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  • My name is Erin Meyer. I'm Professor of Organisational Behavior at INSEAD,

  • which is a business school outside of Paris. I study how cultural differences

  • impact organisational effectiveness. I am also the author of the book The Culture

  • Map, breaking through the invisible boundaries of global business.

  • In today's global economy you might be a French person working in Korea, you might

  • be a Russian person working in Brazil, or a Scottish person trying to do business

  • in France. But what's really complicated is trying to figure out how to adapt

  • your style to the society that you're working with to get the results that you

  • need. Often people think the challenges will

  • be things like, should I shake hands or how should I ask for business cards. But

  • the real challenges are ones that are much more subtle. I had a situation in

  • Japan recently where I gave a presentation to a small group of

  • Japanese. Afterwards I asked if there were any questions and no one raised

  • their hand. So I went to sit down. My Japanese colleagues said to me,

  • "Erin, I think there were some questions. Do you mind if I try. And then he stood up and

  • he looked at the group and he said, "Does anyone have any questions?" When no one

  • raised their hand he looked very carefully at the audience and then he

  • said, "Oh do you have a question?" And this woman said "Thank you, I do" and she asked

  • a very important question. Later on I said to him how did you know those

  • people had questions. And he said well it had to do with how bright their eyes

  • were. These are the types of things that if were aware of them we can look for

  • the interaction. the silent interaction, that's impacting us. But if we're not

  • aware, we might go through our entire business without even realising how

  • culture has impacted our success. For example, I worked with a team a while ago

  • where I had just British and French working on the team. I asked the British

  • what's it like to work with the French and they said, "Well Erin, you know the

  • French they're very disorganised, they're always late, they're always changing the

  • topic in the middle of the meeting, so it's very difficult to follow them." A

  • little bit later a group from India joined the same team. I asked the Indians

  • you know how'd it going working with the French, and they said to me, "Well

  • Erin, you know the French they're very rigid, they're very in adaptable, they're

  • so focused on the punctuality of things that it's very difficult for them to

  • adapt as things change around them." This is what I call cultural relativity and

  • you can tease out on my culture map framework how France is between the

  • UK and India, which then leads to these opposite

  • reactions. This can be helpful if you're leading a global team. I've been working

  • with Heineken, this big Dutch Brewing Company. And a while ago they purchased

  • a big office in Monterrey Mexico and I had these Mexicans who are managing

  • Dutch people now in the Netherlands. People learn from a very young age that

  • an authority figure is really just a facilitator among equals. And in Mexico

  • children learn from a very young age to really defer to the authority figure. So

  • I had these Mexicans who are managing these Dutch people and they said to me,

  • "You know, Erin, managing Dutch people is absolutely incredible because they do

  • not care at all that I'm the boss. So I go into these meetings, I'm trying to

  • roll out my strategy, my team is contradicting me, they're challenging me,

  • they're taking my ideas off in other directions, sometimes I just want to

  • plead with them, please, you know don't forget that I'm the boss so this is

  • really complicated. In today's global world it means it's no longer enough to

  • know how to lead the Mexican way or the Dutch way or the Scottish way or the

  • American way. We have to be flexible enough to adapt our leadership style to

  • the environment that we're working with. I've developed a system that I call a

  • Culture Map, which divides culture up into eight different dimensions. It looks

  • at things like how do we build trust differently in different parts of the

  • world or how do we make decisions in different societies. And then I have

  • countries that are positioned up and down these dimensions that help people

  • to decode how culture is impacting their work. If you look at this culture map

  • framework that I have you can start to tease out these often opposite types of

  • reactions that cultures have to one another. So this can be helpful if you're

  • leading a global team. There's some research that shows that the highest

  • failure rate when people are working with other countries is not between the

  • UK and China, but between the US and the UK. And this happens because people

  • assume because we speak the same language, because we seem externally

  • rather similar, that there are no cultural differences we keep trying to

  • push our own culture and that leads to the highest failure rate. So what I

  • suggest is that people remember that even when they're working

  • with cultures that seem very similar, they always need to be on the lookout

  • for how these cultural differences are impacting their success. Often people

  • think that challenges will arise only when we're working face to face, but even

  • when we're working over the email or the telephone cultural differences may be

  • impacting us. For example, in the UK it's very common at the end of a phone call

  • that you would write into an email everything that had been decided and

  • send that recap out. I was doing some work in India a while ago. One of my Indian

  • clients said, "You know, Erin in my culture if we make some decisions on the

  • telephone and we come to some conclusions verbally, that would be

  • enough for me. If you get off of the phone, then and you put into writing

  • everything that we've decided and you send that email to me, that would be a

  • clear signal to me that you don't trust me." So companies need to be thinking

  • about this not just when we're taking a trip, but at every moment that we're

  • working internationally. There's some very interesting research that shows

  • that if you show a video of fish swimming through an aquarium that people

  • in Western countries will see mostly the fish in front and people in Asian

  • countries will see mostly the things that are happening in the background.

  • People in different parts of the world are trained to think differently. So when

  • you bring together people from different countries you can have a much more

  • complete way of seeing things. The team may be better at identifying risks,

  • better at coming up with innovative ideas. As long as the manager knows how

  • to manage these differences effectively, it can be extremely positive for the

  • organisation. But you have to be extremely flexible to lead in today's

  • complex cultural environment. We have to be flexible enough to adapt our style to

  • the society that we're working with in order to get the results that we need.

My name is Erin Meyer. I'm Professor of Organisational Behavior at INSEAD,

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Erin Meyer: How to lead a successful international team | Scottish Enterprise

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    Tracy Huang posted on 2021/05/01
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