. First , we’re going t o inst all t he lat est product ion soft ware. And, second, we’re going t o set up a m uch t ight er qualit y cont rol syst em . Bot h proj ect s should be up and running by t he end of next year… OK. Are you ready for a short exercise? I f so, look at t he sent ence below, and work out how you would replace t he nouns wit h verbs: I t is necessary t o have a det ailed exam inat ion of t he specificat ion before t he inst allat ion of t he new line. I f you are a non- nat ive speaker of English, you will probably inst inct ively say som et hing like t his: We need t o exam ine t he specificat ion very carefully before we inst all t he new line. I f you are a nat ive English speaker, your proposal m ay be m ore like t his: We need t o go t hrough t he spec wit h a fine- t oot h com b before we put t he new line in.
English has an enorm ous vocabulary – t wice as big, for exam ple, as French. Words are derived from t wo m ain language st ream s: Germ anic ( Germ an and Scandinavian) and Rom ance ( Lat in- based) . Nat ive speakers t end aut om at ically t o choose short Germ anic verbs ( for exam ple: get , go t hrough, put in, t ell) in preference t o t heir Lat in- based equivalent s (obt ain, exam ine, inst all, inform ) . That ’s because, t o t heir ear, Lat in- based verbs sound t oo form al for speaking, and are m ore appropriat e for writ ing – rat her like t he long, abst ract nouns we looked at above. But non- nat ive speakers have m ost probably learnt writ t en rat her t han spoken English. This m eans t hat t hey are likely t o feel far m ore com fort able wit h words t hat are derived from Lat in. Even people, like t he Japanese, whose own language has no connect ion wit h Lat in, t end t o feel t his way. And, som ewhat paradoxically, m any Germ ans prefer Lat in- based words t oo. That ’s because t hey sound m ore form al and, t herefore, m ore sim ilar t o High Germ an. We st ill have Germ ans on our language courses who believe t hat get isn’t correct English. And, of course, t o speakers of Rom ance languages – French, Spanish, I t alian, Port uguese, Rom anian – Lat in- based words are m uch easier t o underst and. The fact t hat English has becom e t he com m on language of int ernat ional business should be very good news for t he m onolingual Am erican, Aust ralian, New Zealander or Brit . All t oo oft en, however, t he nat ive English speaker is at a disadvant age. Som e years ago, an East Asian airline chose t o buy flight sim ulat ors from a French firm rat her t han a Brit ish one: as t heir pilot s would have t o be t rained in English t o use t he sim ulat ors, t he airline preferred t o buy t hem from t he people who spoke t he clearer English – in ot her words, t he French. And one of I t aly’s t op com panies refuses t o have Am erican or Brit ish consult ant s running t heir courses; t hey prefer Swiss or Dut ch people who can speak English in a way t hat will be underst ood by all t heir st aff.
I f you’re a nat ive English speaker and you’re present ing t o an audience for whom English is a second or foreign language, you need t o choose t he kind of verbs t hey’re likely t o underst and. That m eans, for exam ple, saying exam ine rat her t han go t hrough; and inst all inst ead of put in. And rat her t han use idiom at ic expressions like wit h a fine- t oot h com b and abbreviat ions like spec, you should say very carefully and specificat ion inst ead. And t ry t o cont rol your t one and t em po. Many present ers, part icularly nat ive speakers, m ake t he m ist ake of speaking t oo fast . But , of course, if you speak t oo slowly, you could sound art ificial and pat ronizing. The secret is t o keep your nat ural t one, enunciat e clearly, and pause at t he end of a phrase or sent ence – not aft er each word. When you’re rehearsing your present at ion, record part of your speech and list en t o yourself crit ically. Do you sound nat ural? Are t he pauses long enough? Whoever you’re present ing t o, you’ll need t o pause m ore frequent ly and for longer t han you do in norm al conversat ion. Even if you’re a nat ive speaker present ing t o a nat ive- speaking audience, you can’t assum e t hat t hey will im m ediat ely underst and what your m ain point s are and how t hey link t oget her. List ening t o a present at ion isn’t like reading a book. Your audience can’t see when you are ‘st art ing a new paragraph’. I f t hey m iss a st ep in your argum ent , t hey can’t go back and ‘read’ it again. I t ’s your j ob, as present er, t o guide your audience t hrough your speech. At every st ep, you need t o t ell t hem where t hey are, where t hey’ve been, and where t hey’re going. So t ry t o creat e plent y of beginnings, where you sum m arize your argum ent so far, and t ell t hem what t he next st ep is.
Su m m a r y Wherever your audience is from , your present at ion will only be successful if t hey really list en t o what you’re saying and rem em ber t he m essage you’re t rying t o get across. Following t he guidelines below will help you achieve t his obj ect ive.
Kn ow you r a u die n ce Who are t hey? How m uch do t hey already know about t he subj ect ? How do t hey feel about it – host ile, neut ral or posit ive? What will t hey gain from list ening t o you? What are t hey expect ing?
Cr e a t e a ce n t r a l m e ssa ge Try t o express in one clear, punchy sent ence what t he present at ion is about and what t he audience will gain from list ening t o you. I n his int roduct ion, for exam ple, George t old his Am erican client s: I ’m going t o show you how, if you st ay wit h BAM, we will beat t he t arget you have set us. This has m uch m ore ‘you- appeal’ t han his original cent ral m essage: A lot of t hings went wrong last quart er but , as you will see, t his was out of our cont rol.
Ch oose t h e r igh t st yle Even if you’re present ing t o an audience who value a lot of fact s and background inform at ion, it ’s st ill vit al t o be select ive. The m ost dangerous subj ect for you as present er is t he one t hat fascinat es you; t he one t hat you’re t he world expert on. I f you’re in t his posit ion, check your m ot ives. Why are you including t his point ? I s it because your audience really needs t o know it ? Or is it j ust because you find it int erest ing – and, perhaps, want t o show people how m uch you know? Choose only t he point s t hat support your cent ral m essage and are relevant t o your audience. Ask yourself which end of t he select ive— com prehensive and short —long scales your audience falls. I f t hey are, for exam ple, Germ an, Scandinavian or Japanese, support what you say wit h plent y of relevant fact s and figures. I f, on t he ot her hand, t hey’re from t he USA or t he UK, go for a broad overview which includes only det ails t hat are absolut ely essent ial. I f you’re present ing t o t he Am ericans, focus on fut ure solut ions rat her t han past problem s and don’t be afraid t o give your own opinions and recom m endat ions upfront . I f your audience is from Germ any, on t he ot her hand, avoid t he hard sell. Try, inst ead, t o give a det ailed, balanced and logical view of t he advant ages and disadvant ages. And if your audience is French, m ake sure t hat your argum ent is logical and consist ent .
Fin d a con cr e t e con t e x t Even if t he m em bers of your audience seem t o have not hing in com m on wit h each ot her, keep asking yourself quest ions unt il you find a com m on denom inat or. Rem em ber, people only see som et hing when t hey have t he right m et aphor t o perceive it . Finding t hat m et aphor will oft en t urn a sat isfact ory
present at ion int o a brilliant one.
Spe a k w it h im pa ct Keep your sent ences short , sim ple and act ive. Avoid long abst ract nouns. Use t he verbs your audience will underst and. Avoid expressions like wit h a fine- t oot h com b and abbreviat ions like spec. St ress t he im port ant part s of t he sent ence. Pause aft er each phrase and sent ence. At every st ep, t ell t he audience where t hey are, where t hey’ve been, and where t hey’re going.
Ch a pt e r 6 : M a k in g D e a ls Ove r vie w Let us never negot iat e out of fear. But let us never fear t o negot iat e. Let bot h sides explore what problem s unit e us inst ead of belaboring t hose problem s which divide us… Toget her let us explore t he st ars… ( John F Kennedy – I naugural address, 20 January 1961) Have you not iced t hat , when a deal falls t hrough ( fails) , m ost negot iat ors aut om at ically blam e som e pract ical issue: t he client couldn’t afford t o pay for t he kind of qualit y we offer; or we don’t have t he capacit y t o supply t he volum es t hey’re looking for. Very few people are prepared t o adm it t hat t hey lost t he cont ract because t hey didn’t handle t he client or t he negot iat ion in t he right way. I n t he int ernat ional arena, however, it ’s your negot iat ing st yle above all else t hat can m ake or break a deal: Two com panies had been short - list ed for a m aj or infrast ruct ural cont ract in Mexico. One was Nort h Am erican, t he ot her Swedish. Bot h com panies were invit ed t o Mexico t o present t heir proposals t o t he relevant m inist ry and t o st art negot iat ing t he t erm s of a deal. The Am ericans put a lot of effort int o producing a high- t ech, hard- hit t ing present at ion. Their m essage was clear: ‘We can give you t he m ost t echnically advanced equipm ent at a price our com pet it ors can’t m at ch.’ The t eam – which consist ed of senior t echnical expert s, lawyers, and int erpret ers – flew down from t heir New York head office t o Mexico Cit y where t hey had reserved room s in one of t he t op hot els for a week. I n order t o put on t he best possible perform ance for t he m inist er and his officials, t he Am ericans had arranged t o give t heir present at ion in a conference room at t he hot el; and t hey had brought all t he necessary equipm ent wit h t hem from t he St at es. All t he arrangem ent s had been writ t en down in great det ail and sent t o t he Mexican officials t wo weeks earlier.
At t he agreed t im e t he Am erican t eam were ready t o present , but t hey had no one t o present t o. The people from t he m inist ry arrived at various t im es over t he next hour. They didn’t apologize for being lat e, but j ust began t o chat am iably wit h t he Am ericans about a wide range of non- business m at t ers. The leader of t he Am erican t eam kept glancing anxiously at his wat ch. Finally, he suggest ed t hat t he present at ion should st art . Though t he Mexicans seem ed surprised, t hey polit ely agreed, and t ook t heir seat s. Twent y m inut es lat er t he m inist er – accom panied by som e senior officials – walked in. He looked ext rem ely angry and asked t he Am ericans t o st art t he present at ion again from t he beginning. Ten m inut es lat er, he st art ed t alking t o an aide who had j ust arrived wit h a m essage for him . When t he Am erican present er st opped speaking, t he m inist er signalled t hat he should cont inue. By t his t im e, m ost of t he audience were t alking am ongst t hem selves. When invit ed t o ask quest ions at t he end, t he only t hing t he m inist er want ed t o know was why t he Am ericans had t old t hem so lit t le about t heir com pany’s hist ory. Lat er, during lunch, t he Am ericans were very surprised t o be asked quest ions about t heir individual backgrounds and qualificat ions, rat her t han t he t echnical det ails of t heir product s. The Minist er had a brief word wit h t he Am erican t eam leader and left wit hout eat ing or drinking anyt hing. Over t he next few days, t he Am ericans cont act ed t heir Mexican count erpart s several t im es in an at t em pt t o fix a m eet ing and st art t he negot iat ions. They rem inded t hem t hat t hey had t o fly back t o t he St at es at t he end of t he week. But t he Mexicans’ response was always t he sam e: ‘We need t im e t o exam ine your proposal am ongst ourselves first .’ At t he end of t he week t he Am ericans left Mexico angry, frust rat ed and em pt y- handed.
I t was t he Swedes who won t his lucrat ive cont ract , and we’ll have a look at how t hey handled t he
init ial st ages of t he negot iat ion lat er. But first , let ’s t ry t o work out why, despit e t heir best int ent ions, t hings went so badly wrong for t hese negot iat ors from t he USA. There’s no doubt t hat t hey really want ed t his cont ract . And t hey clearly invest ed a lot of t im e, m oney and effort in t rying t o m ake t he best possible im pression: t hey picked a first rat e t eam ; t hey looked round for a prest igious venue; t hey scheduled a carefully t im ed it inerary; t hey planned a com prehensive agenda; t hey put t oget her an ext rem ely com pet it ive offer; and t hey t hought very carefully about how t hey were going t o com m unicat e. A prospect ive client from t he USA would cert ainly have found it all very hard t o resist . The t rouble was, t he prospect ive client s weren’t from t he USA. They were Mexican. And t he Nort h Am ericans failed t o t ake account of t hat . As a result , t hey chose t he wrong negot iat ing t eam ; t hey t ried t o deal wit h t he Mexicans at t he wrong pace and in t he wrong place; and t hey m isread t he signals t hat were being sent . This chapt er aim s t o help you avoid m aking t he sam e cost ly m ist akes.
Pick in g t h e r igh t pe ople You r t e a m At first sight , you m ight t hink t hat t he Am ericans had select ed t heir t eam very carefully indeed: t here were t echnical expert s who could give a good im pression of t he com pany’s expert ise and answer any difficult quest ions; lawyers who could negot iat e a wat ert ight ( com prehensive and free from errors) cont ract ; and int erpret ers who would m ake sure t hat everyt hing was com m unicat ed clearly and accurat ely. So why was t his t he wrong t eam for Mexico? Well, as we saw in Chapt er 2, not every cult ure shares t he Am erican view t hat people should be j udged solely on what t hey do. Mexico is a given st at us cult ure where ot her fact ors such as age and posit ion are also t aken int o account . The t echnical expert s m ight have been very knowledgeable, but t heir level of seniorit y was way below t hat of t he Mexican m inist er and his senior officials. So, from t he Mexicans’ perspect ive, t here was no way t hey could negot iat e on equal t erm s. To show t he kind of respect t he Mexicans were expect ing, t he Am erican t eam should have been led by a board m em ber, at t he very least . As t he m inist er him self was involved, a president , chairm an or CEO would probably have been m ore appropriat e – part icularly for t he init ial exchanges. I ncluding lawyers on t he t eam was anot her serious m ist ake. For t he Mexicans, business is personal. I f you want t o m ake deals wit h t hem , you have t o build a personal relat ionship first . Filling t he room wit h lawyers at t he very first m eet ing does lit t le t o develop m ut ual warm t h and t rust . Why on eart h would people who t rust each ot her need lawyers t o record and check everyt hing t hat was being said? Of course, you’ll need t o bring your lawyers in when you st art drawing up t he cont ract . But unt il t hen, you should leave t hem at hom e. A few years ago, at t he height of t he Am erican craze for polit ical correct ness in t heir universit ies, st udent s were encouraged t o sign cont ract ual checklist s of what t hey were and were not willing t o do wit h a pot ent ial sexual part ner on a first dat e. That way bot h part ners could be sure t hey weren’t exploit ing one anot her. To m uch of t he rest of t he world ( and, t o be fair, t o m any Am ericans) , t his t ook all t he m yst ery and rom ance out of t he dat ing gam e. I t reduced it t o a purely funct ional t ransact ion. Maybe t hat ’s what t he Mexicans t hought t he lawyers were doing t o t he negot iat ion. And why did t he Am ericans decide t o bring ext ernal int erpret ers wit h t hem ? Theirs was a huge com pany wit h offices all over Sout h Am erica. Surely t hey could have found a Spanish speaker who was in a senior enough posit ion t o t ake an act ive part in t hese negot iat ions. I nt erpret ers are very useful, of course. And t here will be som e occasions when you have t o bring t hem in. But if you can find som eone from wit hin your own organizat ion who speaks t he local language, t hey’ll be able t o help you get m uch closer t o your part ners t han an int erpret er can. Only one of your own people can show t he em pat hy t hat is needed t o develop a warm and t rust ing relat ionship bet ween your t wo organizat ions. The t eam t hat t he Am ericans put t oget her reflect ed t heir own cult ural values. As t his was a m aj or infrast ruct ural cont ract , t hey assum ed t hat t he Mexicans would be int erest ed, above all, in t echnical expert ise, legal guarant ees and safeguards, and clear, st raight forward com m unicat ion. But , as we have seen, what t he Mexicans were really looking for were part ners t hey could t rust ; people who showed t hem warm t h and t reat ed t hem wit h respect . The t eam t he Am ericans picked sent all t he wrong signals. As a result , t hey didn’t even m ake it t o t he negot iat ing t able.
