One of the biggest challenges facing large non-aligned national law firms is around how they go about building law firm networks which deliver a network of best friends around the world who they can work with to help service their domestic clients’ international needs. Sounds like a no-brainer perhaps – just go out and find a few comparable firms in a few key global markets and form a best friend relationship. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy….
And crucially, ‘how can we ensure effective cross-border working?’ That’s where I come in….
I was in Amsterdam yesterday with the Dutch Law Firm Lexence NV who are working hard to develop good reciprocal working relations with other firms in Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic. I was asked to run a cultural awareness training programme with a group of senior asociates who will, hopefully, be working together on cross-jurisdictional matters for years to come.
At one point during the day I asked the lawyers to outline client expectations in their own jurisdictions so the other lawyers could gain a better understanding. The output from this exercise was absolutley fascinating (I’ll write a fuller blog on this) because the client expectations as described by the lawyers were so different. (Who said client expectatons were the same all over the world?) The biggest surprise to the delegates was just how different client expectations were in two countries which are so close to each other – the Netherlands and Belgium!
I always learn more on these cultural awareness training sessions than I teach which is why I love the job so much.
Bizarrely, I’ve been spending a couple of days in Frankfurt working in the ‘Brexit-hedge’ subsidiary of a Japanese bank. Lots of financial services organisations (and others) have been forced into opening an EU-based office to guard against the potential consequesnces of a disasterous no-deal Brexit or a bad Brexit. The cost of all of this to the organisations involved is truly mind-blowing and it is essential therefore that these new offices ‘hit the ground’ running and deliver an ROI as quickly as possibe. Obiously I was looking at all things realted to German – Japan cultural awareness in Frankfurt.
Hence my presence in Frankfurt running cultural awareness training programmes on working with Japan (and also the UK). It’s quite a copmplex jigsaw puzzle if you work in an office in Frankfurt which reports into the UK which then reports into Tokyo! Lots of potential for cultural misunderstandings and inefficiencies in all of that!
In one of the cultural awareness training programmes where we were focuing more on Japan than the UK, I had the good fortune to have an experienced Japanese expat and a British guy who had worked in Tokyo for Japanese banks for 15 years and who was a fluent Japanese speaker. At one point I took these guys aside and asked them to feed back to the rest of the group what they felt were the top ‘need to knows’ when working into Japan. These are what they came up with:
I had a slide ready covering all of these issues but thanks to these two great delegates I didn’t need to use it…….
If you are interested in learning more about our Germany – Japan cultural awareness programmes please contact us.
I always really enjoy the development sessions I run with the part-time MBA students at the world-famous Warwick Business School. The guys who complete these challenging MBA programmes are amazing – not only are they studying for this qualification but they are also holding down full-time jobs and therefore juggling work, family and studies. I take my hat off to them. And they really sem to enjoy my session on cultural awareness for MBA students.
Anyway on Wednesday evening I had a full lecture theatre (not my favourite training environment) and we spent about three hours exploring the global cultural aspects of effectively engaging with global stakeholders. The delegate base was massively international – literally from every continent – and so the questions and input was really interesting. We had a whole range of experiences brought to the table ranging from how Cartesian logic runs through the French decision-making process and how that doesn’t work too well in the UK, through to the problems of gaining acceptance when working as an expatriate in a new country.
The challenge is always time. Although we had about three hours, the topic is so vast that I am always left to feel that I’ve hardly scraped the tip of the iceberg! There were so many issues we could have profitably explored as a result of delegate interventions – and I only managed to get through about half of what I’d hoped to cover.
I set myself quite limited targets for these sessions – I want everybody to walk out of the room thinking ‘I really do need to factor global cultural differences more into my thought processes.’ If I can achieve that goal, then I think my intervention was worthwhile.
If you would like to discuss how our input on these cultural awareness training for MBA students could add value to your intitution’s MBA programme please contact us.
I was really delighted to be asked by the Crown Agents to address a group of senior Africa leaders as part of a week-long leadership training programme in the UK. These leaders from Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda came from both the private and the public sectors and were in the UK developing authentic leadership skills. I really believe that for Africa cultural awareness training is a must.
