Creating an international business venture, as outlined in not only our reading but also by Lejla Kapertanovic’s presentation, is a job for the strong minded, long-term thinking and powerfully agile leader.
On the other hand, this “Organizational Behavior” reading clearly outlines the needed balance businessmen and women need in the workplace. Although taking the CEO, CFO, whatever hat off would not be recommended, complimenting your ego with a humble trainee hat is equally advised.
On page 50, the authors write:
“…establishing and successfully operating a joint venture in [foreign countries] will require a great deal of learning and patience. In these and other international settings, political risks and bureaucratic difficulties further complicated the already difficult process of working across cultural boundaries.”
America and western society often create breading grounds for business owners’ prides and egos. Choosing to take an inflated power trip across seas and into foreign business plans takes up too much space, often leaving none for a team of encouraged and motivated people willing to make careful room for crisis plans, error, changing situations and cultural development.
Sticking to the hat metaphor, if you will, this would be like a businessman not only choosing to wear his giant, American-CEO hat to Nigeria, but also pulling it over his eyes, ears, nose and mouth when the plane lands. How can you communicate when you’re blinded, deafened, descented and dumbed? Especially when your giant hat means nothing to the people you’re trying to connect with?
A quote from one of my favorite books, The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis, comes to mind here:
“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). […] It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share a vision.” (Page 268-269)
In order to establish a plentiful and sturdy foundation of trust with your new foreign business leaders, you need to be able to understand each other. All parties need to stoop down to a level shared by both trainee and CEO, and then build upon the connection in order to promote the business’ status. This way, businessmen and women share the tediousness of naivety of planning, but all ideas are accepted and heard; businessmen and women endure the agony of starting slow but together embrace the speed of growth; and businessmen and women initially wonder at their unlike hats but eventually know and love the qualities and productions of each.
(On page 52 there’s a great real world example made from the International Orientation Resources, a Chicago-based company, that describes the imperative moves one should take in order to prepare and learn from new neighbors, business or otherwise.)
Schermerhorn, Jr., J. R., Hunt, J. G., & Osborn, R. N. Organizational behavior. (7 ed., pp. 50-52). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Lewis, C. S. (1960). The four loves. (pp. 268-269). New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.