Appreciate different business culture, personalities and ways of working

Everyone is different and it’s a given
This is particularly true if your team members come from different cultures with different norms and ways of doing business. It may sound awfully obvious but to appreciate it requires a lot of cultural awareness and experience working with other human beings 😃
Just to share some areas where how your team members could be different from one another and from you:

  • Perception of self worth
  • Career aspiration
  • Motivation at work
  • Life stage
  • Business culture in the country where they have been raised and worked
  • Their working experience

For example, the needs/priorities of someone who is at his/her 20s and single are very different from someone, who is at his/her mid 30s with a family. The way they choose where to live, the type of work they would do, risk they would take, personal finance etc…
Someone at his/her 20s may quit their job without another job. But someone in mid to late 30s with a family would be less likely to do so.

I know of a very talented manager named Sophie (not her real name). She progressed quickly in her career and became a people manager at a very young age (around mid 20s). She struggled with people management a lot at first. She didn’t understand why other team members were not as committed to work as she was, couldn’t do things as fast or just simply didn’t do things the way she asked them to. I mentioned to her that this was to be expected since she was new to people management. Also this may come as a surprise but in many Asian cultures, age still plays an important role. Since Sophie is so young vs other team members, it is a bit hard for other team members to take her seriously or to treat her as their manager.

Japan, Australia and India have very different business cultures
It is very normal that you would need to adapt to work with team members from Japan, Australia or India. The way people in different countries could behave differently vary a lot from as simple as:

  • When they prefer to start/finish work
  • How they respond to a request from their superior
  • How they express agreement or disagreement like: when someone says yes, it could mean that they simply acknowledge that they hear what you are saying not that they agree with you.

So how could you learn to appreciate different business cultures, personalities within your team?

First, it is the awareness and acknowledgement. Diversity is a good thing, especially in a team environment because the team could be more resilient to change or challenging situation.
Second, it’s your responsibility as a people manager to adapt your approach, your style to effectively manage and work with your team members, not the other way round 😛
Third, you will not learn about how to appreciate different business cultures through textbook so don’t set too aggressive goals for yourself and then beat yourself up. It takes time and real life experience.
Fourth, assume positive intent.
Fifth, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

That’s all from me.

Cheers,

Chandler

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