1. Even though you have significant international experience, what actually happens in the new culture ends up
being quite different than you expected.
2. It feels like your new team and local management do not trust you. You don't understand each other and communication is inefficient.
3. You find that your team is focusing on low-priority tasks which makes it difficult to reach your goals.
4. It feels like the relational conflicts you are facing hinder the progress of your projects.
5. You find that different cultural visions about leadership styles prevent you from managing flexibility and diversity efficiently in your team.
By Françoise Falisse
Nowadays crossing a continent does not take you more than a half a day, which can give some executives false impressions that the world is becoming a big business market where you can easily reach people from another culture as long as you can communicate properly in English or in the language of the prospect.
Using a common language does not reduce the cultural gap, on the contrary sometimes. When the common business language used in business communication is a foreign language for one or for both business partners (and even if both partners speak their mother language), they need to make sure every partner has understood the same message.
In other words both partners have to check that they both give the same meaning to the same words, which can be far from being obvious because the modes of communication largely differ from one culture to the other.
Among other factors, some use a more direct style, as in Nigeria whereas their close
neighbours, the Benin people, for instance, prefer a more indirect style, both however using high context communication style where their words refer to a cultural context often hard for
foreigners to perceive at first glance. Formal-informal, factual-emotional, verbal and non verbal communication also largely impact the way we communicate.
The colour of your skin or your ethnic origin can also convey wrong information about your culture and assimilating all the people of the same continent is an easy amalgam often unwillingly made from people outside the continent.
A young West-European executive from African origin I recently
coached wanted to improve the poor quality of her working relationships with her local West-African boss and
team. She had realized that misleading perceptions from both her European headquarters and local managers had led them to anticipate wrongly how she could adjust in an African
living and working environment while she had perceived it as a totally foreign context.
She got professionally trained. My working and living experience of nine years in Africa helped her develop cultural consciousness about this country and create trust with her team. She then became much more comfortable with interacting with people of another culture. This resulted in her connecting faster the local issues with the targets and deadlines fixed by her European headquarter. This training also highlighted her challenges in a new foreign working environment.
I quite often notice that both HR managers and some senior executives with international exposure misconsider to get trained on cross-cultural communication for time and cost reasons and they claim that they already gained enough experience abroad taking for granted they should be able to adapt easily to a new culture.
However their ability to adjust to some countries on which they built up their international experience does not necessarily mean they could be agile everywhere. More senior staff could for instance work on more strategic issues such as how to help their company integrate change and deal with complexity.
I have known a Finance Manager for some time and I know he has been widely exposed to working and living in Africa. A couple of years ago, his former company sent him to Morocco as a Resident Finance Manager without any cultural training beforehand because the HR manager was not aware of the need assuming he was already accustomed to working overseas.
Their mindset was to drop expats in unfamiliar environments and expect the bravest and the most inventive could be strong enough to get by and show the best adaptability.
He quickly realised that his former behavioral adjustment which he had acquired from his previous jobs in black Africa resulted in awkward interactions with his Moroccan staff. His unadjusted attitude quickly deteriated the working atmosphere which consequently hampered his objectives, cut the team’s motivation and delayed the delivery of results to headquarters.
A good solution for him would have been a customized personal and cultural development program in the form of individual coaching sessions beforehand and even on the working place to help him better understand Moroccan culture, point major cultural differences with the black African countries he had worked in before and assist him in adapting his communication and management style to behave efficiently with his Morrocan staff.
Personal aspects also need to be included in the process of developing cross-cultural agility. Not everyone feels good in the same working environment and adapts the same way even more more so when executives have to work in a foreign country.
What are the executive’s preferences in terms of behavior and what is his/her system of values ?
More specifically for expatriates before or when starting a new assignement, the screening of external and internal factors can help determine the expatriate’s preferences for language of work, eating habits, climate where he/she feels comfortable, developed or developing countries, a taste for a particular continent or type of landscapes, personal needs for socialization, … and many other factors as well as his/her global open-mindedness for change and risk taking.
