Tag Archives: Russia

Viewing the Ukraine Crisis From Russia’s Perspective


James Joyce’s famous statement that “history is a nightmare” from which we should try to awake, aptly describes current events in the Ukraine.  All nations involved in these events are biased by the remembered, misremembered, forgotten, and mythologized history they carry in their heads.

Source: www.counterpunch.org

 “Our national memories have the passion and power to drive us blindly to hatreds and to war”

History is actually biased opinions based on popular stories that people believe as facts and do not challenge. Those stories are used to exacerbate our patriotism: “our stories” versus “the “enemy stories”. Stories are used in propaganda  to manipulate the public opinion toward a common goal : eliminating the “enemy” and to consolidate political power, financial interests etc.

For example, Hillary Clinton, on March 5, said that Putin’s concern for Russians in Ukraine is like Hitler’s concern for Germans in Poland and Czechoslovakia.

This is a very good example of manipulation:

Labeling Putin as “Hitler” is a sure way to activate a demon in the American national memory and to mobilize the United States to again fight the evil personified (just like Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Chavez, Allende or Gaddafi , to name a few of many leaders that have been called “Hitler” by American politicians)

Russians are looking at Ukraine as increasing the threat of being invaded. After the collapse of the USSR, many previous Soviet republics in Eastern Europe are now members of NATO with military bases. Ukraine and Belarus are actually the last soviet republics that are not EU members.

Each era of  Russian history has had its military super-power, and each super-power in turn attacked Russia: Turks, Poles, Swedes, French, Germans, British, and Japanese have each invaded Russia more than once.

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Where are you really from ? An Expat Perspective On Racism


Womanblackman

I found the question in this article very interesting:   Is It Racist to Ask People Where They’re From?
As an expat, I am asked all the time where are you really from ?  and I usually have different answers for different audiences. However to many expats, they don’t feel comfortable with this question especially if they have been living in a foreign country for quite a long time and interpret the question as obviously you are not from there, you are different.
After 25 years of expatriation, I still have some mixed feelings about this question but sometimes it is good to feel different and not from “here”.  Being a French in France is actually harder for me than living abroad, I don’t know anything about popular TV shows or the secret lives of French politicians and I have often a very different view on sensitive questions as I am living on the “other side”.
When I lived in Japan in the 90s I obviously did not look Japanese and I have been asked frequently where I was from, but at that time, being French and saying I was from Paris, were magic words and I was very well treated both at work and with perfect strangers in the streets. I was kind of “exotic” there. However Caucasians were better treated than non-Japanese Asians, especially Chinese, Koreans or Filipinos.
In the US, when I lived in New York City and 8 months pregnant, strangers were giving me a “god bless you” very often, then we had the 9/11 dramatic events and my son was born 12 days later. However I got unpleasant remarks when I said I was French because at that time the French president and the government refused to send troops to Baghdad as if I had anything to do with this decision.
Altogether I had a very positive experience in NYC. I also lived in Atlanta and we were very well-integrated partly because of my son being at the Atlanta International School but generally speaking, Atlanta is a very international city. However I was shocked to see that nothing really changed since Martin Luther King Jr, I saw a lot of segregation between African-Americans and White Americans. Each community including Latin American people had their own neighborhood with very strict boundaries. I then realized that America was far from being a melting pot !
Then we spent one year in New Jersey and it was painful to have in the neighborhood listing “the French” instead of our family name.
Now we live in Russia, I don’t have any specific problems with racism, the “where are you from? ” is still there since my Russian is pretty basic but unlike the stereotypes, I find Russians very courteous with men giving their seats to women in the Metro for example. But here again even for wealthy expatriates,  it is better to be a Caucasian than having a dark skin color.

How do you feel about being asked : where are you really from ?

Related Article:  Encountering racism abroad — or why I sometimes wish I was white

The “How Are You?” Culture Clash: Americans v.s. Russians


How Are You ?

The answer Americans give, of course is, “Fine.”

But when Russians hear this they think one of two things: (1) you’ve been granted a heavenly reprieve from the wearisome grind that all but defines the human condition and as a result are experiencing a rare and sublime moment of fineness or (2) you are lying”.

