According to Geert Hofstede “Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster.” Patrick Mazzariol, Vice President International Sales at Synchrony, Inc., USA, explains that an international learning strategy, language skills and embracing new cultures are the keys to overcoming this problem.
The Treaties of Rome which integrated six European countries and established the European Economic Community were signed in 1957. This act leads to the emergence of the European Union. Now, just over a few decades of worldwide economic advancement has led to a tremendous situation in which, globally, we are emerging into an International Economic Community.
The World Bank indicates that the export of goods and services as percentage of World GDP grew from 13% in the beginning of the 70’s to almost 29% in 2008. At the same time, the skyrocketing increase in the World GDP from 2 to 61 Trillion USD has been driven by more than simply within country economic growth. Inevitably, the powerful trend to make business beyond your borders has emerged.
The increasingly interdependent world economy brings a new framework for business leaders to consider the question: How do I foster decisive leadership to achieve a high level of success? While classical in nature, it is now necessary to examine this question through lenses that focus on appreciation of international interdependencies and cultural differences. To do this, the international business leader must develop a globally focused education, master multilingual capabilities and embrace cultural differences.
Competitiveness through international learning
As stated in his book “The Leadership Engine”, Tichy Noel reinforces that learning is a key requirement for developing leadership. We enhance our unique qualities through learning and education. Studying abroad was probably one of the richest experiences of my life. It was a privilege to study for my MBA at Duke, The Fuqua School of Business. It was a unique moment of my life. The globally focused education allowed me to make a deep personal assessment while providing me with an actionable set of global leadership tools. (Not to mention that I met my wife during my MBA, this is awesome).
The global MBA provided me a framework within which I experienced working with people from different parts of the world. True learning takes place when you invest time and emotional energy to engage with those around you. This fosters a larger point of view and helps one to face reality, make decisions, have the courage to act, all to build a globally focused future.
Speak different languages
My first foreign language was Spanish. Being French, it made sense to speak the language of my neighboring country. I discovered later that English was probably more appropriate for conducting global business. To embrace an international community requires that skill. In addition, when considering the incremental growth of GDP since the 1970’s, China and Japan (second only to the US) achieved a mere 4.9 Trillion USD.
What is surprising is the East Asia & Pacific have created more wealth than Euro area since the 70’s. So speaking English, French and Spanish is great, but not enough, because, the most spoken language in the world is Mandarin. We may all need to consider learning this language in the future.
Be open to embracing different cultures
As professor Geert Hofstede said: “Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster.”
Change and conflict management will continue to be the most difficult things for global businesses to control. Living and conducting business in a world of virtualized management, you must rely on building trust and loyalty. Seeking to understand facilitates trust and builds a better team, which is really the recipe for creating value. To do this, you must work toward understanding the local issues, and demonstrate decisiveness and compassion.
The knowledge of culture will offer you a larger degree of leadership. Let me share my vision of some cultural differences. From my experiences, it is important to try to avoid stereotypes and keep in mind that they are not the single determinant of individual behavior.
To conclude, these 3 skills will assist you in building your international legacy. Business organizations worldwide are growing more similar, while the behavior of people within them is maintaining its cultural uniqueness. As such, firms need to create an environment that considers multi-civilization and multi-disciplinary appreciation. However, while culturally unique, people are driven by the similar principles: family, security and job. Hence, it is important to be empathetic and genuine.
For all our differences, as global citizens and business leaders, we are similar in at least one regard, we are all very competitive and like to win every time. However, we should not forget to maintain our integrity with a focus on sustainable performance, in good times as well as bad… until the next treaty.
Patrick Mazzariol is Vice President International Sales at Synchrony, Inc. based in Washington D.C., USA. Synchrony Inc. is a leading Fortune 200 technology company. Patrick has a Master’s degree from ESSEC, France and recently completed the Global Executive MBA at The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University.
He has 16 years of experience in global sales development for engineered products and has worked for Ingersoll Rand, Metabo & 3M. He is fluent in three languages and has developed his expertise in 62 countries, spanning 4 continents.
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MarkjOwen’s Blog: “Now – ever since moving to a foreign country, and then starting work for an international company, I have been trying to find a way that would help me understand, and to describe, the differences in the cultures of the people I live with, and work with.”
Anglophonism: “Grice came up with the theory that what we say follows rules. In particular, he came up with a cooperative principle: four maxims that any utterance should follow. The four maxims, together, create the Cooperative Principle: while you’re following the maxims, you’re being cooperative.”
Worlds Fusion: “‘Shlep’ is one word from the German language that has been adopted into mainstream English. Although this is a more popular term in America than it is in Britain, many in the country still use it to express the arduous task of lugging things around.”
Modern World: “There is no doubt that many countries are consistently losing their old national identities, and start imitating other countries’ cultures.The gaps have been narrowed so much, so that in some cases it’s hard to tell where people come from.”
Modern World: “I personally see a language as a tool to understand something different, it can be a different culture or values that are reflected in the words and the idioms, different professional background, but in the end , this tool helps us with the most important thing – communicating with people like us.”
Textbooks and Passports: “Go to a university, not a language school, as then you actually make Russian friends and don’t spend all your time with other foreigners, something that can be easily done in St Petersburg where there are so many foreigners.”
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International Affairs in Higher Education