However, I was asked to address the group on the impact that global cultural differences can have when leading colleagues across cultural boundaries. As Africa becomes increasingly engaged in global trade, developing global fluency will be a vital skill which African organisations will need to focus on. China is ever more active in Africa – as is India – and there are still lots of legacy relationships with the old colonial powers, so African leaders will increasingly need a knowledge of how business is conducted in various different parts of the world.
I find it interesting that for the first 15 years or so of running Global Business Culture, we were very rarely asked to work in Africa or with African organisations but the last 3 or 4 years has seen a reversal of that trend and we find ourselves incerasingly involved in Africa-related activities. My hope is that this increased involvement is, in a microscopic way, a sign of the growth and increased stability of many African economies and a portent that Africa is starting to become a much more important global player.
Africa cultural awareness training will become increasingly important for to different sets of people:
I look forward to ever increasing ties with Africa clients.
I really enjoyed meeting the HSBC London City Corporate team yesterday at their monthly team meeting. International Market Entry was the topic of the day.
As you would expect from one of the few truly global banks, the City team of relationship managers and analysts liaise with a lot of clients who are working extensively in overseas markets and both the clients and the RM’s themselves are therfore faced with lots of international challenges. I spent some time with the team looking at some of the issues they should be discussing with clients in their roles as trusted advisors.
We covered a whole range of issues such as:
I think the session must have been well-received because they have asked if I am happy to run another session later in the year for selected key clients of the bank. I always feel that the best customer endorsement I can receive for the work we do is when a client entrusts us to speak to their clients – I see it as validation that my input has been viewed of value
Actually, I was in an office in London and I had a group of lawyers in a meeting room in Sandton, Jo’burg and together we participated in a cross-border, cross-technology, cross-cultural, cultural awareness training programme. Although it is not the same as being in the room with a group of delegates, I think that videoconferencing is the next best thing – and certainly much better than via the phone.
I remember trying to run video-conference training about ten years ago and the technology just wasn’t up to the job at that time. The sound would drop, there was a delay in the movements, and it all felt very stilted. These days, however, with the massive advances in technology it is much easier to make these sessions interactive and I try to simulate (as much as possible) being in the room with the remote team.
It’s always fascinating to run cultural awareness training programmes in South Africa because the culture within South Africa is so diverse. We had a very interesting discussion about how diverse Africa is culturally as a continent and how inward investors often use South Africa as a stepping-stone but expect South Africans to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the other 53 African nations! That’s a tall order…..
We find ourselves doing more and more work with Africa and know how different the various countries are in terms of culture and expectations but one thing they all have in common is that they are working with China which is one of the key indicators of the current rebalancing of the economic world order.
if you’d like to discuss our cultural awareness video training options please get in touch – we have been running virtual training sessions using video technology for many years now and this is just part of our standard client offering.
I ran a cultural awareness training programme yesterday for a client near London and although the session was initially set up as a more general global cultural awareness programme looking at generic cultural issues, it became quickly apparent that many of the people in the room really wanted to focus on working with India training.
This client has extensive interface with India at a variety of levels:
So the relationships in India are pretty well developed and the delegates on the session were seemingly frustrated by a number of different aspects of working with India – but two main aspects came to the fore:
Despite the fact that many in the room had worked with India for a number of years and had visited on numerous occasions, they admitted that they really didn’t ‘get’ India and why the Indians they worked with didn’t respond in the way they expected (which actually seemed to mean ‘like people in the UK.’)
I think we will end up doing a more focused session on India but it always amazes me that organisations are happy to ‘bumble along’ in a state of confusion when some quality, targeted training could really help push the process forward.
Don’t wait until cultural issues bite you before reacting. Be proactive – look at cultural fluency building at early stages of any international project.
If you would like to discuss how your organisation might benefit from some targeted ‘Working with India’ training please get in touch and we can talk you through a few approaches we have found work for other clients.
