On November 13, 2019 John Magee gave an hour-long keynote to a group of senior-level people – Germans and Americans – in the Strategy and Portfolio Management organization of a major German company with a very significant presence in the U.S.
The focus of his talk was on leadership. Not in the sense of the over-used buzzword, but instead about the very concrete, specific, day-to-day interaction between hierarchical levels, between team-leads and team-members. Here are the key points:
Magee – an American who has lived and worked in Germany for thirty years – introduces himself to a group of high-level management.
Three Data Points
There are differences between cultures. The differences are in foundational areas. The differences necessarily exert direct and constant influence on collaboration. (Please note: at 41 seconds the audience laughs. Not because of my statement about Germans closing doors to bathrooms. Instead because a door which was behind me was closed by a member of the restaurant staff precisely at that point when I had made the statement about Germans and doors)
First, understand cultural differences. Second, engage in three conversations. Third, discuss and decide on how to collaborte.
Three Good Things
Three good things happen when Germans and Americans, who are collaborting, understand cultural differences.
One key difference between the American and the German leaderships logics: Where the two cultures respectively draw the line between strategy and tactics.
Americans and Germans, who are collaborating, need to stop each other whenever they find themselves – individually or as a group – thinking and saying that the other side “has another crazy idea which will never work.”
Our Blind Spot
Most companies operating across borders do not address the deeper-lying cultural differences. It is the single greatest blind spot among global companies.