We worked with a client executive who was accustomed to a flat organizational structure where subordinates collaborated with him to accomplish business goals. Once he started working at the local subsidiary of his company, he assumed that his subordinates would be willing to share their ideas and be receptive to constructive criticism. However, during internal meetings everyone would listen to him, but there was no participation or dialogue. He wasn’t aware that his subordinates were accustomed to a high-distance-to-power environment, meaning, his staff mobilized only if they received an order from the ‘boss’. While they did not object to anything he said or requested, they also did not take initiative without first asking permission for every tactical action item. After completing our module, which helped inform him of the main cultural differences he faced, he was able to recognize and understand the motivation and rationale for his staff’s behavior. At that point, his next challenge was to determine how to collaborate and communicate with his staff to reach mutually agreed upon working relationship.


First he had to understand the perception that his management style had on his staff. The expected him to know everything, as he was the ‘boss’. From the point of view of his staff, they thought ‘Why should we tell him what to do? If we knew what to do and how to act for a particular issue, then what was his role as a manager?’ How could they respect someone who was acting according to the ideas or opinions of his subordinates instead of his own? After developing his sense of cultural intelligence he slowly gained new perspective and insight on the perception of his subordinates and how to encourage them to be the best they can be. He was able to motivate, galvanize and lead them in order to reach their corporate goals by creating productive relationships. After filling the gaps between his individual skills, understanding the cultural dimensions and corporate culture and giving weight to people’s differences, he was now able to communicate effectively in a different cultural setting and make use of his local team to gain competitive edge for reaching his personal and corporate goals.


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