I had a great day in Glasgow yesterday with a group of associates from a global law firm. I ran a general cultural awareness training programme aimed at increasing these lawyers ability to work cross-border. All law firms say they offer their global clients a seamless service across the jurisdictions but not all law firms invest in the training needed to make lawyers truly global in their outlook.
One of the discussions which created a great amount of interest was around the blurred lines between cultural expectations and ethical boundaries. In a nutshell, what one country finds ethically unacceptable is very often standard practice in another country. What constitutes a bribe under the UK Anti-Bribery and Corruption Act is merely seen as a relationship-building gift in a different part of the world.
This creates massive dilemmas for global companies. Can you have an ethics and compliance programme which is truly global without it coming across as 21st century colonialism? Does it matter if it does come across in that fashion?
This also presents difficulties for lawyers who can only give accurate legal advice when a client might be looking for more commercial, practical solutions. If an international client makes it clear they don’t want a female partner working on a matter, should the firm refuse to take on the mandate?
In the post-Brexit world, UK companies are being encouraged to look for new business in the emerging market spaces. When they do that they will be faced with lots of these ethical dilemmas and have to compete with organisations from other parts of the world who are not bound by the same ethical agenda. These clients will be looking to their lawyers for advice in these situations.
How will the lawyers and law firms respond? Let us know if we can help increase your lawyers’ knoweldge of this topic.
Yesterday found me running a cultural awareness training programme with a group of partners from a global law firm. I spend lots of my time with lawyers and always find their insights and experiences of cross-jurisdictional working to be both fascinating and informative. ultural attitudes to contarcts is a topic which very often gets raised.
A key element of the cultural awareness training programmes I run is around getting the partners to discuss their own experiences and challenges when working in a cross-border environment. I can’t say that there is absolute uniformity around the challenges raised by partners in all sessions because a huge variety of issues are aired but one consistent discussion is around globally differing attitudes to contracts.
There seems to be an expectation in the West – from lawyers and clients alike – that a contract is an agreement between parties which binds those parties to certain activities going forward. The contract is viewed as the full-stop at the end of the negotiation sentence. However, experienced international lawyers come to recognise that this definition of a contract is far from globally applicable.
Lots of countries would view a contract from a very different perspective. Most relationship-oriented cultures tend to view a contract more as the statement of the best agreement at a certain point in time but that if circumstances were to change it would be unreasonable of reasonable people with good relationships to expect anybody to abide by the original terms of the contract. The contract is viewed less as a full-stop at the end of the sentence but rather as the capital letter. A contract is an agreement that business will be done together and little more.
Herein lies the basis of major global contractual disputes. Business people from different parts of the world enter into a contract with differing psychological views on what the obligations of that contract actually are.
As I say – very fascinating to hear experienced lawyers discussing this point during cultural awareness training programmes.
At Global Business Culture, we work with many of the world’s great law firms and have been involved at close quarters with the globalisation process that has taken place in the legal sector over the past decade or more. Many of the law firm we work with have morphed from UK-centric or US-centric firms with maybe one or two international offices into legal behemoths with operations on every continent.
Most of the cultural awareness training work we have done for law firms over the years has been with partners and associates – this is understandable as they are at the cutting edge dealing with clients, colleagues and other stakeholders across multiple jurisdictions.
However, we are increasingly being asked to run global cultural fluency training programmes for the support staff who work with the lawyers. Gone are the days when lawyers and support staff were seen as separate beasts with little in common. Progressive law firms now value their support staff as highly as they do their lawyers as they recognise the critical role they play in the effective delivery of great service to great clients.
Yesterday saw me running a programme ‘Working in a global law firm – the cultural perspective’ with a group of support staff from a variety of organisational functions at Pinsent Masons’ London office. Although there was a preponderance of BD executives in the group, we also had people from Finance, Project Management, Document Production and HR.
Why should law firms invest in cultural awareness development for support staff? Because they are very often at the sharp end when new policies and processes are being rolled out across the firm and they are usually required to be involved in those developments on a global scale.
If you would like to discuss cultural awareness training for your support staff please contact us.