Th e ir t e a m Picking t he right people for your t eam is vit al. I t ’s equally im port ant t o m ake sure t hat you are m eet ing t he right people. A very prest igious Germ an com pany had a long- t erm relat ionship wit h a client firm in Nort h Africa. The firm em ployed a large t eam of t echnical expert s wit h im pressive qualificat ions. And,
during t he year, t he Germ ans had frequent and successful cont act wit h t hem . But when t he t erm s of t he cont ract were renegot iat ed at t he end of every year, t hese t echnical expert s weren’t present . Their president , whose t echnical expert ise was fairly lim it ed, would fly over t o Germ any on his own and conduct t he negot iat ions him self. That was because his inst inct s t old him t hat t op com panies expect t o deal wit h very senior m anagers. But , of course, for t he funct ional, acquired st at us Germ ans, he was t he wrong person. They would have been m uch happier t o deal wit h one of t he t echnical expert s. Their annual m eet ings wit h t he president were a night m are. They had t o explain every single det ail t o him and it t ook hours t o put t he deal t oget her. Aft er one part icularly long and frust rat ing session, t he Germ ans polit ely suggest ed t hat , next t im e, t he president should bring one of his t echnical expert s wit h him . To t heir relief, he agreed. The following year, t he Germ ans arranged for one of t heir own board m em bers t o t ake care of t he president while t hey negot iat ed wit h t he t echnical guy. The president was delight ed t o be t aken t o lunch and shown round t he com pany art galleries by som eone of his own st at us. And t he Germ ans were equally delight ed t o be able t o put t he deal t oget her so quickly and easily. Of course, in t his case, t he t wo com panies already had a long- st anding relat ionship. So m eet ing t he wrong person didn’t break t he deal. Even so, relat ions m ight have det eriorat ed over t im e if t he Germ ans hadn’t found a way t o m eet t he right person while st ill showing respect for t he president ’s st at us. I f you m eet t he wrong person in t he init ial st ages of your relat ion- ship, however, t he door t o t hat com pany m ay be closed t o you forever. When Wim , t he m anaging direct or of a Dut ch t ool m anufact urer, was looking for a dist ribut or in Asia, he was delight ed when Wat anabe- san, t he chief execut ive of a m aj or Tokyo firm , agreed t o m eet him . Wim knew t hat Japanese corporat e st ruct ures t ended t o be m uch m ore vert ical t han in t he Net herlands. And so he assum ed, logically enough, t hat t he
guy at t he t op of t he t ree would be t he one who m ade and execut ed t he real decisions. The chief execut ive’s son- in- law, Paul – an I rishm an who had worked for t he Tokyo firm for m any years–act ed as int erpret er. The m eet ing was warm and friendly and, as he flew back t o Am st erdam , Wim felt very pleased wit h him self. He was convinced he had found t he right business part ner. As t he weeks passed, however, he heard not hing back from Wat anabe- san. Wim t ried calling him , but he was never available. He sent him several let t ers, but t hey rem ained unanswered. What had gone wrong? Paul – t he I rishm an who had act ed as int erpret er – t old us t he ot her side of t he st ory: I t was really em barrassing. As soon as I walked in, I realized t hat Wat anabe- san wasn’t rem ot ely int erest ed in m aking a deal. You see, he hadn’t invit ed any m iddle m anagers t o t he m eet ing. And, over here, t hey’re t he ones who really put deals t oget her and m ake t hem work. But poor old Wim was obviously delight ed t o be t alking t o t he t op guy. As far as he was concerned, t hat m eant t he deal was as good as done. For us, it was j ust a rat her m eaningless cerem onial discussion bet ween our t op m an and t heirs. I n m any part s of t he world, a one- t o- one m eet ing wit h t he chief execut ive would be a very posit ive signal indeed. But , as we saw in Chapt er 2,Japan’s business cult ure is highly group- orient ed. St rat egic decisions are only t aken aft er a t horough consult at ion process (nem awashi) . Your m eet ing m ay be wit h t he t op m an, but if he’s t he only one who’s list ening t o your pit ch, it ’s highly unlikely t o result in a deal. When you’re t rying t o m ake a deal wit h a com pany whose cult ural values are very different from your own, it ’s not always easy t o work out whet her t he person you’re m eet ing is t he right one or not . Our advice, as ever, is t o resist t he t em pt at ion t o j um p t o any hast y conclusions about your prospect ive part ner’s m ot ives. I nst ead, t ry t o read t he signals t hey are sending from t heir cult ural perspect ive, not yours. I f, for exam ple, you’re from a group- orient ed cult ure ( like Japan, t he Arab world or China) and you’re doing business wit h an individualist one ( such as t he USA, Germ any or Brit ain) , don’t im m ediat ely assum e t hat t he deal has no fut ure if t here’s only one person present at t he m eet ing. As long as you’re t alking t o t he right person, t here’s no reason why t he deal shouldn’t go ahead. Sim ilarly, if you’re from a given st at us cult ure ( Lat in Am erica, say, or I ndia) and you’re m eet ing som eone from an acquired st at us cult ure ( such as t he USA, Aust ralia or t he Net herlands) , don’t be offended if your part ner is younger t han you, or has a m ore j unior posit ion. She has alm ost cert ainly been sent t o t his negot iat ion because she has t he t echnical expert ise, skills and knowledge t o put t his part icular deal t oget her. I n short , whet her you’re put t ing your own t eam t oget her or evaluat ing your part ners’ t eam , it ’s vit al t o m ake a conscious effort t o st ep out side your own cult ural perspect ives. As t he Am ericans found t o
t heir cost , picking t he wrong people can break a deal before you even get t o t he negot iat ing t able.
Th in k in g a bou t pa ce a n d pla ce The Am ericans paid m et iculous at t ent ion t o t he schedule and agenda for t heir present at ion and init ial m eet ings wit h t he Mexicans. They also spent a lot of m oney on t he venue. From t heir perspect ive, conduct ing t he negot iat ions at one of t he m ost prest igious hot els in t he cit y had t wo m aj or advant ages: t hey could offer t he Mexicans t he kind of t op class hospit alit y t hat would obviously be expect ed; and t hey would keep cont rol of t he negot iat ing environm ent . I ndeed, t heir m ain inst inct seem s t o have been t o rem ain in cont rol; t o leave not hing t o chance. And t o m ake absolut ely sure t hat not hing would go wrong, t hey wrot e all t he arrangem ent s down in great det ail and sent t hem t o t he Mexican officials well in advance of t he m eet ing. When t hey were t hinking about pace and place, t he Am ericans assum ed t hat it was vit al t o dem onst rat e how serious, well organized and professional t hey were. As we have seen, t his was t he wrong assum pt ion t o m ake.
Pa ce As we saw in Chapt er 1, t he Nort h Am ericans are highly m onochronic. I n t heir cult ure, people are j udged by how well t hey can cont rol t heir t im e. And people who can’t do so are not t o be t rust ed. The Mexicans, on t he ot her hand, are highly polychronic. To t hem , how you nurt ure relat ionships is m uch m ore im port ant t han how you m anage your t im e. Far from being im pressed by t he Am ericans’ det ailed and carefully t im ed schedule, t he Mexicans probably t hought t hey were being pushy or even arrogant . The t wo prospect ive part ners would fall at opposit e ends of t his scale t oo:
The Mexicans want ed t o discuss t he proposals am ong t hem selves in a leisurely fashion; and t hey couldn’t underst and why t he Am ericans were in such a rush. The Am ericans, on t he ot her hand, were im pat ient for a decision; t hey couldn’t underst and why it was t aking t he Mexicans so long t o consider such a st raight forward and at t ract ive offer. But , of course, t he Mexicans weren’t sim ply t hinking about t he proposals t he Am ericans had m ade. I n fact , t hey were far m ore int erest ed in form ing an im pression of t he m em bers of t he Am erican t eam : Are t hese t he kind of people we want t o work wit h? Can we t rust t hem ? Could we build a good relat ionship wit h t hem ? The answer t hey cam e t o, in each case, was No. And t hat was largely because, at every st age, t he Am ericans t ried t o force t he pace: t hey looked anxious and surprised when t he Mexicans were lat e; t hey st art ed t he present at ion before t he m ost im port ant person arrived; and t hey kept rem inding t he Mexicans of t heir im m inent depart ure in an at t em pt t o force t hem t o t he negot iat ing t able. When your prospect ive part ners are from a polychronic, pat ient cult ure, you won’t get anywhere if you t ie yourself t o self- im posed deadlines or show you are desperat e t o cat ch t he plane hom e. You need t o allow plent y of t im e t o get t o know one anot her and build t he relat ion- ship. You have t o follow t he m ood, not t he schedule. When t he Mexicans arrived lat e for t he present at ion, it was an ideal opport unit y for inform al and relaxed sm all t alk. The Am ericans failed t o t ake advant age of t his because t hey were so obsessed wit h t he schedule. For t hem ( as well as t he Germ ans, Swiss and Dut ch) t im e is m oney. And t here’s no point in spending t oo m uch of eit her on unproduct ive sm all t alk. But , as we saw in Chapt er 4, for m any cult ures sm all t alk is an essent ial part of building or cem ent ing t he relat ionship. So, when you’re negot iat ing int ernat ionally, our advice is t o follow your part ners’ lead. And if you com e from a cult ure t hat is uncom fort able wit h sm all t alk, m ake sure you have plent y of open quest ions ready t o
use. The m ore quest ions you ask, t he bet t er you will underst and your part ners. And t hat ’s bound t o help you m ake a bet t er deal. Com m unicat ing clearly across cult ures is never easy. So if t hey had m anaged t o reach t he negot iat ing t able, t he Am ericans would cert ainly have needed an agenda of som e kind. But it was a serious m ist ake t o prepare such a rigid agenda wit hout consult ing t heir Mexican part ners. An agenda should always be agreed, never im posed. And you need t o m ake sure t hat you handle it in a way t hat suit s t he nat ural pace and rhyt hm of t he local part ner. The linear, t im ed agenda favoured in m onochronic cult ures such as t he USA and Germ any is not universal. I n poly- chronic cult ures, like t he Arab world, people feel very uncom fort able discussing and finalizing one issue at a t im e. They t end t o t ake a m ore circular approach and m ay well revisit t he sam e point again and again in t he course of t he m eet ing. We believe t hat not hing is agreed unt il everyt hing is agreed; in ot her words, t hat successful negot iat ors link all t he issues. I n t his respect , t he way polychronic cult ures inst inct ively handle t he agenda can give t hem a considerable advant age over t heir m ore m onochronic part ners. Am erican pace is fast by alm ost any st andards. Maybe t hat ’s because, perhaps m ore t han any ot her cult ure, t hey em brace change, look const ant ly t o t he fut ure, and have lit t le respect for t radit ion. I n fact , t hey would probably fall t o t he far left of t his scale:
The Am ericans ( and ot her fut ure- orient ed cult ures like t he ‘new Russia’) t end t o see t radit ion as one of t he m ain barriers t o progress. When t op Wall St reet analyst , Byron Wien, described Europe as ‘an open air m useum ’, he wasn’t paying a com plim ent . The gap bet ween fut ure- and past - orient ed cult ures is considerable. While t he lat t er ( for exam ple, Europe and Lat in Am erica) are likely t o focus on problem s, t he form er will be m ore int erest ed in solut ions; while t he Am ericans will be keen t o int roduce new syst em s, t he Mexicans will be m ore int erest ed in working out what went wrong wit h t he old ones. These differing perspect ives will have a m arked im pact on t he pace of t he negot iat ion and bot h part ies need t o be willing t o adapt . I f you place t oo m uch em phasis on t he past , t he Am ericans will t hink you’re gloom y, conservat ive and lacking in dynam ism ; if you focus exclusively on t he fut ure, t he Mexicans and Europeans will perceive you as superficial. I t ’s not j ust your pace and rhyt hm t hat m ay need t o be adapt ed. You also have t o t hink carefully about where your part ners expect t o conduct t he negot iat ions.
Pla ce I f your colleagues t ell you t hey have j ust t aken part in an int ernat ional negot iat ion, what im age im m ediat ely springs t o m ind? I f you’re from a highly funct ional business cult ure, you will probably pict ure t he t wo t eam s of negot iat ors facing each ot her across a conference t able in som e sm art hot el, your com pany’s board room , or t he corner of a colleague’s office. I t ’s unlikely t hat you will pict ure t he negot iat ors sweat ing in a sauna, sipping m alt whiskies in a night club, or reclining on sunbeds in t he garden of som eone’s weekend hom e. But for people from highly personal business cult ures, t hese inform al venues are oft en where t he real business t akes place. The Am ericans nat urally assum ed t hat a five st ar hot el wit h luxurious conference room s was t he obvious venue for an im port ant int ernat ional negot iat ion. But t hey would have had a m uch bet t er chance of m aking a deal if t hey had been prepared t o m eet t heir Mexican part ners in a series of m ore inform al, personal set t ings. I nst ead of m aking an at t em pt t o m eet t hem on t heir own ground, however, t hey m ade t he Mexicans com e t o t hem . The hot el conference room , wit h all it s high- t ech equipm ent flown in from t he USA, was an ext ension of t he Am ericans’ t errit ory. They were t he rich neighbours and t hey were going t o show t heir poor relat ives how t hings should be done. At least , t hat ’s how t he whole arrangem ent m ust have appeared t o t he Mexicans. The Am ericans believed t hat t hey were act ing as at t ent ive and generous host s and t hat t hey were t reat ing t heir prospect ive client s as honoured guest s. This would have been fine if t hey had been in t he USA. But while t hey were in Mexico, t hey should have let t he Mexicans play host .