My own experience overseas convinced me that adaptation process to another cultural environment takes time because it is a trip with constant back and forth.
On the pile side of the part one can consider that the greater the cultural distance between the executive and his/her local team and management the more effort (and probably time) it will take to communicate effectively with them. The face side of the part shows the ability of some executives to harmoniously work with culturally distant teams proving that knowledgeable executives about cultural differences can adapt their own behaviours to communicate efficiently with their local teams and partners.
As we are working globally, the need for adjustment to another culture has become a necessity more than a choice.
Far from being easy, it requires an open mindset to change and a readiness to unfamiliar situations bringing its lot of discomfort specially when it comes to high-level negotiations.
A Managing Director of a new African branch that his company had recently opened confirmed how his cultural training had first helped him put his European vision of
African culture into perspective but also how he could then adapt his speech and non verbal communication to increase his chance to enter the local business arena. Cultural coaching can also help
decode local rituals, such as the way you shake hands can leave a first and sometimes final impression to your partner.
Respecting and being respected are certainly key values to most cultures as it is at the center of our human condition. Empowering executives to leverage their cultural skills does not aim to make them more powerful over others but can certainly contribute to develop their business in nuances and evolve in the complex working environment of our 21st century.
By Françoise Falisse
Africa seldom leaves foreigners indifferent, either you love it or you hate it, it goes from apprehension to attractiveness, from refrain to call for action and investment, with sometimes mixed feelings of fear and fascination and trust taking a long time to build.
This huge continent with its high potential in natural resources and fast growing
population is now facing important human, social, economic, political and structural challenges.
Potential investors targeting countries such as : Congo, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Angola or South-Africa may be refrained from investing due to social unrest, political or economic instability and the sharp slow down of the global economy (namely the drop of the oil price) also directly impacts these emerging economies (all of them not developing at the same pace).
Tanzania enjoying more local stability is becoming the third biggest economy of Africa and the most important economy in East Africa, namely thanks to its new logistical facilities and International Container Terminal Services (China funded) in Dar Es Salaam.
As the conduct of international business closely intermingles with cultural awareness, a lack of awareness of African cultural diversity and local identities will deteriorate the quality of the business relationships, making the negotiation processes still longer and more costly. Cultural clash can compromise future discussions or even lead to a failure if we, as foreign investors, are not acquainted with the African mentality and local customs.
Here are five global cultural aspects, commonly shared in all black Africa, which need to be considered before entering the business arena on the continent:
Negotiation is based on the quality of relationships, so take time to build a relationship before, during and after the meetings and create trust. Showing a sincere interest in
the social and economic life of the African partner 's country as well as for one's traditions are appreciated and are not regarded as a waste of time.
They are just the first step to establishing a business relationship in respect for their business customs. Enquiring globally about the family is usually well received when discussing face to face. Some business meetings can take place late in the evening, making them more discrete.
Starting business in Sub-Saharan Africa is complex, it requires an awareness of African cultures and preferably some understanding of the local customs of the target country.
Adopting a more laid back, respectful, open but cautious attitude will be necessary to build in time a trustworthy business relationship. Don't miss out the opportunities!
By Françoise Falisse
From moving to settling in the new country.
Expatriating means much more than taking one’s luggage, locking one’s door, taking a plane and landing in a new place to start a new function the next day. Though some managers actually start their career abroad almost as hastily as this, understanding and adjusting to the new environment will take place at another tempo. The acquisition, in rather short terms, of technical competences and the comprehension of new factual data are often slowed down by some change resistance or for the least by the need for some time to adjust to this new environment.
Change is an iterative process with its ups and downs, back and forth, from change resistance to acceptance of the new situation, time to integrate change is dependent on everyone’s experience and vision of life. Change process is globally characterized here by three main steps : pre-decision phase, preparation phase and moving-installation phase.
