C-Suite Network™

Growth Leadership Personal Development

What is International Business Culture and why it matters?


By Gustavo Oviedo GO GLOBAL Consulting Group

The relevant effect of globalization continues to progress throughout the world challenging borders, regulations, manufacturing costs and supply chain management among other topics. The effect increases exponentially when your projects extend to several countries.

In many areas of the world business culture constitutes a crucial portion of the understanding among the parts, effectively adding clear and valuable understanding to any  business interaction.

An even higher degree of complexity is added in cases where technology transfer, science materials and/or intellectual property are part of the overall scope.

My extensive experience in Asia, specifically in China, Japan, Korea and Thailand has taught me the importance of consistency. A familiar face goes a long way facilitating the process. I cannot stress enough the value of steady commitment and the understanding of basic cultural drivers for each of the countries involved. Mastering their history, education and habits is by no means less important.

Emotional intelligence, trust and know-how transfer drivers become simpler, faster and much more effective when one person is familiar to  another or to a group.

As well, an interesting process strategy of repeating one same concept several times becomes extremely valuable in order to thoroughly cover all possible angles contributing to a valid approach that furthers understanding.

If you are in Tokyo, Mexico or Paris, ask yourself one simple question: Why?  This will help you narrow down diverse concepts to concrete facts, numbers and may even contribute to effectively round down economic ratios. As well, the process will cover each relevant step that matters to your counterpart and facilitates the avenue to successful partnership relationships.

Rich bilateral benefits surface as cultural aspects deepen, nurturing an increasingly positive and everlasting interaction.

Take the opportunity to share cultural experience time as well as business time in each country your projects evolve. This will only enhance and create a level of value that will add to your overall objective.

Growth Personal Development

Meet the Four Ladies

My humble beginnings of being penniless throughout my collegiate years, were about to improve.

My first job at Allied Sporting Goods required stringing tennis racquets, drilling holes in bowling balls, and putting grips on golf clubs.  Maybe I made $6.00 an hour.

Then one night a customer came in that was a Vice President at Stewart’s Dry Goods.  I was suggesting string for his racquet, and he asked if I played tennis.  This led to a match at his tennis club.  Needless to say I had never been a guest at a tennis club.  I pummeled him.

He had the racquet bag, the elbow thing, the matching outfit.  I hit a few balls into the net for sportsmanship purposes.  A few weeks later he said there was an opening at Stewart’s Dry Goods for a hard goods manager.  I still don’t think I know what Hard Goods are.  I guess the opposite of soft goods.

So I get this job, in a gigantic store, the size of like a Macy’s, in Evansville Indiana.  They are paying me basically a million dollars, actually $475 dollars a week.

The job was amazing.  Everyone was Mr. or Miss or Mrs.  It was very professional there.  Everyone called me Mr. Costello, and on Tuesday and Thursday nights I was key holder.  That meant I was in charge of the entire place.  I think it was five floors.

After a week or two, I was given sales reports and told I could receive a $1500 dollar year end bonus.  I could not quite get my arms around that number.  The past years of college I didn’t even have a checking account, and would hide from my landlord when my $76.00 in rent was due.

So let’s meet the four ladies.

The hard goods I was managing appeared to be house wares, cookware, luggage, and bedding.  I figured right away if you are getting this bonus bedding was the most expensive thing we sold.  I was homesick for sure and missed my grandmother.   The four ladies in bedding would average about ten mattresses a month. This included box springs etc.

One Friday I took Mrs. Humphrey to lunch.  She was interested in going to New York and wanted to learn more about New York and me.  The following week all of the other ladies were upset. My first bout with corporate drama. Ouch.

In the Midwest people speak their mind, so Mrs. Natoli  gave me an earful.  I then had a meeting with the four ladies, and told them that I was sorry.  I also said if they sold four mattresses a week, we would all go to lunch every Friday.  Mrs Natoli was off Friday but she would come in for the lunch.  During the lunches we laughed and told stories, and they were all special ladies.  Generally by Wednesday they had more than enough mattresses and box springs, to go to lunch.  I would stop by the area, and they would say Mr. Costello we just sold another one.  Then the call came.

The general manager said I was to call Mr. Higgins in Louisville.  The general manager seemed nervous; he had only talked to Mr. Higgins a few times.  Mr. Higgins had a secretary that patched me through.

“Mr. Costello your team sold more bedding than the mother ship this month.”

“I’d like to discuss your strategy, your branch is up close to 400 percent.”

I told the truth which he didn’t seem to appreciate.  He said the proof was in the pudding, and I was to drive to Louisville and share my story with the hard good managers there.  He reminded me three or four more times we were up 400 percent.  I met with the hard good managers, and when the dust settled, I was given the $1,500 dollars, a hotel  room at the Galt House until I relocated, and they offered me an area manager job, all before my 21st birthday.  The next day I traded my 1973 Camaro for a new Volkswagen Jetta, and found a townhouse on the Ohio River for $168.00 a month.

A four hundred percent increase was just a homesick kid, and four older sales ladies that enjoyed a nice lunch on Friday afternoon.

Growth Personal Development

The #1 Responsibility Leaders Avoid

By Marcia Reynolds, PsyD

“The most important need for leaders today…” my ears perked up. The speaker, a well-known tech leader and best-selling author, had presented some facts showing the abysmal state of employee engagement. I was hoping for a brilliant insight when he said the most important need for leaders, “…is to hold meaningful one-on-one conversations with their employees.” Wasn’t this the message I was asked to deliver over 30 years ago when I taught my first management training class? Leaders avoid their best method for improving engagement.