Mexico is a given st at us cult ure. That m eans t here are cert ain prot ocols which have t o be observed when you’re dealing wit h senior people, and behaviour ‘onst age’ at t he negot iat ing t able t ends t o be fairly form al. I n such cult ures, it ’s oft en m ore const ruct ive t o t ake t he negot iat ion ‘offst age’ so t hat your part ners can relax and get t o know you. Only t hen will t hey feel free t o speak frankly and openly. ‘Offst age’ negot iat ing can help you get round ot her problem s t oo – as a French negot iat or recent ly found. He had at t ended a Working wit h t he Japanese course at Canning. A few weeks aft er t he course, he sent us som e feedback: Last m ont h, I t ook part in a negot iat ion wit h our Japanese part ners. I n t he course of t he m eet ing, I asked one of t heir negot iat ors a num ber of quest ions t hat relat ed t o his area of expert ise. But each t im e, he evaded t he quest ion. I was beginning t o get very frust rat ed when I rem em bered what you had said about t aking t he negot iat ions ‘offst age’. So I called a break and t ook t his guy int o a corner. Once he was away from his colleagues, he happily answered all m y quest ions in full. When we got back t o t he t able, t he negot iat ion st art ed m oving again. Going ‘offst age’ had m ade an enorm ous difference. The Japanese guy wasn’t being deliberat ely obst ruct ive. He j ust didn’t feel com fort able about expressing his opinions in front of so m any people. That ’s because, in his highly group- orient ed cult ure, individuals are not expect ed t o push t hem selves forward during group m eet ings. Personal views are usually only exchanged during t he inform al, one- t o- one discussions t hat t ake place during nem awashi. I f t he Frenchm an had cont inued asking t he sam e quest ions again and again – or worse, shown his frust rat ion at t he lack of answers – he would have blocked t he negot iat ion and probably dam aged t he relat ionship. But because he showed t hat he under- st ood his Japanese count erpart ’s difficult ies by suggest ing a break and having a quiet word wit h him in t he corner, he reinforced t he relat ionship and got t he negot iat ion m oving again. I f t he Mexican m inist er had invit ed t he Am ericans t o spend t he weekend at his hacienda, t hey m ight well have been reluct ant t o accept . As we saw in Chapt er 3, fixed t rut h cult ures oft en regard ext ravagant ent ert ainm ent as a form of bribery. Or t hey m ay even suspect t hat t heir part ners are t rying t o play som e kind of dirt y t rick. That ’s cert ainly what Nigel Whit e, t he general m anager of Canning Tokyo, t hought when he m et a prospect ive client in Finland. I t was m any years ago when he was working as a m et als t rader for an Am erican invest m ent bank: I t was m y first t rip t o Finland and I had no idea what t o expect . The m eet ing st art ed at around 11.15 am . I t ried t o m ake som e sm all t alk, but m y count erpart j ust gave one- word answers t o t he m any quest ions I asked him . To m y surprise, aft er about 10 m inut es, he invit ed m e t o have a sauna. Though I was very uncom fort able wit h t he idea, I decided t o accept his offer. We went down t o t he sauna. Before we went in, we had a beer; we cam e out of t he sauna and had anot her beer; t hen anot her sauna followed by anot her beer... and so on. Just as m y head was beginning t o spin, t he Finn suddenly st art ed t alking business in surprisingly lucid and fluent English. We put a deal t oget her, and I left for t he airport . As I wait ed in t he execut ive lounge, I began t o suspect t hat I had been t he vict im of a dirt y t rick: t he Finn had got m e drunk so t hat he could lower m y defences and get a bet t er deal. I t wasn’t unt il years lat er t hat I discovered, during a t rip t o Finland for Canning, t hat som e Finns can appear cold unt il t hey’ve had a drink and a sauna wit h you. That ’s where t he relat ionship is form ed. My Finnish client hadn’t been playing a dirt y t rick. He was j ust t rying t o be friendly, and had negot iat ed in good fait h. Nigel’s experience is a salut ary rem inder t hat people from every cult ure, no m at t er how funct ional t heir approach t o business m ay appear t o be, feel t he need t o build a relat ionship wit h t he people t hey’re doing business wit h; and t hat even if your negot iat ing part ners seem t o fall at t he opposit e end of t he relat ionship scale from t he Mexicans, t hey m ay st ill value t he opport unit y t o get t o know you in a m ore inform al set t ing. One of t he m ain problem s in int ernat ional negot iat ions is t hat one person’s dirt y t rick can be anot her person’s st andard negot iat ing behaviour. The key is t o keep an open m ind. I f you t ravel t he world assum ing t hat all foreigners are t rying t o play dirt y t ricks on you, you’ll never forge st rong int ernat ional relat ionships. For t he past few years, we’ve been asking t he part icipant s on our int ernat ional negot iat ions courses t o fill in a quest ionnaire about t heir personal negot iat ing st yle. The quest ions are designed t o find out , for exam ple, how im port ant personal relat ionships are t o t hem , and how im port ant t hey t hink t hey are t o t heir part ners. As you m ight expect , t he vast m aj orit y – 85 per cent – claim t hat personal relat ionships are very im port ant t o t hem ; but only 50 per cent believe t hat t hey are im port ant t o
t heir part ners. Our part icipant s com e from a very wide cross- sect ion of t he world’s m ult inat ionals and m any of t hose firm s deal wit h each ot her. So clearly t hese negot iat ors are m isreading t he signals t heir part ners are sending. And differing at t it udes t o pace and place m ay well be one of t he causes. Take t he Am erican–Mexican deal we’ve been t alking about . The Am ericans would undoubt edly have claim ed t hat building a personal relat ionship wit h t heir part ners was of param ount im port ance t o t hem . But t he Mexicans clearly didn’t t hink t hat t his was t he case. And, like 72 per cent of our part icipant s, t he Am ericans would probably also have said t hat t hey always look for com m on ground rat her t han t ry t o im pose a solut ion on t heir part ners. But , again, t he Mexicans would probably have been ast onished t o hear it . Your int ernat ional part ners can’t read your m ind. They can only t ry t o int erpret t he signals you’re sending. And t he way t hey int erpret t hose signals will be st rongly influenced by t heir own cult ural norm s. The Am ericans didn’t get as far as t he negot iat ing t able because t he Mexicans were offended by t heir choice of t eam and t he way t hey t ried t o force t he pace. Even if you reach t he negot iat ing t able, you will st ill have t o work very hard t o play t he gam e t o win.
Pla yin g t h e ga m e t o w in I n our experience, int ernat ional com m unicat ion is oft en of a very low st andard. Diplom acy is generally t he first casualt y; clarit y t he second. We regularly ask t he business people who com e on our int ernat ional negot iat ions courses t o play a gam e called ‘The Prisoners’ Dilem m a’. Two people are asked t o im agine t hat t hey’re in j ail. The t rainer – in t he role of prison guard – asks each of t hem , again and again, whet her t hey’re prepared t o squeal ( inform ) on t he ot her prisoner or not . They’re not allowed t o com m unicat e wit h each ot her. But t hey know t hat :
if bot h of t hem st ay silent , t hey’ll bot h go free ( ie get t wo point s each) ; if t hey bot h squeal, t hey’ll bot h go t o j ail for a very long t im e ( ie get one point each) ; if one prisoner t alks and t he ot her doesn’t , t he squealer will be released and given a fat reward ( ie t hree point s) ; his silent part ner will be t aken out and shot ( ie get a zero score) . Aft er each round, t he players are t old what t heir fellow prisoner has decided t o do. As you would expect , in a m ono- cult ural group where t he t wo players already know one anot her, t hey find it relat ively easy t o predict how t he ot her is likely t o behave in t he next round. And t hey usually fall, fairly quickly, int o a pat t ern of rem aining silent . Ult im at ely, of course, t his is what m ost pairs of prisoners end up doing. But , in a m ult i- cult ural group – part icularly where t he players don’t know each ot her – it usually t akes t hem m uch longer t o reach t hat point . Say, for exam ple, t he t wo players are Renat e and Gianni. For t he first t wo rounds t hey bot h rem ain silent . Here’s an opport unit y t hinks Gianni. Renat e is obviously a ‘sucker’ ( som eone who is easily deceived) . She’s sure t o rem ain silent in t he t hird round, so I ’ll squeal and claim t he reward. Sure enough, Renat e does rem ain silent in t he t hird round. And when Gianni squeals, she’s ext rem ely annoyed. So what does she do in t he fourt h round? Well, she m ay bear a grudge ( feeling of anger or dislike t owards som eone who has harm ed you) and squeal. Or she m ay rem ain silent in an at t em pt t o t each her cheat ing part ner t he right way t o behave. I f Gianni cont inues t o squeal, however, t he gam e soon det eriorat es int o a fight t o t he deat h. And bot h players get very low scores. The analogy bet ween t his gam e and a negot iat ion is clear. For bot h players t o ‘win’ t hey need t o t rust one anot her and int erpret accurat ely t he signals t heir part ner is sending. When you’re negot iat ing wit h people from your own or a sim ilar cult ure, you can usually recognize an aggressive m ove, a gest ure of fait h or a capit ulat ion relat ively easily. But when your part ners are from a different cult ure, t he signals can be m uch m ore difficult t o read. And if you want t o play t he gam e t o win, you will need t o m ake a conscious effort t o underst and what lies behind t heir behaviour and, of course, t o t hink very carefully about t he way you express yourself.
Un de r st a n din g t h e ir be lie fs Clearly, what your part ners believe will have a m arked im pact on how t hey behave; and, of course, on how t hey int erpret your behaviour. A couple of years ago, Chris was running a negot iat ions course for a group of proj ect leaders – am ong t hem Pascale and Bruno – at an engineering firm in France. Pascale’s client s were in Aust ria; Bruno’s were in Algeria. Apart from locat ion, t he t wo proj ect s were very sim ilar. They were of an ident ical size and bot h were in t he public sect or. Aft er t he init ial negot iat ion, in each case, a writ t en cont ract had been drawn up. The Aust rian docum ent ran t o 132 pages; t he Algerian one was a m ere 7 pages. Out of int erest , Chris asked t he t wo proj ect m anagers how oft en t hey act ually looked at t he cont ract . Pascale replied t hat she t ook t he 132- page docum ent wit h her every t im e she m et her Aust rian client s; and t hat it form ed t he basis of m ost of t heir discussions.
Bruno sim ply said: ‘I t ook t he cont ract t o a m eet ing in Algeria once. But I ’ll never m ake t he sam e m ist ake again.’ Apparent ly, as soon as he pulled t he cont ract out of his briefcase t o clarify a couple of point s, his Algerian count erpart exploded: ‘Why do you need t o look at t he
cont ract ?’, he asked. ‘I f t here’s a problem , j ust t ell m e. And we can find a solut ion t oget her. I can’t believe you’re doing t his. I t hought we t rust ed each ot her.’ Bruno had t o work very hard t o get t he relat ionship back on t rack. How can som et hing t hat is accept ed as com m on business pract ice in Aust ria cause so m uch offence in Algeria? Well, part of t he answer lies in t he t wo cult ures’ preferences on t he following scale:
Along wit h m ost Nort hern Europeans and Nort h Am ericans, Pascale’s Aust rian part ners would place t hem selves t owards t he left of t his scale. For t hem , m em oranda of underst anding, writ t en sum m aries and e- m ailed offers m ay carry m uch m ore weight t han what people say in a m eet ing; and cont ract s alm ost cert ainly will. That ’s probably why t he Am ericans t ook t heir lawyers t o t he first m eet ing wit h t he Mexicans. Bruno’s Algerian part ner, on t he ot her hand, com es from a cult ure t hat has a st rong oral t radit ion. He accept s t hat cont ract s are a necessary part of any int ernat ional deal; but t hey don’t define or shape t he relat ionship as t hey do in a m ore writ t en cult ure. I f you lean t owards t he left of t his scale and you’re t rying t o m ake a deal wit h som eone who falls t o t he right , rem em ber t hat your part ners will probably t ake what you say m ore seriously t han what you writ e. So keep t he cont ract out of sight , don’t m ake verbal prom ises you’re not prepared t o keep, and beware of t aking t oo m any not es. I f you spend t he whole m eet ing writ ing down what t hey say, t hey’ll t hink you don’t t rust t hem . That ’s not t o say you shouldn’t t ake any not es at all. I nt ernat ional negot iat ion is hard enough, part icularly if one or bot h part ners are speaking a language which is not t heir nat ive t ongue. And it ’s vit al t o m ake sure t hat you’ve underst ood one anot her correct ly. But your first priorit y should be t o look at your part ners, list en carefully t o what t hey say, and t alk t o t hem . I f you sum m arize what has been discussed frequent ly, you should have no problem rem em bering t he point s t hat have been raised. Sum m arizing will also enable you t o check t hat you’ve underst ood one anot her correct ly. Once som et hing concret e has been agreed, sum m arize it t oget her verbally, and only t hen writ e down a few brief not es. The Aust rians and Algerians would also fall at opposit e ends of t his scale:
People from m uch of Nort h Africa, t he Middle East and part s of Asia would place t hem selves t o t he right . For t hem , t he black and whit e cert aint y of a cont ract is in conflict wit h t heir religious and spirit ual beliefs. Forces beyond t heir cont rol could int ervene at any t im e and disrupt t heir plans. So how can a docum ent possibly define what will happen in t he fut ure? That ’s probably why t he Algerian cont ract was only seven pages long. I f you believe in dest iny, t here’s no point in having a cont ract t hat covers every single event ualit y. When Muslim s are negot iat ing, t hey will oft en qualify what t hey say wit h t he phrase I nshallah ( if God wills it ) . They’re not dem onst rat ing an unwillingness t o com m it t o t he deal. They’re j ust recognizing t hat circum st ances can change; and rem inding you t hat , if t hey do, part ners who t rust each ot her can always renegot iat e t he t erm s of t he deal. When Bruno pulled t he cont ract out of his briefcase, t hen, his Algerian part ner was very offended: part ly because it was a signal t hat Bruno didn’t t rust him ; and part ly because it went against his deeply held beliefs about t he m eaning of life. Fort unat ely Bruno didn’t repeat his m ist ake. From t hen on, he left t he cont ract at hom e and m ade a conscious effort t o show pat ience and respect for his Algerian part ner’s beliefs. All of t his is not t o say t hat people from dest iny cult ures m ake no at t em pt t o prot ect t heir own int erest s. Far from it . There’s an old saying in t he Middle East which neat ly sum s up t heir approach: Trust in Allah, but always t ie your cam el. How m uch im port ance you at t ach t o t he cont ract isn’t t he only t hing t hat can send t he wrong signals
t o your part ners: Two firm s in t he brewing indust ry, one Dut ch and t he ot her Japanese, were in t he final st age of negot iat ing a cont ract . Neit her side was prepared t o concede on som e m inor det ails. I t was Sunday aft ernoon in one of t he Japanese com pany’s breweries. The Dut ch t eam asked for a break and, when offered drinks, request ed som e beers – t hey were in a brewery, aft er all. The Japanese left t he room . I nst ead of t he usual 10 m inut es, t he break last ed nearly an hour. On t heir ret urn, t he leader of t he Japanese delegat ion bowed deeply and said t hey were now prepared t o accept all t he rem aining dem ands t he Dut ch had m ade. The delight ed Dut ch and considerably less ent husiast ic Japanese shook hands on t he deal. Only lat er did t he Dut ch discover t hat t heir request for alcohol had been int erpret ed by t he Japanese as a subt le: ‘Accept our dem ands or t he deal is off.’ Tradit ionally in Japan, alcohol only com es out t o celebrat e an agreem ent . At first sight , t his m ight look like a great result for t he Dut ch. They accident ally achieved an unexpect edly big ‘win’. But t here’s lit t le point in achieving a result t hat your part ners will st ruggle t o deliver. Which was exact ly what happened in t his case. The Japanese negot iat ors had shaken hands on t he deal and so, nat urally, t hey signed t he cont ract . But because t hey had accept ed t he revised t erm s wit hout first get t ing t he agreem ent of each of t heir colleagues, t here were bit t er disput es about t he concessions t hey had been forced t o m ake. The Dut ch hadn’t been t rying t o cheat on t heir Japanese part ners. But it m ust have looked t hat way t o m any of t he Japanese m anagers who were responsible for execut ing t he deal. As a result – like Renat e in ‘The Prisoners’ Dilem m a’ – t hey t urned int o grudgers. And it t ook t he Dut ch a long t im e t o regain t he t rust t hat was needed for bot h part ners t o t ruly ‘win’ t he gam e. I f t he Dut ch could have gone back and changed t heir drinks order, you can be sure t hat t hey would. But you generally only get one chance. And if you send t he wrong signal, you could break t he deal or cause serious dam age t o t he relat ionship. So before you do business in an unfam iliar cult ure, find out about local cust om s. I f you ask people who know t he cult ure well t o t ell you what t he hidden dangers are, you will probably – like us – be ast onished at som e of t he st ories t hey t ell you: A Japanese banker, Akihiko, was in Am st erdam put t ing a deal t oget her wit h a Dut chm an, Ton, from a big European bank. Ton offered t o t ake Akihiko for a beer. Akihiko scrat ched his nose in m ild em barrassm ent , explained t hat he didn’t really drink, and asked if t hey could go t o a coffee shop inst ead. Ton assum ed, from t he hesit ant way Akihiko m ade t he suggest ion, t hat he want ed t o visit one of Am st erdam ’s fam ous m arij uana coffee shops. Ton was happy t o oblige. And, as t hey sat down, he rolled a j oint and offered it t o Akihiko. The poor m an was horrified. But he didn’t want t o cause any em barrassm ent , so he accept ed Ton’s offer. From t hat day on, Akihiko couldn’t do enough for Ton. He was t he m ost flexible of part ners and t he ent ire t wo- year relat ionship went except ionally well. I t was only aft er t he deal had com e t o an end t hat Ton discovered why Akihiko had been so accom m odat ing. Apparent ly, he had been t errified t hat his bosses in Tokyo m ight be t old t hat he was an habit ual dope sm oker. So he had been very careful not t o do anyt hing t hat m ight upset Ton.