The first phase anticipates change, balancing between a rather stable life in a well known context (but sometimes unsatisfactory) and the perspective of a new and unknown situation which might be a source of evolution for the expatriate (and his/her family). You know what you have, you do not know what to expect in that country ; you have professional, personal and material expectations but you do not know if you could see them fulfilled in that country. Doubts, uncertainty and hopes overwhelm this period of analysis.
If you have taken the decision to leave your country for a few years, the contract has been signed, a date of departure is fixed, you are a step further in change acceptance, a count down has now started. Balancing between relief, anxiety and enthusiasm, you are now getting prepared for the unknown and you are becoming more conscious a page is now being turned. Not everyone reacts the same way facing your leaving the country : as first actor(s) of the decision, you can accept and adhere to change more easily than children, parents or friends who can react very emotionally at different levels of understanding of your expatriation.
On the one hand, leaving one’s country can contribute to personal and professional development, a way to broaden your vision of life as well as your family’s and in the other, leaving one’s country may also be regarded as a very destabilizing situation.
Some people may be very supportive and their positive arguments make you more confident in the decision whereas arguments against your departure often express mistrust, sadness or fear. These are very discouraging signs at a moment you greatly need support to go through this period with serenity.
Change acceptance is also very much linked to your national culture, your education, your motivations and values, your life and professional experience.
During the first three months after arrival in the new country, a positive attitude must prevail as you need to survive and get your bearings during this exhausting period. Change then transforms itself into a creative process : your energy is fully devoted to learning, understanding and integrating the new environment. So many new faces, so many things to discover, getting your bearings in a new place is a very time and energy consuming activity. However, between three to six months after your arrival, the excitement of the moving and the settlement has fallen out and the discovery of all the aspects linked to your new life give way to a more depressive period. You may feel very tired, lacking energy and discouraged sometimes or even aggressive towards local people. Change process goes through a phase of regression and your lack of positive energy leaves the door open to question your choices again ; it is time to have a break and take fresh air away from daily life.
Acceptance and integration of change is never definitive and is often submitted to self-questioning.
Your personal, professional experience and temperament will greatly influence your adaptability to new circumstances making it more or less easy, quick and smooth.
Here are a few guidelines :
- Some companies have already dealt with it before the expatriate’s arrival in the foreign country, others grant an annual budget for accommodation to their expatriates (renting, consumptions and furnishing included) and leave them search for the flat or house which best suits them. It depends on the company policy and on the real estate market of the country.
Some According to corporate culture, many companies become more aware of the necessity to develop the consciousness of their expatriates to multicultural relationships and their competences in this field, who is who and how to do with whom. Efficient cultural integration is one of the key factors of success for expat management in their assignments abroad.
However, it is still very current to notice that expat managers receive trainings mainly about the technical and factual aspects (hard skills) of the job which HR Management think expat managers need to know most to perform in their future project. They hence concentrate more on what, how to reach it, with which technical tools, how much and when (e.g. IT management system, project management,…).
Establishing positive relationships as from the first days is a very good starting point as people keep in mind the first impression you leave them. Building confidence will then set the foundations for efficient work with the local or multicultural team.
Never forget that an expatriate is a foreigner in the host country! You can bring specific competences to train local staff for instance and they can show you their « expertise » in being perfectly adapted to their environment. Both parts need to learn from each other and collaborate to create synergy. A change of attitude is at stake for the ones who care for building up good relationships. More distant the expatriate’s culture (and the company’s) is from the culture of the host country, the longer and harder bridging both communication channels may be. Of course, this is a very personal attitude depending on your state of mind.
- Most multinational companies introduce the request for residence and work permit/visa at the Embassy of the foreign country before the expatriate’s departure ; it can take some time (minimum two weeks). It also happens that the expatriate needs to deal with it himself.
Expatriates often enjoy meeting compatriots in expats associations, but also expats from everywhere in the world. There are always good reasons to meet, sport, dinners, coffee mornings, volunteering groups involved in humanitarian projects, … and sharing living experiences.