It makes sense that leaders avoid one-on-one conversations because humans are unpredictable and messy. Humans are emotional by nature. Everything seen, heard, felt, touched, and smelled is processed through two emotional centers of the brain before the logical center is engaged. There’s no guarantee how any conversation will turn out, so leaders avoid what could turn out badly.

Emotions aren’t bad; they are reactions to stimuli. They reflect energy moving through the body. Acknowledging emotions in a conversation can lead to discovering important information needed to breakthrough blocks, make good decisions, and take a positive step forward.

Even if people trust you to be honest with them, they need to know it’s okay to be themselves no matter what they are experiencing, without worrying about being negatively judged. What leaders avoid – emotional expression – is their best chance to connect.

Leaders Avoid, Fix, and Tolerate — the normal, wrong choices

If you weren’t raised to talk about emotions, you probably don’t know how to respond to them when they show up. You might tense up, check out, give an unsolicited suggestion, or impatiently wait for the person to get over it and move on.

Most leaders rationalize their avoidance by saying things like, “If I encourage people to talk about their feelings, I will say things I wouldn’t normally say.” Or, “I don’t have time for their dramas.” The business world is full of aphorisms that declare, “Only the tough survive.”

Being uncomfortable with expressions of emotions doesn’t make you bad. Your discomfort is an indication that you haven’t had enough training to develop your skills. When you learn how to use the power of sensory awareness—to feel deeply and empathize with others—you are more capable of making a difference.

Understanding how emotions affect decisions and behavior makes you wise. Creating a safe space to talk about emotions makes you strong. Leaders who develop the skills of emotional intelligence can have meaningful conversations that increase engagement, innovation, and results.

Appreciation opens the door to transformation

I know this is easier said than done. Staying alert to what you are feeling or receiving from others can be scary and even painful. Here are 6 tips for what to do when emotions arise during difficult conversations:

  1. Take a breath, release your tension, and be quiet. Give people a moment to recoup so they don’t feel badly for reacting.
  2. Allow the reaction to happen. They might apologize or give excuses. Tell them you understand why they are reacting so they feel normal instead of inadequate.
  3. Don’t try to “fix” the person or make suggestions unless they beg you. Even then, if the person is smart and resourceful, it is better to ask questions to learn more about their situation. This will help them think things through more rationally.
  4. If they get defensive, don’t fuel the fire. Don’t get angry in return or disengage. Whether they are mad at you or others, give them a moment to vent to release the steam.
  5. If they are afraid, ask what consequences they fear and listen to their answer. Don’t tell them they shouldn’t feel afraid. Encourage them to speak by asking a few questions that show you are curious and you care. What are they afraid they will lose, based on the situation? What else could happen? What can you do to support them through the change? Listen with curiosity, care, and compassion. The conversation will help them discern assumptions from reality where they might see a possible way forward.
  6. Before you end the conversation, ask them to articulate what they discovered or learned.Articulating insights helps people feel stronger. Identifying what they are learning gives them a sense of control. If the emotions don’t subside, you might ask for another meeting when the person can more comfortably look at solutions with you.

People are emotional. If you judge or avoid their reactions, you are judging or avoiding them as humans. That never feels good. Being a leader means you can sort things out together no matter what they feel. See the person in front of you as doing his or her best with what he knows now. From this perspective, you might an amazing conversation that could surprise the both of you.

You can find more tips on holding productive uncomfortable conversations in The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs.

Growth Personal Development

Do You Have a Virus in your Leadership Brain?

Can we agree that all good leaders want to optimize employee engagement?  Yet, sometimes there are barriers preventing just that.

Recently the WIFI on my laptop stopped working.  It would fade in and out for no apparent reasons.   I tried various fixes on my own with no results.  It was so frustrating because it stopped me from being productive and from responding to customers. It was a barrier to my productivity and I needed to work around it.  My customers saw poor performance from me, but the real root cause was the virus in my lap top.

I found a Best Buy near me (I was traveling on business) and they were very helpful.  They did a quick hardware scan and found no issues.  The problem was in the software.  The tech surmised it was a virus stopping the WIFI from optimum performance and the best course of action was a complete restoration.  Sometimes leaders need to consider a restoration of their leadership assumptions to achieve the desired level of employee engagement.  Just as the computer damaged my productivity and caused me to spend time to find a way to work around the problem, a flawed leadership thought acts like a virus slowing down employees’ ability to perform.
Then biggest virus that is still alive and well is a form of blame.  Many leaders first look at who is at fault when a problem occurs.  Once employees know they may be blamed for problems they stop putting in extra effort, stop taking risks, and stop communicating their mistakes.  Leaders who have this virus and ask “who did this” spread this virus throughout the entire organization.  Any question a leader asks will send a message.  Do your questions send the message of blame or the message of engagement and trust?

We need systems thinking and Profound Knowledge (W. Edwards Deming) instead.  We need leaders to ask, how can we work as a team to improve the process and/or the system.  If the leader asks the right questions he/she can build employee engagement.  When we adopt systems thinking we stop looking at individuals for answers to problems.  Instead we start looking at the system for solutions.

Here are some thoughts that indicate the presence of a debilitating virus and a recommended replacement.

  • Improving individual performance will improve organizational performance. Replace this with this healthy thought instead: Improving the system (including processes) will improve organizational performance.
  • Managers can fairly, accurately and consistently evaluate employees separate from the contributions of the system and others on their team. Replace this with this healthy thought instead: It is impossible for a supervisor to predictably and consistently remove stereotyping, favoritism, bias, or other errors from the performance appraisal process. Performance is optimized when the individual or team evaluates a process at the end of the process cycle.

Consider a restoration of their leadership assumptions to eliminate a virus in your brain. Look for solutions as a team in your system and not in the individual.

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