I f Ton had realized t he im pact t he coffee shop incident had had on Akihiko, he t oo would have been horrified. I f only Akihiko had t old him t hat t here was a m isunderst anding. The t rouble was, he couldn’t . He was t oo em barrassed. That ’s because Japan is a cult ure t hat is concerned wit h m aint aining face. I t had been difficult enough for Akihiko t o refuse Ton’s offer of a beer. He probably want ed t o die of sham e when he realized t hat his Dut ch count erpart t hought he want ed t o sm oke m arij uana inst ead. How on eart h could he explain t he m isunderst anding wit hout causing considerable em barrassm ent t o t hem bot h? Of course, you’re unlikely ever t o find yourself in such an ext rem e sit uat ion as Ton and Akihiko. But t here will be plent y of occasions when your cult ural condit ioning leads you t o j um p t o t he wrong conclusion. Which is why it ’s vit al t o keep checking t hat you’ve underst ood your part ners correct ly. Many people will find it hard t o underst and why Ton even cont em plat ed offering Akihiko t he opport unit y t o sm oke m arij uana. Maybe it was som et hing his ot her int ernat ional colleagues had been keen t o t ry while t hey were in a count ry where t he pract ice had been decrim inalized. Even so, he shouldn’t j ust have assum ed t hat was what his Japanese colleague want ed t o do. When Akihiko asked t o go t o a coffee shop, Ton should have t ried t o find som e diplom at ic way t o check t hat he had int erpret ed t he signals correct ly. A general st at em ent like: There’s a nice coffee shop round t he corner, but I ’m not sure you would like it ; som e of t heir cust om ers go t here t o sm oke m arij uana, would quickly have cleared up t he m isunderst anding, and also provided t hem wit h an int erest ing t opic t o discuss wherever t hey did end up having t heir coffee.
Usin g t h e r igh t la n gu a ge I t ’s a pit y t he Am ericans in our first case st udy never got t o t he negot iat ing t able. I f t hey had, t heir Mexican part ners would m ost probably have liked t hem a lot . Earlier in t he chapt er, we m ent ioned t he global negot iat ions survey we’ve been conduct ing. Anot her of t he quest ions we ask is: Who would you m ost like t o be in part nership wit h? I nt erest ingly enough, t he m aj orit y of our part icipant s say t hat t heir preferred part ners are t he Am ericans or t he Germ ans because: You know where you are wit h t hem . They’re direct and t hey say what t hey m ean. As we saw in Chapt er 4, t he Am ericans and Germ ans are low cont ext com m unicat ors. So t hey t end t o say what t hey m ean frankly, explicit ly and direct ly. And while t hey m ay som et im es be perceived as brusque or aggressive, t heir t ransparency m akes a welcom e change from t he confusion and m isunderst anding t hat oft en plagues ( t roubles) int ernat ional negot iat ions. The least popular negot iat ing part ners, according t o our survey, are people from high cont ext cult ures ( like t he Brit ish, I t alians, Japanese and Arabs) . Their lack of clarit y seem s t o confuse and exasperat e people. And t heir part ners oft en assum e t hat t hey are t rying t o play dirt y t ricks on t hem . Anot her int erest ing st at ist ic is t hat t he Am ericans seem t o be alm ost t wice as popular as t he Germ ans. Maybe t hat ’s because t hey t end t o t ake a m ore ent husiast ic, upbeat and fut ure- orient ed approach; and, as we’ve already seen, t hey focus on solut ions rat her t han problem s. I t m ay also be because t hey fall t o t he left of t his scale:
Being prepared t o t ake risks m eans t hat t he Am ericans rarely react negat ively t o an innovat ive proposal. They’re m ore likely t o regard it as an opport unit y and t o be willing t o explore t he opt ions it present s wit h an open m ind. The Germ ans, on t he ot her hand, t end t o be relat ively risk- averse. As we have already seen, t hey also t end t o be m ore past - focused and t o express t hem selves in a fairly low- key way. As a result , t hey’re likely t o spend m ore t im e agonizing over problem s; and t o be less prepared t o explore opt ions t hat could carry t oo m uch risk. Of course, no int ernat ional business person likes t o be t hought of as conservat ive. But j udged by Am erican st andards, m any are. So while t he Am ericans and Germ ans are bot h low cont ext com m unicat ors, t he form er m ay som et im es feel frust rat ed by t he lat t er’s unwillingness t o t ake risks. As t he Germ ans t end t o t ake a funct ional approach t o business, however, t hey’re very unlikely t o resort t o deliberat e abuse or aggression. Unfort unat ely, people from som e of t he m ore relat ionshiporient ed cult ures are som et im es t em pt ed t o m ake com m ent s t hat are far t oo personal: A Brit ish businessm an was negot iat ing a large cont ract in Algeria. Aft er som e sm all t alk, he present ed his init ial offer. His Algerian count erpart react ed very negat ively and aggressively. Not only did he rej ect t he proposals out right , but he m ade som e ext rem ely insult ing and offensive com m ent s about t he Brit ’s m ot her and fat her. Though he was very shocked, t he Brit rem ained calm and wait ed for t he t irade t o end. When it finally did, he leaned forward and said: ‘Right . So are we ready t o negot iat e now?’ The Algerian sm iled: ‘I like you,’ he said. ‘I like your st yle. I t hink we can do business t oget her.’ But , of course, t he Brit didn’t like t he Algerian’s st yle at all. And he did everyt hing he could t o avoid doing business wit h him again. The Algerian was probably j ust t est ing t he Brit . And he was doing so in a way t hat presum ably would have been accept able t o part ners from his own cult ure. But using t his kind of aggressive and insult ing language in t he int ernat ional arena is a serious m ist ake. I ndeed, any at t em pt t o dest abilize your part ners by put t ing t hem under unendurable pressure will rarely produce t he best deal. The Brit perceived t he Algerian guy’s personal at t ack as a dirt y t rick and he resolved never t o do business wit h him again. You are bound t o feel t he need t o challenge som e of t he claim s your part ners are m aking, or t o rej ect som e of t he proposals t hey’re put t ing on t he t able. But when you do so, you need t o t hink carefully about t he way you’re expressing yourself. The m ost successful int ernat ional negot iat ors at t ack issues, not people. They use language t hat is clear, direct and explicit while, at t he sam e t im e, t rying t o convey a posit ive and upbeat at t it ude. That ’s what t he Am ericans t end t o do and, according t o our
survey, t hey seem t o be t he part ners t hat m ost of our int ernat ional client s prefer t o negot iat e wit h. I f you want t o follow t heir exam ple, we recom - m end you t ry t he t hree sim ple t echniques below.
Be soft on pe ople , h a r d on poin t s ( SOPH OP) This is t he single m ost useful piece of advice we can offer t o a negot iat or who is t rying t o m ake deals in t he int ernat ional m arket . The m ost fragile aspect in int ernat ional part nerships is t he relat ionship bet ween t he people involved. By m aint aining a SOPHOP approach, you should be able t o nurt ure t he relat ionship, while st ill ensuring t hat you give no ground on t he com m ercial issues. I f your part ners have decided t hat negot iat ing is about fight ing, t hat ’s fine. Fight over t he point s, but do everyt hing in your power t o avoid m aking it personal. Event ually ( like t he players in ‘The Prisoners’ Dilem m a’) , t hey will follow your exam ple. I f you’re t he one who want s t o fight , again, t hat ’s OK. But don’t let it get personal. Few people in t he world will warm t o you if you irrit at e or offend t hem . As we’ve already seen, som e cult ures t reat business as purely funct ional; for ot hers, it ’s int ensely personal. The lat t er ( for exam ple, people from t he Arab world) will oft en get so em ot ionally involved t hat business and personal issues becom e alm ost inseparable. So when som eone from a funct ional cult ure m akes what t hey t hink is a dispassionat e crit icism of a business issue, t here’s a real danger t hat t heir relat ionship- orient ed part ner will t ake it personally. To avoid t his danger, you need t o exercise cont rol over t he way you express yourself. When you want t o disagree wit h som eone, or m ake a com m ent t hat m ay be perceived as negat ive, avoid t he word you. That way, it will be clear t hat you aren’t at t acking t hem personally: I nst ead of: What are you going t o do about it ? Say: How are w e going t o solve it ? I nst ead of: I don’t agree wit h you . Say: I ’m not sure I agree wit h t h a t . I nst ead of: That ’s not what you said before. Say: I s t h a t what we agreed?
Ke e p e ve r yt h in g con dit ion a l The popularit y of Am erican negot iat ors is based on t heir abilit y t o explore rat her t han rej ect . I n ot her words, t hey’re careful not t o close doors or elim inat e opt ions t oo early. Again, it ’s all down t o t he language t hat you use. I f, for exam ple, you keep saying no, can’t , don’t or won’t , a part ner who is keen t o put t oget her a creat ive deal will soon becom e dem oralized. The t rick is t o keep t hings condit ional: Seller: I f you place an order for a full year’s supply, ( t h e n ) we could cut t he price. Buyer: I f we ordered a year’s supply, (t h e n ) would you ext end t he paym ent period? Using I f… ( t hen) … sent ences will help you t o repackage your part ners’ proposals, reshape your own shopping list , and keep t he deal open – even wit h a part ner who is keen t o elim inat e possibilit ies. But you need t o be careful how you use words like will/ would , can/ could , m ay/ m ight ; and t o be aware t hat , for exam ple, place or order will send very different signals from placed or ordered. I m agine, for exam ple, t hat early on in t he negot iat ion, t he buyer says: We need delivery in bat ches of seven hundred unit s m ont hly, st art ing in May. Which of t he t wo replies below would com e m ost nat urally t o you? Seller A: That gives us a very short lead t im e. But we can do it if you pay for t he first bat ch in advance. Seller B: That would give us a very short lead t im e. But we could do it if you paid for t he first bat ch in advance.