Nationalities encountered depend on the economic interests of the companies in the country, on exploitable natural resources but also on the history of the country (e.g., former colony of,…).
As for children, sociability, curiosity and willingness to adapt are key factors to adapt in the new environment, as learning one of the national languages can help a great deal to interact with local people. Volunteering is also an excellent way to socialize with local and expat people sharing common values. In developing countries, some may sometimes feel quite hard to create true relationships with local people as cultural barries are often more important, preconceived ideas and mutual misunderstanding may also refrain both communities from getting into contact with each other. Expats feel the necessity to make their stay comfortable and need to feel reassured and you are more at your ease to share your feelings with your peers closer to your culture and who are likely to understand you better.
- Expats with more experience of the country can give practical information about the best supermarkets, drugstores, clinics, general and specialized practitioners and a whole list of useful information to deal with everyday life in the country.
According to the level of social and economic development of the country, the company can provide information about medical care centers or private clinics to which they can also affiliate their expats.
However, discover a country means much more than just dealing with everyday life : connect to local press and media, read newspapers, make touristic trips, visit local markets (which sometimes require being accompanied), museums, art centers,…
- Living abroad requires time and patience. Putting your view of life into perspective, you may do things you would never do in your own country, you may even behave differently as you need to adapt to a different context. Temperament, values, education and life experience influence our ability to integrate more easily to a country and less in another and as an expatriate, you are facing this reality much more harshly than in your home land.
Under rather similar living and working circumstances, some expatriates will love a country and others will hate. Therefore, our preferences in the way we behave, think and act greatly condition our ability to accept some cultural differences and not others. In the same way, our values determine our motivations.
Would self-knowledge facilitate adaptation in a foreign country and soften our change resistance?
Your opinion ?
By Françoise Falisse
I met Eugene Ohu last October in the Lagos Business School, Nigeria. He is a member of Faculty in the Lagos Business School, Nigeria where he teaches the full-time MBA, Executive MBA (EMBA), Modular Executive MBA (MEMBA), Management Communication and Organizational Behaviour. He also facilitates sessions in other executive programmes for CEOs and Senior Management on Digital/Mobile Marketing, Digital Human Resource Management, Corporate Communication, Media Relations and Strategic Customer Relationship Management.
As a specialist in cross-cultural management and communication, I asked him to explain how he perceived Nigerian culture and management culture in Nigeria.
E. Ohu: Aggression: I think some Nigerians may be too aggressive. Sometimes when they make requests, I get the impression there could be some psychological violence or « verbal aggression ». The same can be observed in interpersonal relationships where I think we could be more refined and delicate. I think we argue too much. One thing I find interesting in a country like Spain is that you can sit with people talking together and giving your opinions and everybody listens to the opinions of the others. They have different opinions but they don’t give the impression that they are fighting. On the contrary, in a setting where some Nigerians may be expressing different opinions, they may not be fighting but if you listen in as an outsider you may think they are quarelling because they don’t give room for other possibilities. I believe we need to be more open.
E-&-S : You mean people want to say their word first and they don’t take time to listen to others ?
E.Ohu :Listening to others: Many Nigerians want to be the first to say something and the last to say something! They want theirs to be the dominant opinion and they don’t listen to the others because if they do, it may mean being open to other opinions. Why don’t they listen to the others ? I think it may be related to the fear of being vulnerable because by listening to you, especially if they are not so sure of their position, there is a threat you might change their position. I think that if people are more grounded in their points of view, they would not be afraid of (temporarily) yielding ground if only to listen better. For example, you ask me what I think about climate change, if it is real. If I don’t know much about it, I may say,
« I don’t believe in climate change ». And if you ask me, « why don’t you believe in climate change ? » I may answer : « I have nothing to say about it »,
I don’t want to be threatened. Keeping face is one reason why we don’t listen to the others.
E-&-S : are you very proud people ?
