Cultural Differences

I read an article on the Harvard Business Review about different cultures and how they have a different take on deadlines.  Thinking about the cultural differences that I have observed over the years, I have seen that there are differences in almost all things.

In the article, he writes about having to give a presentation to two different groups in Belgium.  He experienced how each group embodied a different expectation of punctuality.

As I reflect on the different cultures that have existed in the teams that I have been apart of, I can easily see the differences in acceptable behavior.  I also see differences within companies that are geographically located in the same building.  There are differences in punctuality, side chat and other manners that are open for interpretation.

In a group that I have worked with, it was perfectly acceptable (and very common) to be 15 minutes late.   To compound the tardiness, their arrival was often very disruptive.This is a mannerism that is also variant among different groups regardless of location.

One of the things that I am personally working on is to see the opportunities for leadership that exist in situations like these. I don’t believe that cultural diversity is an impenetrable wall that cannot be adjusted.  It must be true that once there are some common understandings of what behavior is acceptable, new behaviors can be encouraged and cemented.

In an engineering group, I have found that there is one other component to add on top of all of this.  The generational gap is real and has the possibility to create challenges when attempting to set acceptable standards.  I am sure you guessed that I am talking about the millennials, gotta love ’em.

I don’t know what can be done from a leadership position to normalize some of the fluctuations in behavior, but I know that methods must exist.  I think the model that I am working within today is working pretty well.  It helps that we have a great set of team members. It did take some adjustment time, but now the differences are hardly visible.

Diversity is not going away, so embrace it.




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