I n using t he present t ense – gives, can and pay – seller A is sending a clear signal t hat she is able t o m eet t he delivery t arget s. Seller B, on t he ot her hand, is using t he past t ense – would , could and paid – because he want s t o explore t he opt ions in a m ore t ent at ive and non- com m it t al way. I f you’re a nat ive speaker of English, swit ching bet ween t he m ore t ent at ive, indirect ( and som et im es hypot het ical) past form and t he m ore decisive, direct ( and som et im es pushy) present form will com e nat urally t o you. But you need t o rem em ber t hat non- nat ive speakers oft en find it hard t o dist inguish bet ween t he t wo form s. I ndeed, when t he part icipant s on our language courses discover t hat English frequent ly uses t he past t ense t o t alk about t he fut ure, t hey’re oft en very surprised. This is part icularly t rue of t he Germ ans. So if you’re a nat ive speaker of English, you will need t o m ake allowances for your non- nat ivespeaking part ners. Don’t assum e t hat t hey’re deliberat ely using t he m ore direct present form t o send decisive, inflexible or even aggressive signals. I f, for exam ple, while you’re happily exploring opt ions t oget her, you t ent at ively ask: Would you consider ext ending t he paym ent period? and t hey say: We can’t ext end t he paym ent period unless you order a full year’s supply, don’t assum e t hat t hey’re t rying t o elim inat e t his possibilit y. What t hey probably m ean is: We m ight be able t o consider ext ending t he paym ent period if you ordered a full year’s supply. They j ust don’t know how t o say it t hat way. And if you’re a non- nat ive speaker who has not yet m ast ered t his t ent at ive past form , carry on using t he present t ense but t ry adding t he words in principle t o your sent ence: Well, in principle, we can ext end t he paym ent period if, for exam ple, you order a full year’s supply. That should help you m ake it clear t hat you’re exploring rat her t han elim inat ing opt ions. Of course, you’ll only be able t o explore t he opt ions properly if you’ve allowed enough room for m ovem ent in your ‘bargaining range’ – in ot her words, t he gap bet ween your ‘ent ry’ and ‘exit ’ point s. How wide your part ners expect your bargaining range t o be will depend on where t hey com e from . I t ’s as foolish t o pay t he init ial asking price for a carpet in Cairo as it is t o t ry t o negot iat e over t he price of a t ube of t oot hpast e in a superm arket in Oslo. I f you want t he people you’re negot iat ing wit h t o t ake your bargaining range seriously, m ake sure t hat it ’s cult urally credible t o t hem . As a general rule, people from fixed t rut h cult ures t end t o keep t heir bargaining range narrow and m ay well m ist rust you if you m ove t oo far from your ent ry point ; people from relat ive t rut h cult ures, on t he ot her hand, t end t o expect a bigger gap bet ween your ent ry point and t arget . That ’s because t hey regard negot iat ing as a process t o be enj oyed; and t rying t o close a wide gap gives t hem a good opport unit y t o assess t heir part ner’s charact er.
Ta lk a bou t h ow you fe e l I f you keep everyt hing condit ional, you should be able t o subt ly t rain alm ost any part ner in t he world t o t ake a posit ive, explorat ory approach t o negot iat ing. You can help t his process furt her by t alking about your feelings, and invit ing your part ners t o do t he sam e. I f you use t oo m any closed quest ions – ones t hat invit e a Yes or No answer – you’ll sim ply encourage t hem t o rej ect your proposals. So t ry t o find out how t hey feel: I nst ead of: Can you accept t his price? Say: How do you feel about t his price?
I nst ead of: Can you live wit h a lower m argin on t his? Say: How would you feel about accept ing a lower m argin on t his? By avoiding Yes or No answers, you give yourself a m uch bet t er chance of finding room for negot iat ion. I t doesn’t m at t er whet her your part ners are given st at us Mexicans, funct ional Germ ans, high cont ext Japanese, reserved Finns, polychronic Arabs, fut ure- focused Russians, logical French, or riskem bracing Am ericans. You’ll only m ake a successful and last ing deal if you send t hem t he right signals, and int erpret t he signals t hey’re sending accurat ely. Being soft on people, hard on point s, keeping everyt hing condit ional, and t alking about how you feel will help you t o do t hat .
Su m m a r y As we m ent ioned at t he beginning of t his chapt er, it was t he Swedes who won t he cont ract wit h t he Mex icans: The Swedish negot iat ing t eam flew t o Mexico Cit y a fort night aft er t he Am ericans. They, t oo, had worked very hard t o prepare an im pressive present at ion. But when t heir friends at t he m inist ry hint ed at what had happened wit h t he Am ericans t hey decided, at t he last m om ent , t o scale t heir present at ion down t o a short , form al t alk and not t o use any high- t ech equipm ent . Their t eam , which was sm all, included a board m em ber who spoke Spanish, t he head of t heir Mexican represent at ive office, and t heir com pany president . The first m eet ing wit h t he m inist er was delayed by t wo hours. I t only last ed 30 m inut es and consist ed of lit t le m ore t han sm all t alk bet ween t he m inist er, t he president and his Spanish- speaking colleagues. The Swedes were t hen invit ed t o go on a t our of various pot ent ial fact ory sit es over t he next t hree days, followed by a day at t he m inist er’s hacienda. They readily agreed, even t hough t heir colleagues had already visit ed t he pot ent ial sit es at t he t ender st age. The Swedes had been in Mexico for six days before t hey were invit ed t o t he m inist ry t o m ake t heir form al present at ion. The m inist er responded wit h a speech det ailing forcibly where he expect ed concessions t o be m ade. The president t hen flew back t o Sweden, leaving his t eam t o negot iat e t he act ual deal. Since t hey had built in quit e wide m argins on all t heir cost ings, t he Swedes were happy t o t rade concessions wit h t he m inist ry in order t o go part of t he way t owards m eet ing t he m inist er’s dem ands. Wit hin a m ont h, t he Swedish com pany’s president and t he m inist er signed t he cont ract in front of t he world’s press.
I f t he m onochronic, acquired st at us, funct ional Swedes had been t he first t o m eet t he Mexicans, t hey m ight inst inct ively have conduct ed t heir init ial pit ch and subsequent conversat ions in a very sim ilar way t o t he Am ericans. Fort unat ely, t hey were able t o learn from t he m ist akes t heir com pet it ors had m ade. And, even t hough it m eant m oving quit e a long way from t heir own cult ural preferences, t hey m ade a conscious effort t o adapt t o t heir m ore polychronic, given st at us, relat ionship- orient ed Mexican part ners:
Th e y pick e d t h e r igh t pe ople . Unlike t he Am ericans, t hey m ade sure t hey had people wit h local knowledge, a senior Spanish speaker, and t he president . This m ade t he Mexicans feel com fort able, and showed t hem t he respect t hey felt t hey deserved. Th e y le t t h e M e x ica n s se t t h e pa ce . They hadn’t booked ret urn flight s t o Sweden. I nst ead, t hey were prepared t o wait pat ient ly unt il t he Mexicans were ready t o see t hem . And once t he negot iat ions st art ed, t hey were careful not t o im pose a t ight agenda on t he discussions. As a result , t he Mexicans were able t o relax in t he Swedes’ com pany, and t o focus on developing a relat ionship wit h t hem . Th e y le t t h e M e x ica n s ch oose t h e pla ce . They happily visit ed t he pot ent ial fact ory sit es again, and graciously accept ed t he m inist er’s invit at ion t o spend t he day at his hacienda. Away from t he form alit y of t he negot iat ing t able, t hey dem onst rat ed t hat t hey could form a part nership, rat her t han m erely sign a cont ract , wit h t heir new Mexican friends. They played t he gam e t o win. Because t hey had read t he signals correct ly t hey kept t heir init ial present at ion short , low t ech and personal. They had built wide m argins int o t heir cost ings so t hat , when t he m inist er insist ed on m ore favourable t erm s, t hey were able t o explore ways of t rading concessions and reaching a m ut ually beneficial deal. I n short , t hey rem em bered t hat , in t he int ernat ional arena, it ’s how you handle t he client , above all else, t hat can m ake or break a deal.
Ch a pt e r 7 : Kn ow in g You r se lf Ove r vie w Know t hen t hyself, presum e not God t o scan; The proper st udy of m ankind is m an. ( Alexander Pope, English poet , 1688–1744) There will always be a cult ure gap of one kind or anot her bet ween you and your int ernat ional business part ners. Most of t he m isunderst andings we’ve described arose because t he people involved assum ed t hat t heir own beliefs, at t it udes and behaviour were norm al. I n m any cases, it didn’t even occur t o t hem t hat t he people t hey were dealing wit h looked at t he world from a com plet ely different perspect ive. As a result , negat ive st ereot ypes were reinforced, m ot ives were m isint erpret ed, goodwill was dam aged and, on som e occasions, com m unicat ions broke down alt oget her. We believe t hat knowing yourself is t he first and m ost im port ant st ep t owards bridging t he cult ure gap. The second is t o acknowledge t hat t he way you and your com pat riot s look at t he world is not universal. The t hird is t o find out as m uch as you can about what ot her cult ures value and what lies behind t heir beliefs. That ’s why, in t he previous chapt ers, we’ve asked you t o place yourself and people from differing cult ures on a series of preference scales. I n t his chapt er, we invit e you t o look at all t hose scales again. To help you focus your m ind on t he key issues, we’ve grouped t hem under five m ain headings: relat ionships, com m unicat ion, t im e, t rut h, and t he m eaning of life. What people expect of present ers is inform ed by t heir at t it udes t owards t hese key issues. But , for ease of reference, we’ve grouped t he present at ion st yle scales t oget her at t he end. Aft er each set of scales, you’ll find som e sim ple t ips – m ost of which have already appeared in t he previous chapt ers – on how you could adapt your st yle when you’re doing business wit h people whose preferences are very different from your own. There are, of course, no m agic form ulae. No t wo cult ures, or indeed individuals, are exact ly t he sam e. The num ber of variables is infinit e. So t here’s no way t hat som et hing as t wo- dim ensional as t he preference scales can provide you wit h a com prehensive and t ot ally accurat e m odel of your own or any ot her cult ure. But t hat is not t heir aim . They’re sim ply t here t o draw your at t ent ion t o som e of t he differences t hat , in our experience, exist from one cult ure t o anot her. And t o help you st art t he long process of building your own cult ural m odels t hrough research, observat ion, and obj ect ive analysis. Sim ilarly, hum an behaviour is com plex and subt le. No one can do it j ust ice in a sim ple list of DOs and DON’Ts. The t ips we offer are necessarily very general. And, t aken individually, som e of t hem m ay seem very obvious t o you. Again, t hey’re j ust t here as a st art ing point ; t o rem ind you t hat t he way you do t hings in your part of t he world is not necessarily universal. When you look at t he scales below, rem em ber t o exam ine each pair of st at em ent s in relat ion t o your working life. Ask yourself what you personally value and t ry t o achieve whenever possible. Then m ark, only once, where your inst inct ive preference falls.
Re la t ion sh ips
I n dividu a list – gr ou p- or ie n t e d People from individualist cult ures like t he Am ericans, Brit ish, Dut ch, Nort hern I t alians and French t end t o t ake personal responsibilit y for t heir own career developm ent . They focus on t he t asks set out in t heir j ob descript ion and t hink it ’s norm al for a boss t o reward individual effort wit h public praise or rapid prom ot ion. I f som et hing goes wrong – for exam ple, a deadline is m issed, or a m ist ake is m ade – t hey t end t o give t he reasons why rat her t han sim ply apologize. When you’re doing business wit h som eone from an individualist cult ure, you need t o:
I n t r odu ce you r se lf w it h con fide n ce . Be pr e pa r e d t o st a t e you r ow n vie w s for cibly a n d e loqu e n t ly. Be pr e pa r e d t o ch a lle n ge w h a t pe ople sa y. Most Asian, Arab and African cult ures are highly group- orient ed. People t end t o subordinat e t heir personal goals t o t hose of t he group t hey belong t o. And t hey oft en t ry t o avoid open conflict wit h ot her group m em bers. I n Japan, for exam ple, harm ony m ust be preserved at all cost s: I f som ebody conflict s wit h ot hers and is excluded from t he com m unit y, he cannot survive. No prim a donnas are welcom ed. When your business part ner com es from a highly group- orient ed cult ure, you should:
I n t r odu ce you r se lf in r e la t ion t o you r com pa n y or t e a m .
The card- exchange rit ual so prevalent in m any Asian cult ures will help you do t his. The inform at ion on t he card put s you, t he individual, in t he cont ext of t he com pany or group.
Ta lk e a r ly on a bou t t h e ir com pa n y. Spe a k ca lm ly a n d slow ly, m a t ch in g t h e pa ce of t h e discu ssion . Be r e a dy t o n e got ia t e w it h a n d a s pa r t of a la r ge t e a m . I f you do business alone, you’ll send negat ive m essages. Not only does it lower your st at us, it insult s your host s – as it im plies t hey are only wort h one person. I t also m eans t hey can’t evaluat e t he effect iveness of your com pany’s t eam work, a vit al skill in any group- orient ed cult ure. Be pr e pa r e d t o do t h e r e a l bu sin e ss ove r a m e a l or in t h e ba r . Group m eet ings in m any cult ures are sim ply t o exchange inform at ion or t o confirm decisions. I f you want your Korean, Japanese or Chinese part ners t o m ake concessions or explain a problem , t his is oft en best done one- t o- one away from t he group. That way, t here’s no danger of public loss of face.
Fla t h ie r a r ch y– ve r t ica l h ie r a r ch y People from Scandinavia and Aust ralia would probably fall t o t he far left of t his scale ( rem em ber t he ‘Jant e Law’ and ‘Tall Poppy Syndrom e’) . I n Germ any, Swit zerland, Net herlands, t he UK and t he USA, com pany hierarchies are also relat ively flat . Bosses t end t o consult widely, and subordinat es generally feel free t o express t heir own views and challenge t heir boss’s decisions. People from flat cult ures expect you t o:
Ta k e fu ll r e spon sibilit y for you r a r e a of e x pe r t ise . Subordinat es openly disagree and argue wit h t heir seniors. Such debat e is regarded as healt hy and likely t o lead t o good decisions. Ta ck le colle a gu e s dir e ct ly if t h e r e ’s a pr oble m . I f you run t o t he boss every t im e a colleague is being difficult , you’ll m ake yourself very unpopular. I n France, Spain, I t aly, Lat in Am erica, Sout h- East Asia, I ndia, China, Africa, and t he Arab world, power in com panies is held by a few people at t he t op. And m anagers are expect ed t o t ell people what t o do. When t he people you’re doing business wit h com e from one of t hese vert ical cult ures, you need t o:
H a ve cle a r lin e s of com m u n ica t ion t o se n ior m a n a ge m e n t . Apart from Japan, where consensus ( nem awashi) is t he norm , decisions t end t o be m ade by a sm all group, or one person, at t he very t op. You m ust have t heir/ his ( sadly, seldom her) ear. Ke e p va lu a ble in for m a t ion t o you r se lf. Only share it wit h t hose who can help you. Those in t he know are m uch adm ired. Sh ow a gr e a t de a l of r e spe ct t o t h e de cision - m a k e r s. Avoid flat t ery, t hough. They will respect you if you dem onst rat e quick- wit t edness and creat ivit y. Don’t get angry if your best ideas som ehow becom e t he brilliant solut ions of t he com pany president . Be a u t ocr a t ic in you r de a lin gs w it h su bor din a t e s.
I f you’re a m anager from a flat cult ure, you will find t his very hard; but you m ust do it . I f you seek t he opinions of j uniors, t hey will oft en sim ply t ell you what t hey t hink you want t o hear. Tell t hem firm ly what you want done. Then wat ch and list en very carefully t o see whet her your dem and is feasible or not . I n m any vert ical cult ures, senior people will have secret aries or assist ant s whose m ost im port ant , but unst at ed, t ask is t o t ell t he boss where he’s going wrong. You should cult ivat e t hese people.
