Valérie Berset-Price, owner of international business consulting firm Professional Passport, is the expert behind the Vancouver Business Journal’s advice column: Going Global: Business insight on an international scale.
A few months ago, I started working for a company located in the Pacific Northwest with offices scattered all around the world.
One of my responsibilities is to communicate on a weekly basis with the office managers from all of our subsidiaries. It’s a way for them to share with me what’s going on in their offices and trouble-shoot any type of problem. While that sounds like a good idea, I personally find these calls to be useless, as people seem disengaged and uninterested in sharing their experiences. Is there something else I could do to replace the calls and let my subsidiaries know that I would like to engage with them and support them?
Thank you very much in advance!
Your message unfortunately does not provide me with enough information to know when those conference calls are scheduled. One easy mistake is to schedule a call at, let’s say, 9 a.m. Pacific Time every Monday, not realizing that it’s forcing Europeans to stay at the office past their normal hour; making Latin Americans skip lunch; or making people in Asia get up in the middle of the night. Displaying a weekly lack of sensitivity toward people who operate in different time zones might be enough to have them want to get off the phone as fast as possible and thus disengage from the conversation you’re trying to have.
An easy solution is to schedule a call at 9 a.m. somewhere in the world: one week it might be Los Angeles, the following week Sydney, the next Buenos Aires, etc., thus covering every office you have and showing solidarity toward the fact that communicating on a global scale is a shared burden rather than an imposition that always falls on others excepting the headquarters. It’s an easy way to show respect and partnership.
If you’re already doing the shared time zone and it’s not yielding any results, you may be dealing with the undercurrent of cultural dimensions. In the United States, people share best practices freely. They tend to come from a place of abundance when it comes to tips and assistance. They are also not raised with the stigma that failing
at something is automatically bad. Failing here is the normal path to growth.
Other cultures don’t perceive competition and failure the same way. Getting on the phone and sharing their disappointment or failure of the week might be difficult to them. I thus suggest that you offer to have them send you a weekly brief that you will then use as a way to share best practices without revealing the name of the offices that have had the experience (unless they give you the permission to do so). This will create a safe environment where people feel that they can learn from one another without running the risk of losing face.
Do you have a question for Going Global? Email Valerie@vbjusa.com. Please note that the Vancouver Business Journal and Valerie Berset-Price reserve the right to publish your letter or an edited version in all print and electronic media.