Pic Credit: Ambro

Pic Credit: Ambro

How we accord status and who we respect is largely influenced by our cultural programming. 

Generally speaking, if you're raised in Northern or Western countries, knowledge and experience are important. So you will more naturally respect people for what they do, especially when they are "self-made", "accountable", and "go-getters". Trompenaars called this an Achievement culture. 

If you're raised in Southern or Eastern countries, generally speaking, it's more important who you are. You are probably more likely to respect people for their family name, the position they hold, their age and seniority. Trompenaars called this an Ascription culture. 

What does this mean in global business teams? 

When people from achievement and ascription cultures work together, they will show trust, respect, and leadership in different ways. They will also negotiate and communicate differently.  

Achievement

For example, in Germany, team members may openly disagree with their boss during a meeting. This is seen as an exertion of their expertise; it is their job to speak up when they see something is not right or not working. That's what they were hired to do: take responsibility for their piece of the puzzle. They show respect by asking questions.

Someone who always agrees and says "yes" to everything will not be trusted.

Someone who doesn't keep eye contact will not be trusted.

Someone with various degrees may be respected, but only if they can follow up and apply their knowledge to actual problems.

To lead means to take responsibility and make decisions.

Communication is quite direct, simple yes and no answers are welcomed - they are short and efficient.

Negotiations will not be overly drawn out or going through too many rounds, because everyone is aware of the rules and pricing is set at a fair point from the get-go. 

Ascription

For example, in Korea, team members will not openly disagree with their boss during a meeting; on the contrary. They show respect by taking the blame on them if the boss messes up. 

Excessive eye contact may be rude, and trust is established over years of friendships or shared connections.

Team members take responsibility for one another, and would be uncomfortable if singled out. That's why incentives pay rarely work; when one person is selected to receive a bonus or even go attend a special training, they will feel obliged to buy presents for the rest of the team who can't go to save face and remain a member of the in-group.

To lead means to take responsibility for the people who work for you.

Communication is indirect, and a direct "no" would be considered rude.

Negotiations or business talk will take time, because trust has to be established first and can be a long drawn-out process. Contracts may be seen as a starting point for the relationship, and flexibility to change contracts is expected.  

 

Bridging the gap

If you're from an achievement culture working for an ascription leader,

  • try not to disagree out loud in front of others.
  • Know that they may not see you as equal and might therefore be uncomfortable if you invite them out for happy-hour after work.
  • If you work with ascription team members, ask open-ended questions and watch for body-language cues. They may not tell you "no".

If you're from an ascription culture working for an achievement leader,

  • know that your opinion is valued and that it's ok for you to give it.
  • Of course, Westerners also get embarrassed, but if your feedback is too indirect, they may not hear you.
  • If you work with achievement team members, prepare for constructive feedback and learn to differentiate between the relationship and the task.
  • Criticism is rarely directed at the person, but more on aspects of how the job is done. 

Within those broad cultural differences, I also believe our personality type plays a role. In this case, our Temperament: 

People with a Theorist™ Temperament value expertise, knowledge, competence, and self-control. If they have posters up on their walls or screensavers it's likely smart experts and pioneering visionaries like Einstein or Jobs. 

People with a Catalyst™ Temperament value meaning, significance, and unique identity. They are likely inspired by authentic role models who share their journey to self-realization like Brené Brown or Oprah.  

People with a Stabilizer™ Temperament value membership, belonging, responsibility, and duty. They are likely admiring others who serve society; the every-day heroes we see in soldiers, fire fighters, and nurses.  

People with an Improviser™ Temperament value the freedom to act now, and the ability to make an impact. They may be motivated to get active for causes they believe in, or be fans of entertainers. 

So - who do you respect, and how do you show it?

UPDATE / ADDENDUM:

I love how the answer to most question seems to be "yes, and" and "depends". The article below emphasizes how both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, and I've laid out how the location / nationality makes a difference. In other words: use both as needed, and start with the people in mind.  

from "Connect, then lead" at http://hbr.org/2013/07/connect-then-lead/ar/1 

Most leaders today tend to emphasize their strength, competence, and credentials in the workplace, but that is exactly the wrong approach. Leaders who project strength before establishing trust run the risk of eliciting fear, and along with it a host of dysfunctional behaviors. Fear can undermine cognitive potential, creativity, and problem solving, and cause employees to get stuck and even disengage. (...)
A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence—and to lead—is to begin with warmth. Warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas. Even a few small nonverbal signals—a nod, a smile, an open gesture—can show people that you’re pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns. Prioritizing warmth helps you connect immediately with those around you, demonstrating that you hear them, understand them, and can be trusted by them.

 

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