E.Ohu : A proud people: Yes, we are, it is a good quality but we are afraid of being vulnerable. That vulnerability may be linked to a lack of education, a lack of knowledge.
For example in a public university, the typical Nigerian professor does not want to be challenged in class by fear that someone would reveal his ignorance. He is supposed to be the master so he
cannot make a mistake ! If you challenge me with another point of view, and if I admit your point of view as a possibility, I might hence expose my ignorance, so I don’t listen to you and I
tell you : « I am the master and you listen to me ! ».
The teacher is not supposed to be a learner as he is supposed to know everything. When this attitude is taken into the business environment you can imagine how damaging it can be. Pride can be a good thing but arrogance never.
No dichotomy between work and family: On the positive side, what I like when working with Nigerians, I think that the typical Nigerian wants the work environment to be like the family environment, they do not like the total separation between work and family. Nigerians are concerned about the family lives of their colleagues. They do not say leave your wife and children at home, leave your problems there, I think it is good because we play different roles as individuals, as an employee, as a father, as a mother... The life I have at home affects my performance at work and the other way round. If you tell me to establish a strict dichotomy between the two domains, I think you are doing something very artificial. Nigerians do not like this type of division because they want to be real and be the same person everywhere. As we are family oriented, we like that our bosses recognize the other roles we play.
E.Ohu: I can compare with Kenya as I have been there a few times : as for similarities : they love family and extended family but also every African child is the child of every woman in the village. If my mother, for instance, sees your daughter outside doing something wrong, she will not ask your permission to correct her, she will correct her like her daughter. Children are very important, Africans love children, the more the better. Why is it so ? African families might be poor but they feel the need to share.
Differences : Kenyans sometimes describe Nigerians are being « too loud » (big laugh), a reference to their boisterousness. When I travelled to Tanzania, it was funny to hear Tanzanians describe Kenyans in much the same way – they think Kenyans are too aggressive. (By the way, Kenyans describe Tanzanians as being « too slow »). I do agree with the Kenyans that Nigerians are « too loud ».
You may be able to explain the timidity of Tanzanians. Their official language is Kiswahili and they barely speak English. Julius Nyerere, who ruled the country for many years and was their main champion for independence sort of « locked » the country up culturally in a bid to « protect » its traditions. One may perhaps trace the lack of exposure and education of Tanzanians to some of these actions. Kenyans also speak Kiswahili but English as well.
If Nigerians are more aggressive, they are also more daring, it is not surprising that the biggest economy in Africa is in Nigeria, they take more business risks. When you see issues of xenophobia of some South-Africans against Nigerians, one of the reasons may be because Nigerians are aggressive in seeing and pursuing business opportunities which takes into many African countries. The locals they meet there naturally feel threatened. This so-called « aggression » of Nigerians can actually be an expression of their entrepreneurial spirit but other African countries call it « aggression ». By the way, Nigerians think that Kenyans are too slow (laugh).
E.Ohu: With respect to past, present and future, I think we give importance to the past, especially because of the African’s recognition of tradition which influences what becomes our culture, the way you, the ancestors did it in the past. Africans have a sense of history, you learn from the past, you do not repeat your mistakes, you know how it was done, you know the values that are expected of you and you act accordingly. Nigerians have a natural tendency to prefer things in the traditional, keeping it stable rather than trying out too many uncertain innovations.
However, I also think we give importance to the present and to the future.
In terms of time management, priorities, we give more importance to the present because there are immediate needs to take care of, related to physiological needs which must be solved now, needs that may be related to the lack of resources or to poverty.
Where many Europeans have higher needs, more psychological needs, most Africans have physiological needs to be solved in the present. If I consider that I am an individual working as my own boss, I will be task and result oriented as these tasks will give me the immediate results I want. If I consider I am a member of a team, I am not interested in the results but well in the tasks I have been given because these tasks will give me an immediate reward. I have physiological needs to fulfill. I am not interested in the global view.