Acqu ir e d st a t u s– give n st a t u s The idea t hat businesses should be run along m erit ocrat ic lines is becom ing m ore com m on. And m any people would, at first sight , place t hem selves t o t he left of t his scale. There are, nonet heless, m any cult ures t hat lean t owards t he right . Am ong t hem are Spain, Sout hern I t aly, Sout h Am erica, I ndia, China, Japan, t he Arab world and Africa. I n given st at us cult ures, how fast you work your way up t he hierarchy doesn’t j ust depend on how well you perform . Fact ors like age, gender, social st at us and educat ional background are also t aken int o considerat ion. And m anagers oft en behave in a pat ernalist ic way. When you’re dealing wit h people from t he given st at us end of t he scale, you should:
Sh ow r e spe ct for t h ose olde r t h a n you . This is t rue what ever t heir official posit ion. Respect is oft en shown t hrough body language. I n m any part s of Africa, for exam ple, when you shake hands wit h som eone older, you t ake t he lower part of his right arm wit h your left hand. Con side r t h e a ge a n d le n gt h of se r vice of you r st a ff w h e n a ssign in g j obs. A young person who has not worked long for your com pany m ay have all t he t echnical skills, but t hey will st ill not be t aken seriously in m ost Asian, African and Arab cult ures. Take t his int o account when you’re choosing t he m em bers of your negot iat ing t eam or t he new m anager for an overseas operat ion. Be pa t e r n a list ic w it h you r su bor din a t e s. This is difficult for people from an acquired st at us cult ure. But you will be expect ed t o look aft er your j uniors: cham pion t hem for prom ot ion or t he best j obs, prot ect t hem in int racom pany disput es, and advise t hem on personal m at t ers. Much of a m anager’s t im e in Asian cult ures is spent at t ending t he weddings and funerals of his j uniors’ fam ilies, act ing as a m arriage arranger, dispensing financial advice, giving direct on- t he- j ob t raining. As an out sider, you can’t do all t hese t hings. But t ry t o have plent y of one- t o- one m eet ings wit h your subordinat es where t he discussion is largely about t heir personal lives. I t m ay be sm all t alk t o you, but it will gain you t heir loyalt y. And if you are a wom an:
D r e ss a ppr opr ia t e ly. Cover yourself up in Muslim count ries ( t his includes m any part s of Sout h- East Asia) . Dress soberly, but sm art ly, in Japan and Korea. Act de m u r e ly. This is t he hard one. The dict ionary defines dem ure as sober , grave, and m odest . Many Asian cult ures adm ire st rong wom en and even elect t hem as t heir polit ical leaders. But t hey dislike int ensely t he argum ent at ive and assert ive behaviour of som e of t he West ern wom en t hey are forced t o do business wit h.
Fu n ct ion a l– pe r son a l Everyone responds posit ively t o genuine hum an warm t h and em pat hy. I ndeed, we believe it ’s at t he heart of all successful business com m unicat ion. I f you’re from a cult ure t hat falls t o t he left of t his
scale ( for exam ple, Germ any, Swit zerland, Scandinavia) , however, you m ay not feel t he need t o build a close personal relat ionship wit h everyone you do business wit h. And you m ay feel surprised, or even im pat ient , if your business associat es spend t oo m uch t im e on sm all t alk or socializing. But , t here are m any cult ures ( for exam ple, t he Arab world, Asia, Sout hern Europe, Africa, Sout h Am erica) where people won’t do business wit h you unt il t hey know and t rust you. Wit h t hem , you need t o:
Allow ple n t y of t im e . Don’t expect t o fly in, sign t he cont ract and fly hom e on t he sam e day. Be prepared t o spend several m eet ings exchanging inform at ion about your t wo com panies and t he individuals involved before you st art discussing specific business proposals. En ga ge in sm a ll t a lk . At t he beginning of any m eet ing wit h som eone from t he Arab world, for exam ple, it ’s not unusual t o spend up t o 45 m inut es get t ing t o know one anot her or cem ent ing t he relat ionship, and t he conversat ion can ext end t o all aspect s of life. Be pr e pa r e d t o socia lize w it h you r colle a gu e s a n d clie n t s. I n count ries as diverse as Spain and Japan, m uch of t he im port ant inform at ion is exchanged in a social cont ext over a drink or a m eal. Be pr e pa r e d t o e x ch a n ge fa vou r s a n d sm a ll gift s. Sm all favours, such as helping som eone’s son t o find a school in your count ry, can do a lot t o warm t he relat ionship.
Ph ysica lly dist a n t – ph ysica lly close People from individualist cult ures ( like t he USA, UK, Nort hern Europe) t end t o fall som ewhere in t he m iddle of t his scale. There are som e group- orient ed cult ures ( eg East and Sout h- East Asian) t hat fall t o t he far left of t his scale and ot hers ( eg Arab, African, I ndian, Lat in Am erican, Sout hern I t alian, Greek, Turkish) t hat fall t o t he far right . I f you’re doing business wit h som eone from t he m iddle of t he scale:
Give a fir m , sh or t h a n dsh a k e a n d look pe ople in t h e e ye . I f your handshake is t oo soft and your eye cont act infrequent , t hey m ay conclude you’re weak and unt rust wort hy. When you’re wit h people from t he far left of t he scale:
Give t h e m ple n t y of pe r son a l spa ce . I f you t ouch t hem , st and t oo close, or look t hem t oo direct ly in t he eye, you will m ake t hem feel very uncom fort able. When your business associat es are from t he far right of t he scale:
D on ’t sh ow su r pr ise or e m ba r r a ssm e n t if t h e y ge t t oo close . I n t act ile cult ures, handshakes can go on forever and you’ll have alm ost no personal space. And it ’s oft en perfect ly norm al for m en t o kiss or hold hands wit h each ot her. Rej ect ing t hese signs of warm t h will m ake you appear cold and discourt eous.
Com m u n ica t ion
Low con t e x t – h igh con t e x t Low cont ext com m unicat ors t end t o express t hem selves in explicit , concret e and unequivocal t erm s. There’s lit t le cult ural baggage or ‘cont ext ’ at t ached t o t he words t hey use and you can usually assum e t hat what t hey say is what t hey m ean. The Am ericans, Scandinavians, Finns and Germ ans t end t o fall at t he far left of t his scale. When you’re doing business wit h t hem :
Ta k e w h a t t h e y sa y lit e r a lly. I f t hey say som et hing is difficult , t hey m ean it ’s difficult – but not necessarily im possible. D on ’t be offe n de d if t h e y ope n ly con t r a dict you or disa gr e e . To t hem , st at ing t he case clearly and unequivocally shows respect and honest y. They’re not t rying t o be grat uit ously insensit ive or aggressive. High cont ext com m unicat ors, on t he ot her hand, t end t o com m unicat e m ore im plicit ly. They expect you t o be able t o int erpret what t hey m ean from your knowledge of t he cult ural values t hat lie behind t he words, what t hey’re act ually t alking about at t he t im e, t heir t one of voice and, of course, t heir eye and body language. People from China, Japan, t he Arab world and France t end t o be high cont ext com m unicat ors. And t he way t he Brit ish use underst at em ent , irony and allusion m eans t hat t hey t oo oft en lean t owards t he right of t his scale. When you’re doing business wit h high cont ext com m unicat ors:
D on ’t a lw a ys t a k e w h a t t h e y sa y lit e r a lly. I f a Japanese colleague says som et hing is difficult , he’s probably t elling you it ’s im possible. Look at his eye and body language and ask yourself how far it support s or det ract s from t he act ual words he’s using. Think t oo about t he cont ext and what you know about t he sit uat ion. Wait . List en. Ask gent ly. D on ’t ge t su spiciou s or ir r it a t e d if you fin d it h a r d t o gr a sp t h e ir k e y m e ssa ge . Burying t he key m essage in circular t alk and allusion com es nat urally t o t hem . They’re not doing it deliberat ely t o confuse or m islead you. Be pat ient , list en hard, read bet ween t he lines,
and ask quest ions t o check you’ve underst ood t hem correct ly.
Re se r ve d– e ffu sive Your preferences on t his scale will have a st rong influence on how you inst inct ively play t he conversat ion gam e. The Am ericans and Brit ish, for exam ple, expect conversat ion t o be relat ively int eract ive. To t hem , int errupt ing wit h t he odd relevant com m ent or quest ion shows int erest . The Japanese, Chinese, Scandinavians, Finns and Germ ans, on t he ot her hand, are used t o wait ing t heir t urn t o speak. For t hem , conversat ion is oft en like a series of m ini- m onologues. When you’re doing business wit h m ore reserved cult ures:
List e n ca r e fu lly t o w h a t t h e y a r e sa yin g w it h ou t in t e r r u pt in g. D on ’t spe a k t oo e ffu sive ly. You m ay t hink t he whole world can be won over wit h a bit of charm and sm oot h t alk. But very reserved cult ures, such as t he Finns, act ively m ist rust people who are t oo effusive. And, unless t hey are Germ an or Swiss:
Pa u se for a fe w se con ds be for e givin g you r r e ply. The Scandinavians, Finns, Chinese and Japanese are usually very com fort able wit h silence and will oft en pause aft er som eone has spoken t o show t hat t hey’re t hinking about what has been said. I f, on t he ot her hand, your business part ners are from a m ore effusive cult ure ( for exam ple, t he Arab world, USA, I t aly, t he UK) :
D on ’t be offe n de d if t h e y in t e r r u pt you . They’re not being ill- m annered or disrespect ful. Act ive ly sh ow in t e r e st in w h a t t h e y a r e sa yin g. People who list en in t ot al silence m ake t hem feel uncom fort able. So t ry t o m ake t he occasional com m ent : I see or That surprises m e or I didn’t realize t hat .
W r it t e n – spok e n Most Nort hern Europeans and Nort h Am ericans would lean t owards t he left of t his scale. For t hem , m em oranda of underst anding, writ t en sum m aries and e- m ailed offers m ay carry m ore weight t han what people say in a m eet ing; and cont ract s alm ost cert ainly will. When you’re doing business wit h t hem :
D on ’t be offe n de d if t h e y t a k e a lot of n ot e s du r in g t h e m e e t in g. People from writ t en cult ures generally feel m ore com fort able relying on t he writ t en word rat her t han m em ory. I f t hey t ake not es, it ’s not a signal t hat t hey don’t t rust you. They’re j ust t rying t o be professional and get t hings right . D on ’t be su r pr ise d if t h e y ge t t h e ir la w ye r s in volve d e a r ly on in t h e r e la t ion sh ip. Again, it ’s not a signal t hat t hey don’t t rust you. They’re j ust t rying t o m ake sure t hat everyone’s int erest s are prot ect ed. D on ’t a ssu m e a n a gr e e m e n t h a s be e n m a de u n t il it h a s be e n con fir m e d in w r it in g.
For cult ures ( such as t he Arab world) t hat have a st rong oral t radit ion, on t he ot her hand, t he spoken word t ends t o be far m ore im port ant . When you’re t rying t o m ake deals wit h t hem :
D on ’t t a k e t oo m a n y w r it t e n n ot e s du r in g t h e m e e t in g. I f you do, t hey m ay t hink you don’t t rust t hem . Le a ve t h e la w ye r s a t h om e . Oral cult ures accept t hat cont ract s are a necessary part of an int ernat ional deal; but t hey don’t define or shape t he relat ionship as t hey do in a m ore writ t en cult ure. So don’t bring t he lawyers in unt il t he whole deal has been agreed. D on ’t m a k e or a l pr om ise s you ’r e n ot pr e pa r e d t o k e e p.
M on och r on ic– polych r on ic I n m onochronic cult ures ( for exam ple, Anglo- Saxon Am erica and Canada, Aust ralia, Scandinavia, Germ any, Swit zerland, Net herlands, t he UK) , t im e is linear, sequent ial, and can be cut up int o blocks. People are j udged by how well t hey can cont rol t heir t im e. And t hose who can’t do so are not t o be t rust ed. The Germ ans and Swiss would probably fall at t he far left of t his scale. As t hey work out Die Tagesor dnung ( t he Daily Order) , t hey will oft en allot a specific and precise am ount of t im e t o each t ask – including t heir coffee breaks. When dealing wit h such cult ures, you would be wise t o:
Fix a ppoin t m e n t s w e e k s a h e a d. By doing so, you’re com m unicat ing t hat t he subj ect is im port ant and t hat you are in cont rol of your t im e. Se n d m e e t in g a ge n da s in a dva n ce . Or, at least , be ready t o agree t hem at t he beginning of m eet ings. Ar r ive on t im e . The Dut ch and Brit ish are not as insist ent on t his as t he Swiss, Scandinavians and Germ ans. St a r t m e e t in gs a t t h e a gr e e d t im e . I f you keep visit ors wait ing out side your office, t hey’ll assum e you are disorganized and, t herefore, not t o be respect ed or t rust ed; or worse, t hey’ll t hink you’re deliberat ely t rying t o m ake t hem feel inferior. Many negot iat ions have been weakened from t he st art because of t his kind of m isint erpret at ion. I f t here’s an unavoidable delay, explain t he reason and apologize. Ke e p t o a ge n da s, sch e du le s a n d de a dlin e s. I f you don’t st ick t o t he point , you’ll be regarded as devious or unprepared. I n t e r r u pt if you don ’t u n de r st a n d som e t h in g.
I f you wait unt il t he end before adm it t ing t his, t hey will t hink of you as a t im e- wast er. Give ba d n e w s st r a igh t a w a y. I f you don’t , t hey m ay well conclude t hat you’re being dishonest or deceit ful. Polychronic cult ures ( for exam ple: Hispanic USA, Lat in Am erica, I ndia, t he Arab world, I t aly) view t im e as m ore circular; it ’s t heir servant , not t heir m ast er. To t hem , how you nurt ure relat ionships is m ore im port ant t han how you m anage your t im e. When dealing wit h or in polychronic cult ures, you should:
Fix a ppoin t m e n t s a t sh or t n ot ice . Don’t be surprised if, even t hen, t hey have t o be changed at t he last m om ent . Allow ple n t y of t im e be t w e e n a ppoin t m e n t s. Be pr e pa r e d t o be k e pt w a it in g. Use t he t im e t o chat t o t he recept ionist , secret ary or ot her visit ors. You’ll be surprised at how m uch useful inform at ion you can gat her. Tr y t o fix a n a ge n da a t t h e st a r t of a m e e t in g. But don’t st ick t o it rigidly. Allow t he discussion t o m eander before gent ly t rying t o bring it back t o t he point s you want t o discuss. The way in which t he ot her side m eanders m ay well signal t o you what point s are im port ant t o t hem . Avoid r u sh in g m e e t in gs. Present your case in st ages; ask and answer quest ions; use t he m any int errupt ions and parallel discussions t o observe, t hink and plan. D on ’t bin d you r se lf t o se lf- im pose d de a dlin e s. Follow t he m ood rat her t han t he schedule. You will seriously underm ine your negot iat ing posit ion if you show you’re desperat e t o m eet quart erly t arget s or cat ch t he plane hom e. I f t h e r e ’s ba d n e w s, t r y t o soft e n it . You don’t have t o delay passing on t he bad news for days or weeks. But t ry t o spend som e t im e at t he beginning of t he conversat ion preparing t hem for what you’re going t o say.
