Managing People Across Different Cultures

Posted: March 21, 2012 by Alison in Human Relations, Office Politics
Tags: , , , , , , ,


During my time with the REA Group we grew the business from operating in just one culture – Australia – to one operating across many different cultures – from Australia and New Zealand through to the English and European cultures.  When we started a small office in Shanghai and acquired Squarefoot in Hong Kong, we further enriched the cultural mix.

Now the challenge i always had was do i change my style to adopt to the various cultures or do i maintain, as much as possible, my approach to doing business and help move the operating cultures in each of the countries to a more common culture.  I made the choice that i would, where possible, adopt the second approach as i felt it was more important that we had a unique REA Group culture rather than half a dozen different cultures.

“How did you make this happen”, i hear you ask.  Well first and foremost i lived the cultural values that i have written about before

Some of the things we did were:

Every time i visited one of the offices, i ensured that i dressed casually (rather than suit and tie) to give the team confidence that it was ok for them to dress the same.  In many of the European and Asian countries the staff take big clues as to what is acceptable from the senior management therefore you have to be very careful what you did.

When i was in the office i would go out of my way to meet with everyone and say hi.  I tried to remember something about them so that i came across as relaxed and approachable.  In Italy for example, they were very used to the CEO being in their own office and really only talking to the team on a transaction basis.  I purposely sat with the teams often sitting in different places each time i was in the office and i made it a point to have a laugh with the team.

Another thing i did was to have team meetings when i visited an office.  The reason for this is that i wanted the local team to know what was happening globally and i wanted them to have a chance to ask me questions – any questions at all.

Finally, i always went for a drink and dinner with the team when i was travelling and i made sure that every one was asked along – not just the local management team.  Having equality in a business is very important to me as it gives people the confidence to speak their mind and to contribute to the successful growth of the business.

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