As a team member, I am more in the present than in the future because future is too far. Nigerians usually think more for themselves, they are more selfish, they try to solve their problems on their own. As a boss, I do not know how long I will stay in this position as I may be removed sooner or later, so I need to protect my position. We assume tasks and achieve results we have been taught to.
Are Nigerians selfish people and are we interested in the goods of our immediate environment or are we interested in the good of the country?
E. Ohu: I would say we are more collectivists than individualists because we think more in terms of community as the family matters a lot and we act more as a group. But outside that group, people are more interested in solving their immediate needs. In contrast with Americans who put flags on their vehicles, I don’t think Nigerians would do so because most of them think « nobody is looking out for my immediate needs, I have to do it by myself ».
It may explain why we don’t have the sense of belonging to our country and why we are not that proud yet for our country. But globally, we remain collectivists because of the family, because
every child is the child of every woman. If I am hungry, I will go to the neighbour and he will give me food. We look out for one another. We are collectivists because we are concerned with
our family when we go to work.
E.Ohu: If I take Hofstede's model, Nigeria is a more power-distance country but we are different from the way Chinese are power-distance as a way to save face. If the boss tells me : « feel free to correct me », I will do it. If the boss doesn’t tell me to feel free to correct him and if I feel that this boss can receive correction, I will tell him « sorry Sir, may I point to you something you did not do well ? ».
Nigerians will do that if they see by the boss’s body language that he is open to correction, communication is hence very direct even if power-distance remains high. In fact, direct communication may turn to aggression because we lack refinement.
We are direct communicators when our boss gives us permission to express freely but we may not be refined and lack respect to put it in a delicate way.
Nigerians will express directly if they see the speaker is fair and really interested.
Africans are more aware of the persons they are communicating with, not only the words, but we are aware of the whole person, his/her global individuality, with past, present, body language, worries... I am aware this person will choose a particular way of talking to me according to what he/she is.
If Nigerians are proud people, they may also be arrogant, the same way the Nigerian teacher does not want to be questioned, the same way some bosses in Nigerian business do not want to be
seen as having to learn something.
We do not put people from different hierarchical positions together in the Nigerian setting as bosses are not supposed to learn. We put bosses with other bosses as a way to save face.
E.Ohu:The boss takes the decisions and he also takes the blames.The typical Nigerian boss is afraid of delegating authority because he does not want to lose power, he is vulnerable and he feels protected by his power which, he thinks, belongs to him as his property. The ego is very important. So, it is the boss’s fault if the team member does not take responsibility and comes to him to solve his/her problems. The Nigerian boss has never really delegated authority. As a European manager, it is good to express the team member that you need and recognize him/her as a valuable member in the team, he/she will hence respond positively. Tell this person that you respect him/her as a person, as a family.
E.Ohu: Nigeria is aware that there are different rates of development between Africa and Europe.
They may blame others for their inferior position or they may blame themselves. In any case, they don’t believe other people will solve their problems at their place. Therefore, there is a sense of suspicion.
E.Ohu: They will know if you are pretending or not, if you are real or not. They are looking at your body language. For instance, you are asking about my child but you are looking at your phone. As a Nigerian, I will think, he is not really interested in my child because somebody told him it was good to ask about my child.
E.Ohu: In general, Nigerians do not like to obey rules, it is related to education, respect to others and civic responsibilities. As it is difficult to enforce rules, Nigerians tend to break them whenever they get a chance to do so. It is related to self-interest and to the State not taking care for our problems, so we have to solve them by ourselves.
However, Nigerians can accept rules as a way to achieve their objectives or if somebody enforces the rule, they will not break it by fear of the consequences.
E.Ohu: When I travelled to Tanzania, I felt they were less educated than in Nigeria and in Kenya, but I think they obey rules much more.
As an example, they have very narrow roads and they drive on the left. It happened many times to me that a driver realized, looking into his mirror, that he was driving too slow for me and that I wanted to overtake his car. With his hand he indicated to me that he had no plan to disturb me and that I could go ahead on his right.