Spe e d– pa t ie n ce You m ight expect all m onochronic cult ures t o be keen t o get everyt hing done as fast and efficient ly as possible; and all polychronic cult ures t o prefer t aking t heir t im e. Unfort unat ely, life isn’t t hat sim ple. Though t he m onochronic Germ ans oft en expect t heir m eet ings t o be well st ruct ured and fairly quick, t hey can be very slow in t aking decisions. Wit h t he m ore polychronic Spanish, on t he ot her hand, m eet ings can be long and ram bling, but decisions are oft en t aken very rapidly. And t he Japanese, who are well known for t aking a very long t im e t o act ually reach a decision, expect im plem ent at ion t o be light ning- quick once a decision has been m ade. The crit ical issue for t he int ernat ional negot iat or is how fast you expect t o progress from init ial cont act t o final deal. And closely linked t o t hat quest ion is how m uch t im e you’re prepared t o devot e t o developing a personal relat ionship wit h your part ners. I f, like t he Am ericans, you lean t owards t he far left of t his scale, and you’re t rying t o m ake a deal wit h part ners who lean t owards t he right :
D on ’t t r y t o for ce t h e pa ce . I f you do, your part ners m ay well perceive you as pushy or arrogant . No m at t er how
st raight forward and at t ract ive you t hink your offer is, focus on t he relat ionship first , com m ercial issues second. Give your part ners t im e t o get t o know you and discuss your proposals am ong t hem selves in a leisurely fashion. And if, like t he Mexicans, you lean t o t he far right of t his scale, don’t j um p t o any hast y conclusions about your prospect ive part ners’ m ot ives. I f t he Mexicans in our case st udy had agreed t o m eet t he Am ericans across t he negot iat ing t able, t hey would probably have liked t hem . And, who knows? The Am ericans m ight even have offered a bet t er deal t han t he Swedes.
Sh or t - t e r m – lon g- t e r m I n t oday’s business world, shareholders of every cult ure put com panies under pressure t o show result s in t he short t erm . And even in Confucian cult ures, like China, which are renowned for t aking t he long- t erm view, people are oft en quick t o seize an opport unit y for short - t erm personal gain. Even so, t here are som e cult ures which inst inct ively lean furt her t o t he right of t his scale t han ot hers. While t he Am ericans’ im pat ience wit h t im e oft en leads t hem t o insist on result s in t he short t erm , cult ures as diverse as t he Swiss and Japanese t end t o t ake a longer- t erm view. I f you fall t o t he left of t his scale and you’re t rying t o m anage a t eam who lean t o t he right , you should be careful not t o j um p t o hast y conclusions. Report ees – like Connie t he Swiss I T proj ect m anager – who t ake a longer- t erm view t han you m ight like, are not necessarily lacking in dynam ism or vision. I ndeed, as Connie’s Am erican boss Robert found t o his cost , t heir longer- t erm plan m ight t urn out t o be m uch m ore effect ive t han your short - t erm one.
Fu t u r e – pa st The Am ericans ( and ot her fut ure- orient ed cult ures like t he ‘new Russia’) t end t o see t radit ion as one of t he m ain barriers t o progress. For people in m uch of t he rest of t he world, t radit ional values and t he lessons of t he past have a cont ribut ion t o m ake t o fut ure developm ent . China, Japan and I ndia, for exam ple, would fall t o t he far right of t his scale, while m any European count ries would probably fall som ewhere in t he m iddle. While t he fut urist s will be keen t o int roduce new syst em s, t he t radit ionalist s will be m ore int erest ed in working out what went wrong wit h t he old ones. I f you place t oo m uch em phasis on t he past , t he form er will t hink you’re pessim ist ic, conservat ive and lacking in dynam ism ; if you focus exclusively on t he fut ure, t he lat t er will perceive you as superficial. So, when you’re present ing t o fut ure- orient ed cult ures:
Focu s on t h e fu t u r e , e ve n if you ’r e r e por t in g on pa st r e su lt s. And when you’re present ing t o people who value t radit ion: I n clu de ple n t y of r e le va n t ba ck gr ou n d ( ie pa st ) de t a il e ve n if you ’r e m a k in g pr oposa ls for t h e fu t u r e .
Tr u t h
Fix e d t r u t h – r e la t ive t r u t h I f you believe t here are clear right s and wrongs regardless of t he circum st ances, you will probably expect people t o follow rules and procedures t o t he let t er. Nort h Am ericans, Aust ralians and nort hern Europeans lean t his way. People from t hese cult ures t end t o at t ach great im port ance t o writ t en cont ract s, organizat ion chart s, det ailed qualit y cont rol m anuals and so on. And t hey adm ire honest y and direct ness, even if it hurt s people’s feelings. When you’re doing business wit h t hem , you should:
Pa y fu ll a t t e n t ion t o t h e w r it t e n cla u se s of a n y con t r a ct you a r e n e got ia t in g. I n t heir eyes, you have com m it t ed t o t hem – even if t he sit uat ion changes. The language m ay look negat ive t o you because it focuses on what t o do if t hings go wrong; but t he fixed t rut h cult ure sees it as no m ore t han an insurance policy. Ke e p you r ba r ga in in g r a n ge n a r r ow . People who m ove t oo far from t heir init ial offer/ proposal could be regarded as liars and cheat s. Be pr e pa r e d for ope n cr it icism or dir e ct r e j e ct ion of you r pr oposa ls. This m ay seem ext rem ely rude t o you; but people from fixed t rut h cult ures oft en prefer t o know where t hey st and. They won’t pick up t he correct m essages if you’re t oo vague and indirect . And t hey’ll m ist rust you if you keep t hem in t he dark. Use a r gu m e n t s ba se d on logic a n d t h e fa ct s. Avoid ones based on em ot ional appeals t o fam ily and friendship. Be ve r y ca r e fu l w h e n givin g pr e se n t s or doin g fa vou r s. What you t hink of as sim ply a gift t o st rengt hen t he relat ionship, t hey m ay regard as a bribe. I n relat ive t rut h cult ures ( t o be found in m uch of East , Sout h- East and Sout h Asia, Africa and around t he Medit erranean) , t he circum st ances dict at e t he way you behave. Your loyalt y is m ore t o your group ( eg fam ily, clan, friends and com pany) t han t o a set of abst ract rules. When dealing wit h
people from relat ive t rut h cult ures, you need t o:
Focu s on bu ildin g t h e r e la t ion sh ip be for e ge t t in g dow n t o con t r a ct u a l de t a ils. Keep your lawyers under cont rol. Bet t er st ill, leave t hem at hom e. The let t er of int ent m ay be considered m ore im port ant t han t he cont ract . Ke e p you r ba r ga in in g r a n ge w ide . Relat ive t rut h cult ures regard negot iat ing as a process t o be enj oyed and a good opport unit y t o assess t he ot her person’s charact er. Too narrow a gap bet ween opening offer and t arget m akes it difficult for such j udgem ent s t o be m ade. Be r e a dy t o r e n e got ia t e a con t r a ct if t h e sit u a t ion ch a n ge s. M a in t a in con t in u it y in r e la t ion sh ips. The link is wit h t he person, not t he com pany. Any change of personnel needs careful handling. Give plent y of not ice and m ake sure t he old hand int roduces his successor personally t o your com pany’s client s. Use e m ot ion a l a r gu m e n t s w h ich sh ow t h e be n e fit s t o t h e pe r son ’s gr ou p. Avoid be in g t oo dir e ct in you r opin ion s. What m ay seem always right t o you, m ay be com plet ely wrong at t hat m om ent t o t hem . Acce pt sm a ll gift s a n d fa vou r s. They are a sign of respect and friendship, not an at t em pt t o corrupt you. Reciprocat e by giving a present t oo; or if, for exam ple, t hey have a relat ive or friend who plans t o visit your count ry, offer t o help t hem .
An a lyt ica l– in t u it ive The French, Germ ans and Swiss would fall t o t he left of t his scale. Their educat ion has t aught t hem t o t ake a fact ual, balanced and above all logical view of any sit uat ion. I f you want t o get t hem on your side, m ake sure your argum ent is com prehensive and consist ent . By all m eans be posit ive, but m ake sure you can support your ent husiasm wit h solid fact s and rat ional argum ent . I f you don’t , t hey m ay well j um p t o t he conclusion t hat you’re superficial, or even lazy; and t hat what you’re saying is m eaningless hot air. The Am ericans are im pat ient wit h t im e, willing t o accept m ist akes and happy t o im provise. As a result , t hey would probably fall nearer t he m iddle of t his scale. The highly pragm at ic Brit ish would lean t owards t he right . When you’re dealing wit h m ore int uit ive cult ures, resist t he t em pt at ion t o give t hem t oo m any fact s. By all m eans const ruct a logical argum ent , but keep it short and t o t he point . I f you don’t , t here’s a danger t hey will t hink you are dull and unim aginat ive.
Th e or e t ica l– e m pir ica l At first sight , you m ay t hink t his scale is very sim ilar t o t he previous one. But , act ually, t here are a num ber of logical cult ures t hat prefer concret e experience t o abst ract t heory. The Germ ans and Finns, for exam ple, cert ainly favour logical argum ent , but t hey would fall t o t he right of t his scale. While t he French also favour logical argum ent , t hey’re m ore likely t o base it on abst ract concept s and would fall t o t he left of t his scale. The Am ericans, t oo, would probably lean t o t he left . Which m ight be why t hey’re m ore prepared t han, for exam ple, t he Finns t o com m it t hem selves t o aim s and values t hat are expressed in relat ively abst ract t erm s.
For m ost Brit s, concret e experience is m ore im port ant t han t heory. So t hey’re at t he sam e t im e int uit ive and em pirical. So before you can work out how best t o argue your case, you need t o t hink about where your int ernat ional colleagues fall on bot h t he analyt ical–int uit ive and t heoret ical–em pirical scales.
Th e m e a n in g of life
To m any West erners – even t hose who are regular churchgoers – religion is a privat e affair. I t has lit t le influence on t heir business lives. The m eaning of life and deat h is for discussion in t he universit y coffee bars and on lat e- night t elevision. I t com es as a shock t o t hem when t hey find t hat m any cult ures have no such dem arcat ion. I n t he Arab world, for exam ple, religious and philosophical beliefs direct ly affect t he way business is done. When com m unicat ing in st rongly and publicly religious cult ures you m ust be careful t o:
Kn ow a n d h on ou r t h e loca l r u le s of be h a viou r . Many of t hem are based on religious pract ices. I n Muslim and Hindu cult ures, for exam ple, eat and hand over docum ent s wit h your right hand and don’t show t he soles of your feet . Don’t offer alcohol or pork t o Muslim s. Be sensit ive t o t he kosher food laws of ort hodox Jews. I n I ndia and m uch of Sout h- East Asia, accept t hat t he cont ract will only be signed or t he equipm ent inst alled on a day t hat is regarded as auspicious. Agree t o have t he sit e of your new fact ory blessed by Shint o priest s in Japan and aligned correct ly by t he feng shui m an in Sout hern China. Appreciat e t hat t he wrong doings in a previous life can explain your I ndian em ployee’s short com ings in t his one. Avoid bla sph e m in g. Secular Europeans who casually swear ( eg God or Jesus Christ) can cause great offence, not only t o t he m any Am ericans, Africans and Asians ( eg Koreans) who are st rong Christ ians, but also t o people of ot her religions. Som e Muslim and I ndian businessm en have t old us t hat t hey would prefer t o do business wit h a pract ising Christ ian t han an overt at heist . How can you t rust som eone who has no beliefs? Asse ss a t t it u de s t o r isk . I n som e cult ures subordinat es are encouraged t o t ake risks and are rewarded for showing personal init iat ive. I n ot hers quit e t he opposit e is t he case and conform it y is t he norm . I f you’re m anaging a t eam from a risk- averse cult ure, you m ay need t o be very pat ient and support ive if you want your st aff t o act in a m ore aut onom ous way.
Pr e se n t a t ion st yle
Upbe a t – low - k e y I n t he present at ions we described t o you, it was t he Am ericans who were at t he far left of t his scale, and t he Swiss and Brit ish who were at t he far right . No one can expect t he Am ericans t o st op sounding ent husiast ic and posit ive. I ndeed, we believe t hat put t ing your m essage across persuasively and posit ively is som et hing t hat all present ers should aim t o do. So, by all m eans, be upbeat and ent husiast ic. But if you’re present ing t o a low- key audience:
M a k e su r e you ca n su ppor t w h a t you sa y w it h r e le va n t de t a ils a n d fa ct s. Re spon d t o t h e ir con ce r n s r e a list ica lly a n d fa ct u a lly. D on ’t pu t t oo m u ch e m ph a sis on you r ow n su cce sse s a n d a ch ie ve m e n t s. I f, like Connie t he Swiss wom an or George t he Brit ish fund m anager, you com e from a low- key cult ure and you are present ing t o t he Am ericans:
Tr y t o fin d a n u pbe a t ce n t r a l m e ssa ge t h a t look s for w a r d r a t h e r t h a n ba ck . M a k e a con sciou s e ffor t t o sou n d posit ive a n d opt im ist ic.
Sh or t – lon g/ se le ct ive – com pr e h e n sive Am erican and Brit ish audiences t end t o respond best t o present at ions t hat are short and select ive. When you’re present ing t o t hem :
Be con cise . N e ve r go ove r a n a gr e e d t im e lim it . I t alian, Germ an, Scandinavian, Finnish and Japanese audiences fall t o t he right of t hese t wo scales. When you’re present ing t o t hem :
Avoid be in g ove r sim plist ic. Su ppor t you r a r gu m e n t s w it h ple n t y of r e le va n t fa ct s a n d da t a . Even if you’re present ing t o an audience who value a lot of fact s and background inform at ion, however, it is st ill vit al t o be select ive. Rem em ber t hat t he m ost dangerous subj ect for you as present er is t he one t hat fascinat es you; t he one t hat you’re t he world expert on.