True for French people too, they don’t always understand that “how are you?” is not a question, just another way to say “hi” in the United States

Read more on : The ‘How Are You?’ Culture ClashBy ALINA SIMONEJAN. 19, 2014

 

Is Humility A Universal Leadership Value Across Cultures ?


isaac-newton-new (1)

Humility in leadership can be defined as the ability to understand yourself and bring the best from other people. You must first know your talents and limitations, then recognize that you have to rely on others and empower them to discover their own strengths and manage their weak points to focus on achieving a common goal.

Global leaders and managers working in multicultural teams must manage conflicts, poor communication and lack of teamwork as a result of misunderstandings and wrong assumptions from people driven by different internal core values and beliefs.

What we know, from the work of Professor Geert Hofstede on dimensions of national culture is that some countries have high power distance such as Russia that scores 93 on a scale of 1-100 and others have a low power distance dimension like United States that scores 40.

What it means, is that in Russia the power is distributed unequally and highly centralized with 80% of the financial potential concentrated in Moscow. It also means that in high distance countries people believe that power and authority are facts of life and inequality is institutionalized. Leaders are therefore expected to have a top-down approach to solve conflicts and take important decisions. Subordinates will simply comply with their leader.

For doing business In Russia, you must understand that hierarchy and status are important and that Russians respect age, rank and position as well as technological expertise. Russians see negotiations as win-lose and compromise as weakness.

On the other hand, in lower power distance countries such as the United States, there is a preference for consultation and collaborative leadership. Subordinates are encouraged to be independent  and contribute to problem solving. In the United States. business communication is informal and based on a win-win negotiation style.

If you are coming from the U.S. or another low power distance country when you have to deal with high power distance countries like Russia, you need to take your time  to understand who has the power of making decisions, otherwise nothing is going to happen especially when dealing with the administration and its very complex bureaucracy. For Americans, “time is money” but trying to force Russians to take quick decisions will only delay the processes and decrease trust.

So in a sense, humility in business negotiation is highly valued by Russians in general as humble business leaders have patience, try to understand first  and at the same time are strong enough to deal with conflicts without showing any sign of arrogance or superiority.

Most of the studies on humility as a value in leadership have been conducted in the United States and therefore it is difficult to separate the empirical and anecdotal from the real science-based evidences.

Leadership is a question of character (integrity, confidence, curiosity), not temperament (biology and genetics), therefore it is possible for global leaders and expatriated managers to learn cultural differences and the benefits of humility, holding judgment and avoiding placing one culture above another.

The role of effective intercultural leaders is to shape the corporate and local cultures of their organization to be understood and embraced by individuals from different race, ethnicity, religion and gender with a minimum of misunderstandings. 

Related Articles:

Perception of Time Value In America and Russia


Business in Russia

Many managers working in multicultural teams or dealing with clients and business partners overseas have often little idea that conflicts could have underlying cultural differences.

Time and its perceived value is one of those key cultural differences. We may measure time with same metrics such as hours or days  but time is perceived differently on a personal level and on a cultural level.

Time management is a frequent cause of conflicts between Americans and Russians when doing business together and this is due to the cultural context.

For Americans the value of time is material:

  • “Time is money”
  • They tend to have a materialistic approach attached to achievements and time.
  • Time is sacred in the U.S.,  being late is very rude, deadlines  are fixed.
  • “Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.”Peter F. Drucker

For Russians, the value of time is “elastic”:

  •  “People” come before time, a Russian proverb says: “seven people do not wait for one”.
  • Being late is not perceived as being rude
  • Deadlines are flexible
  • Russian management does not fit easily in “westernized” practices of time management
  • Planning is not rigorous
  • Issues and problems are solved under pressure and stress at the last-minute
  • If you want to manage your Russian team you better be a night owl. Often employees work late until 11 pm or 1 am (the direct consequence of dealing with things at the last-minute)

When doing business in Russia, American companies should spend more time than they usually do in the US on establishing personal connections before talking business. Frequent contacts should then be maintained.