In that sense, Tanzanians have more civic sense than Nigerians but they are very slow: when Tanzanians say that you are most welcome in Tanzania and that they will arrange a meeting for you as soon as you arrive, make sure you have planned it before going there.
When I went there, I spent two days before I could get my first meeting! They are not in a hurry and wonder why Nigerians are rushing for. In Nigeria, we may be more aggressive because we want to have things done.
By Françoise Falisse
Expatriating is a work and life project which requires
motivation, reflexion, preparation and involvement
Their motivations can be, for instance :
Whatever the motivations are, the decision to expatriate is not an easy one, leaving on a bachelor or a family basis.
Helpful guidelines to take into consideration before taking the decision:
If you are proposed a function abroad, the first person to be involved is you! Your previous professional experience, your personal experience, your personal life and your temperament will guide
Key points to keep in mind:
If you are proposed a function abroad, the second person(s) to consider as a priority is (are) your family! This is often the most tricky part of your decisional process. Whatever on which
basis you intend to expatriate, either as a bachelor (not necessarily meaning you do not have a companion or a family) or with your family, leaving one's country greatly influences people around
you, with all possible emotional reactions.
After so much thought and doubts which can be very disturbing and make you feel very uncomfortable for a more or less long period of time, the decision can surprisingly be taken in a very rapid way.The quickness of the decision mainly depends on your previous international experience, on business urgency, on personal and family aspects to consider.
From a few weeks to a few months, time to prepare departure depends on business and family aspects.
Key points to put on your planning, presented in a chronological order.
How to deal with change and how to adapt yourself efficiently in the new country?
In the winter newsletter Out of Africa, March 2016, you will discover how your ability to manage change and your adaptability may greatly influence your experience as an expat. Read more in part 2 of "checklist when leaving the country".
By Françoise Falisse
Morocco is famous for her people's hospitality and this cultural factor largely contributes to her touristic attractiveness abroad.
Could this cultural factor and others also influence the way they build business with their foreign partners? Is there a Moroccan style?
Intuition et global view
Very intuitive, they quickly understand their prospect’s behaviours and expectations. They can easily adapt themselves to western way of thinking. Their global view allows them to anticipate future developments for their country, which they express in a very enthusiastic way sometimes shadowing analytical mind. They need new infrastructures and technologies, they admit the necessity of new mentalities (entrepreneurial spirit) to tackle the huge economical challenges and to become the entry door to Africa and to Europe (e.g. : logistics).
Moroccan time management is flexible and depends largely on the context in which an event takes place : family, social, public or professional. As traffic jams are part of the daily urban life, mainly in Casablanca, some interviews (e.g.in the media) can take place by phone or by skype. It is important to get informed, in advance and undirectly, of the necessity to arrive on time at an appointment, it can differ from one company (corporate culture and individual values of the manager) to another. Confirm your appointment in a clear and tactful message (e.g. « as scheduled in our agendas, I will be in your office from 9 to 10 AM as I will attend another meeting afterwards »). Remain patient and flexible but firm and decided.
Hierarchy is very important, positions of high responsibility inspire respect and fear. These positions are mainly held by men. As public and private organisations are usually ruled in a pyramidal way, important decisions including signing up of contracts must be agreed upon by the top management. Therefore, it is not surprising to notice that long awaiting files are suddenly freed because instructions have been given from high ranking officials (e.g. a Minister, a CEO,…). What is urgent for you differ from their vision of urgency.
Creating a partnership in Morocco needs time as it implies getting involved in the relationship and showing interest in your future partner’s daily interests, motivations or cultural background. These signs of respect are highly appreciated to build a trustworthy business relationship. You can leverage your differences, bridging your personal, management, and cultural style with the specific style of your partner. You can make sure you know yourself enough to be able to adapt your own style to your future partner’s ; hence setting up the foundations of a sustainable and more authentic business relationship.