Pe r su a de – in for m The Am ericans, I t alians and Brit ish would all fall t o t he left of t his scale. They expect present ers t o int erpret t he fact s for t hem . When you’re present ing t o t hem :
Give t h e m you r opin ion s u pfr on t a n d t e ll t h e m dir e ct ly w h a t you r r e com m e n da t ion s a r e a n d w h y. Tr y t o pr e se n t you r ca se a s pe r su a sive ly a s possible . The Germ ans, Scandinavians, Finns and Japanese, on t he ot her hand, expect you t o let t hem draw t heir own conclusions. When you’re present ing t o t hem :
Avoid t h e h a r d se ll.
Cr e a t ive st r u ct u r e – logica l st r u ct u r e The Germ ans, Scandinavians, Finns and French fall t o t he right of t his scale; t he Am ericans and Brit ish t o t he left . Try t o adj ust t he way you present your argum ent accordingly. But rem em ber t hat , no m at t er where your audience is from , t hey will only list en t o what you say and rem em ber t he m essage you’re t rying t o get across if you creat e a concret e cont ext t hey can relat e t o. I n t his respect , we believe t hat all present ers need t o dem onst rat e creat ivit y. I n our experience, t he right m et aphor will appeal t o even t he m ost logical of audiences. And finding t hat m et aphor will oft en help you t urn a sat isfact ory present at ion int o a brilliant one.
A fin a l w or d An English businessm an had been head of his com pany’s subsidiary in Japan for a few m ont hs. He had j ust com e out of a m eet ing wit h an im port ant client . He asked his Japanese sales m anager how it had gone. Very good was t he inst ant reply. The Englishm an had been in t he count ry long enough t o know t hat t his could m ean t he exact opposit e. So he wasn’t surprised when, aft er about t wo m inut es, his sales m anager said: I n Japan, we som et im es say t hat you have t wo eyes, t wo ears and one m out h. I t t ook a few seconds for t he Englishm an t o realize t hat he had been severely crit icized by his subordinat e for speaking t oo m uch and observing t oo lit t le. I t was a very Japanese m om ent . But t he saying is relevant t o anyone doing business int ernat ionally. I t is t he skilled observer who will adapt and win.
Re fe r e n ce s Book s Carlyle, T ( 1843) Past and Present , quot ed at ht t p: / / www.cybernat ion.com / vict ory/ quot at ions/ subj ect s/ quot es_responsibilit y.ht m l Ehrm ann, M ( 1927) Desiderat a, quot ed at ht t p: / / www.geocit ies.com / I swot e/ desiderat a.ht m l Hall, E T and Reed Hall, M ( 1989) Underst anding Cult ural Differences: Germ ans, French and Am ericans, I nt ercult ural Press, Yarm out h Ham m ond, J and Morrison, J ( 1996) The St uff Am ericans are Made Of, Macm illan, New York Kielinger, T ( 1997) Crossroads and Roundabout s, Press and I nform at ion Office of t he Federal Governm ent , Bonn Kuhn, T ( 1970) The St ruct ure of Scient ific Revolut ions, Universit y of Chicago Press, Chicago Russell, B ( 1928) Scept ical Essays, quot ed at ht t p: / / www.posit iveat heism .org/ hist / quot es/ russell.ht m
Ar t icle s in pe r iodica ls Cast aignede, T ( 2003) Rugby World, February, I PC Media, London
Qu ot e s Dickinson, J ( 1768) The Libert y Song, quot ed at ht t p: / / am ericanhist ory.si.edu/ 1942/ cam paign/ cam paign24.ht m l Kennedy, J F ( 20 January 1961) – inaugural speech, quot ed at www.yale.edu/ lawweb/ avalon/ presiden/ inaug/ kennedy.ht m Pope, A ( 1688–1744) , Essay on Man , Epist le ii, quot ed at ht t p: / / poet ryarchive.bravepages.com / NOPQ/ pope.ht m l and ht t p: / / www.bart leby.com / 100/ 230.22.ht m l Wien, B – quot ed at ht t p: / / www.m organst anley.com / GEFdat a/ digest s/ 20030207- fri.ht m l# anchor3 William of Wykeham ( 1324–1404) Mot t o of Winchest er College and New College, Oxford, quot ed at ht t p: / / en2.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ william ofwykeham
W W W sit e s Abdul Aziz, Tunku [ accessed 15 August 2003] , Transparency I nt ernat ional [ Online] ht t p: / / www.t ransparency.org ( ht t p: / / t ransparencym aurit ius.int net .m u/ cpiwhat 2.ht m ) Furt her reading
Cu lt u r e in ge n e r a l Canning edit ed by Mat t ock, J ( 2003) Cross- Cult ural Com m unicat ion: The essent ial guide t o int ernat ional business, Kogan Page, London Hall, E T ( 1959) The Silent Language, Doubleday, New York Hall, E T ( 1976) Beyond Cult ure, Anchor Press/ Doubleday, New York Hoecklin, L ( 1994) Managing Cult ural Differences, Addison- Wesley/ EI U, Wokingham Hofst ede, G ( 1980) Cult ure’s Consequences, McGraw- Hill, New York Hofst ede, G ( 1991) Cult ures and Organizat ions: Soft ware of t he m ind, McGraw- Hill, New York Lewis, R D ( 1996) When Cult ures Collide, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London Mat t ock, J ( 1999) The Cross- Cult ural Business Pocket book, Managem ent Pocket books Lt d, Alresford, UK Mole, J ( 1997) Mind Your Manners, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London Schneider, S C and Barsoux, J L ( 1997) Managing Across Cult ures, Prent ice Hall Europe, Hem el Hem pst ead Trom penaars, F and Ham pden- Turner, C ( 1997) Riding t he Waves of Cult ure: Underst anding diversit y in business, McGraw- Hill, London
Spe cific cu lt u r e s The ‘Cult ure Shock’ series – published by Kuperard – provide useful general and business advice on a wide range of cult ures. Below are a few of t he ot her t it les t hat we have found t o be of part icular int erest : Al- Om ari, J ( 2003) The Arab Way: How t o work m ore effect ively wit h Arab cult ures, How To Books, Oxford Al- Om ari, J ( 2003) Sim ple Guide t o t he Arab Way: Pract ical t ips on Arab cult ure, Global Books Lt d, Folk est one Hall, E T and Reed Hall, M ( 1989) Underst anding Cult ural Differences: Germ ans, French and Am ericans, I nt ercult ural Press, Yarm out h Ham m ond, J and Morrison, J ( 1996) The St uff Am ericans Are Made Of, Macm illan, New York Ham pden- Turner, C and Trom penaars, F ( 1995) The Seven Cult ures of Capit alism : Value syst em s for creat ing wealt h in t he US, Brit ain, Japan, Germ any , France, Sweden and t he Net herlands, Piat kus, London Kielinger, T ( 1997) Crossroads and Roundabout s, Press and I nform at ion Office of t he Federal Governm ent , Bonn ( also available from local Germ an Em bassies)
Pr e se n t in g Bowm an, L ( 1999) High I m pact Present at ions: A radical approach , Bene Fact um Publishing Lt d, Honit on, Devon, UK Jay, R and Jay, A ( 1999) Effect ive Present at ion: How t o creat e and deliver a winning present at ion , Financial Tim es Prent ice Hall, Harlow Mat t ock, J and Ehrenborg, J ( 1993) Powerful Present at ions, Kogan Page, London
N e got ia t in g Acuff, F L ( 1997) How t o Negot iat e Anyt hing Wit h Anyone, Anywhere Around t he World, Am acom , New York Fisher, R, Ury, W and Pat t on, B ( 1997) Get t ing t o Yes, Arrow, New York Hendon, D W ( 1989) How t o Negot iat e Worldwide, Gower, Aldershot Kennedy, G ( 1997) Everyt hing is Negot iable! , Random House Business Books, New York Mat t ock, J and Ehrenborg, J ( 1996) How t o Be a Bet t er … Negot iat or , Kogan Page, London Ury, W ( 1991) , Get t ing Past No: Negot iat ing wit h difficult people, Bant am Doubleday Dell, New York
I n de x A- C al- Om ari, Dr Jehad 58, 66 Aziz, Tunku Abdul 57 bargaining range 140, 162 behaviour, socially accept able 69–87, 164–65 Bhagavad Git a 30 blasphem ing 165 body language 150, 154 bowing 75 brands 5 Bribe Payers I ndex ( BPI ) 56, 57 bribes 55–60, 162 business ent ert ainm ent 58 business et hics 47–49 Carlyle, Thom as 23 closed quest ions 14, 21, 44, 46, 140 com m unicat ion 1, 17, 40, 129, 153- 56, 164 bad news 66, 158 cross- cult ural 12 high cont ext / low cont ext 19, 79, 82–83, 135, 153–54 reserved/ effusive 154–55 st yles 17–20, 80, 83 writ t en/ spoken 155–56 see also conv er sat ion, sm all t alk consensus 18, 149 consult at ion 33–34 see also nem awashi cont ract s 131, 155, 161–62 conv er sat ion 76–78, 154 t aboo t opics 87 corporat e init iat ives 9–14 corporat e seagull 15, 17 Corrupt ion Percept ions I ndex ( CPI ) 56, 57 cult ural clashes 35 cult ural condit ioning 4, 7, 9, 27, 41, 80, 94, 135 cult ural forces 94 cult ural norm s 6, 35, 129 cult ural preconcept ions 106 cult ural preference scales 3 acquired st at us/ given st at us 36, 60, 147, 150–51 analyt ical/ int uit ive 11–12, 161, 163 choice/ dest iny 132 fixed t rut h/ relat ive t rut h 49, 161–63 flat hierarchy/ vert ical hierarchy 25, 147, 149–50 funct ional/ personal 55–60, 147, 151–52 fut ure/ past 125, 156, 160 high cont ext / low cont ext 18–19, 153, 153–54 individualist / group- orient ed 31, 147, 148–49 m onochronic/ polychronic 15–16, 67, 123, 156, 157–58 physically dist ant / physically close 73–74, 147, 152 reserved/ effusive 77–78, 153, 154–55 risk- em bracing/ risk averse 136 short - t erm / long- t erm 93 speed/ pat ience 124, 156, 158–59 t heoret ical/ em pirical 7–8, 161, 163–64 upbeat / low- key 93 writ t en/ spoken 131–32, 153, 155–56
cult ural values 120, 122 cult ure 173, 174 dest iny 133 effusive 155 fixed t rut h 127, 140, 161–62 funct ional 138 fut ure- orient ed 126, 160 given st at us 127 group- orient ed 74, 122, 127, 152 individualist 74, 122, 152 int uit ive 163 m onochronic 123–25, 157, 158 oral 156 past 126 personal 138 polychronic 123–25, 158–59 professional 43 relat ive t rut h 140, 162–63 r eligious 164 reserved 155 writ t en 155 cult ure gap 1, 4, 40, 43, 44, 97, 145
I n de x D- F deals, m aking 117–43 condit ional 138–40 m eet ing t he right people 120–23 negot iat ing t eam 119–20 pace 123–26 place 126–29 underst anding ot hers’ beliefs 130–35 using t he right language 135–41 dirt y t ricks 136, 137 discret ion, using 65–67 dress code 151 Ehrm ann, Max 48 em pat hy 40, 42, 44, 45, 64, 151 fam ily relat ionships 62–64 favours 55–60, 152, 163 feelings 140–41 form , knowing t he see socially accept able behaviour
I n de x G- L gest ures 87 Ghandi, Mahat m a 30 gift s 55–60, 152, 162, 163 globalizat ion 1, 20 greet ing people 71–75 guanxi ( connect ions) 53 Hall, Edward T 12, 19 Ham m ond, J 94 handshak es 71–72, 73, 74, 75, 150 hidden dangers, avoiding 86–87 hierarchy see organizat ional hierarchy hum our 83–86 im age nat ional 96 infor m at ion 149 irony 83, 96 ‘Jant e Law’ 29, 149 Kielinger, Thom as 83, 100 kissing 72–73 Kuhn, Thom as 89 language body 150, 154 English 112 use of 4, 109, 135–41 leadership 33, 37 Japanese concept of 33–34 lim it s, knowing t he 47–68 list ening 42, 44, 46 loyalt y 162
I n de x M-R m anners see behaviour m eaning of life, t he 164–65 choice risk- em bracing/ risk averse 164 m eet ings 157, 158 m ian zi ( giving face) 53 m ission st at em ent s 6–9 m oral code/ values 50–51, 65 Morrison, J 94 negot iat ing 117–43, 174–75 bargaining range 140, 162 condit ional t erm s 138–40 ent ry point 140 exit point 140 language 135–41 offst age 127 pace 123–26 place 126–29 st yle 128 t eam 119–20, 150 underst anding ot hers’ beliefs 130–35 nem awashi ( consult at ion) 33–34, 39, 122, 149 nepot ism 60–64 open quest ions 13, 21, 42, 44, 46, 125 organizat ion chart 23 organizat ional hierarchy 23–45 flat / vert ical 25 handling t he 25–32 pace 159 part y line, int erpret ing 5–21 pat ernalism 36–37, 150–51 perform ance, m onit oring 34–37 personal space 72, 152 perspect ives, opposing 43, 106–08, 119–20 physical cont act 72, 74 see also handshak es, kissing Pope, Alexander 145 power 45 present at ions 89–115, 174 approaches t o 89–91 audience 113 cent ral m essage 113–14 cont ext for 102–08, 114 creat ive st ruct ure/ logical st ruct ure 101, 166, 168 low- key/ upbeat 93, 166, 167 persuade/ inform 101, 166, 168 responsibilit y 32–34 select ive/ com prehensive 99–100, 166, 167–68 short / long 99–100, 166, 167–68 speaking wit h im pact 109–13, 114–15 st yle of 91–102, 114, 166–68 relat ionships 147–52, 162 acquired st at us/ given st at us 150–51 fam ily 62–64 flat hierarchy/ vert ical hierarchy 149–50
funct ional/ personal 151–52 individualist / group- orient ed 148–49 physically dist ant / physically close 152 religion 164 rhet oric 100–01 rules/ regulat ions 49–55 bending 49, 52 Russell, Bert rand 47
I n de x S- Z Sandem ose, Aksel 28–29 ‘Jant e Law’ 29 Shaw, George Bernard 79–80 sm all t alk 75–76, 124–25, 152 see also conv er sat ion socialising 152 socially accept able behaviour 69–87, 151, 164–65 see also cult ural condit ioning st oryt elling 79 sym bols 86–87 ‘Tall Poppy Syndrom e’ 29, 149 ‘The Prisoner’s Dilem m a’ 129–30, 133, 138 t im e 156–60 fut ure/ past 156, 160 m onochrom ic/ polychrom ic 156, 157–58 short - t erm / long- t erm 156, 159 speed/ pat ience 156, 158–59 t radit ion 160 Transparency I nt ernat ional 56, 57 t rut h analyt ical/ int uit ive 161,163 fixed/ relat ive