Organizing bi-cultural meetings is often the first step of intercultural business communication. Handled poorly, those events can lead to frustration and lack of trust, jeopardizing collaboration. The organizers of such introductory intercultural meetings between Americans and Russians should create an environment in which time perception differences are explained and accepted by all. 

In the US, an agenda is always sent before a meetings and it is usually followed. In Russia there is often reluctance to put in writing a detailed plan. If the meeting is conducted in English, more time should be given to people who are not the native speakers. Do not rush the call and make sure to allow extra time for unplanned topics that could emerge during the discussion. Always send minutes or a summary of what’s been said just after the meeting. However, with Russian partners what has been discussed and perceived as agreed by their American counterpart may be challenged and rejected at any time.

Related Resources

How Do You Develop Global Leaders ?


Globe

In the article ‘Global Mindset Secrets of Superstar Expats” published  by Thunderbird School of Global Management, the authors argue that immersing executives in different cultures does not produce effective global leaders as they often fail to learn how to deal with the complexities of their work environment.

To lead is to be able to influence people who are not thinking and behaving like you. In my experience learning to lead across cultures is a mix of formal leadership development training aligned with corporate values and multiple international assignments in places with very different cultural values and dimensions (https://zestnzen.wordpress.com/tag/cultural-dimensions/ )

I challenge the concept of “‘global mindset” as it is often interpreted as an “ethnocentric” way of doing business aka “western”. You can have all the attributes listed in this article and fail to adapt your leadership style to one specific country. Applying participating leadership and asking employees to take initiatives doesn’t work well in Russia for example, while Americans appreciate leaders who grant autonomy and delegate authority to subordinates.

Successful leaders in developed economies are different from successful leaders in emerging economies.

In a Forbes’ article,  How Does Leadership Vary Across the Globe? results of a  study show that it is important to adapt leadership style to a specific culture and not try to apply  “Americanized” management principles. The skills set and competencies of leaders in different countries vary.

The Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Project (GLOBE) is an international group of social scientists and management scholars who study cross-cultural leadership. According to GLOBE researchers, leader effectiveness is contextual, that is, it is embedded in the societal and organizational norms, values, and beliefs of the people being led. In other words, to be seen as effective, the time-tested adage continues to apply: “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”

To gauge leader effectiveness across cultures, GLOBE researchers empirically
established nine cultural dimensions (adapted from work of Hofstede) to capture the similarities
and/or differences in norms, values, beliefs –and practices—among societies. The cultural dimensions can be used in intercultural leadership training.

Related Articles: 

Research Findings: The Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace


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Culture at Work: The value of intercultural skills in the workplace —A survey conducted by the British Council, Booz Allen Hamilton and Ipsos Public Affairs, of HR managers at 367 large employers…Posted on 2013/03/20 by Dianne Hofner Saphiere. See full article on blog.culturaldetective.com

Intercultural skills are crucial in the development of businesses internationally. However it is often difficult to identify employees who have the right combination of skills. Most HR managers of large multinational companies think that intercultural communication skills are beneficial to keep good reputation, build trust with overseas clients and partners, increase productivity and increase sales

The top 3 most important skills valued by employers are :

  • RESPECT
  • BUILDING TRUST
  • WORKING EFFECTIVELY IN DIVERSE TEAMS
If self-training through international assignments and working in multicultural projects are encouraged, employers are also expecting that educational institutions do more to equip students with intercultural skills.

Russia was not mentioned in this study but with the fast-changing pace of the economy, it is clear that there is the same need for more formal education on intercultural skills by education providers such as:

  • Teaching communication skills
  • Offering foreign language classes
  • Availability of opportunities for students to gain international experience
  • Development of international research partnerships.

Based on my experience, not only basic rules or cultural etiquette need to be learned in context but the ability to develop strong bonds on a personal level needs emphasis too.

Cross-cultural programs should not be dissociated from corporate culture but instead used to create a “third culture” so that all employees globally feel they share the same values.

If you look at companies such as Starbucks, not only the customer experience is the same everywhere but the corporate values too.

Read more about Starbucks here : What To Learn From A Brand That Is Trusted Globally?

What Do You Think Of Intercultural Programs Offered in Your country By Universities and Business Schools ?

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