This meeting apparently did not go as planned. What
did Markus do wrong / what would you do differently? When I ask MBA students for their take, I usually get comments
such as “Markus should have …
- sent an Outlook invitation or otherwise asked participants to confirm their
- followed up with a reminder the day before the online meeting.”
- set up a pre-meeting in order to review the spreadsheet data upfront.”
- involved the colleagues’ managers.”
Sure, all of these measures can be helpful. Remote
team collaboration is always a challenge. Increasing the clarity of the communication and involving relevant
stakeholders never hurt. However, one more aspect likely plays an important role in our particular example: the
invitees’ orientation towards data versus dialogue.
Strongly data-oriented people look for ‘solid’
information that is supported by ‘hard’ data. They place high value on facts and figures, tending to
discard others’ opinions unless those can be validated as factual. Preferring communication to be structured
and documented, they generally favor sending e-mails and using web logs.
On the other end of the spectrum are individuals with
a strong dialog orientation, who primarily leverage personal networks in order to obtain information from those they
know and respect. These people prefer to discuss data rather than analyze them. They tend to mistrust charts and
figures unless a trusted person communicates and validates those. For similar reasons, they value face-to-face
communication and phone conversations more than emails and other written documents.
We all know members of both of these “camps.”
As is common when working across countries and cultures, though, national preferences and practices overlap individual
ones here. Data-versus-dialog orientations can be pronouncedly different across cultures and strongly influence
individual values. Compare the U.S. with Mexico, for example: where a U.S.-American most likely googles a piece of
information he or she needs, a Mexican might grab the phone and call his good friend José, whom he trusts to be
knowledgeable and competent. After all, who knows whether whatever he would find on Google is trustworthy?
Similar differences in attitudes exist across all
Anglosaxon-versus-Latin cultures, to varying degrees. Your native language is English (or, for that matter, German)?
Your culture likely encourages you to focus on facts and records. You speak Spanish, French, or Italian? Talking
things over may matter a great deal more in your culture, as is also the case in Greece, Turkey, most of the Middle
East and Africa, and other places. Some Asian cultures, among them China and Japan, are harder to place here as
they exhibit characteristics of both: they encourage a combination of thorough data analysis with extensive
discussion, which can be time consuming.
What all of this has to do with Markus’
meeting, you ask? Well, some or all of his French colleagues may have assumed that what he sent with his invitation
wasn’t that important. After all: if it was critical, wouldn’t he have called?
Ever made a similar mistake of not considering
your target audience?