Real-Life Cases

Moving business from Salzburg to St. Petersburg

(Case presented by Irina Braun – Russian business coach, based in Germany)

An Austrian executive is faced with a challenging job: he is about to become the managing director of a Russian subsidiary of a South Korean multinational company. He has accepted a three-year assignment, and will be based in St. Petersburg.

Although he is a very experienced international business leader, he has never before worked with Russians. Already being cognisant of the advantages of applying the Model of Freedom to his working environment, he invited me to help him understand the possible threats and sensibilities of Russian business reality.

In a half-day workshop we used his personal and the national Russian cultural profile scores in the Model of Freedom as a starting point. The cultural features of this Austrian manager appeared to be close to those of the German culture: very task-oriented and action-driven, accepting more achieved than ascribed authority, valuing quality and strong leadership.

The national Russian profile, however, tells a different story. The Russian business style could be described as ‘tell me what to do and I will disagree’. In this respect the Russians are not really team players. They have a preference for a leadership style in which, at the end of the day, the boss is accountable for the team’s actions. This means that they often exercise restraint when taking initiatives without the explicit backing of the boss.

During the coaching session we highlighted the most typical features of Russian behaviour, and looked at how these may impact on the client’s tasks as a business leader. Plotting his personal and the Russian cultural profile against one another, and comparing them, we tried to identify what would be the most difficult areas of his future role, and also the possible advantages. He agreed that his biggest challenge would be remaining patient in dealing with the quite introvert Russians.

This was one of the very rare situations in which the client was disposed to take cultural differences into consideration in his daily work interactions. It was therefore not surprising that this short coaching session was quite effective. This manager understood and respected cultural diversity, and with the coaching input he will be able to adjust to the Russian corporate culture without losing his personal strengths as a task-oriented and action-driven manager.

Read more about the analysis in Managing Mindset

Check and mate in a French-British merger

(presented by Michael Braun – German strategy-coach, based in Germany)

A French private equity investment group was financing a strategic merger between a French IT software company and a British IT consulting company. Shortly before finalising the deal however, the amount of unsolved questions, misunderstandings, and differing perceptions between the French and British CEO was quite alarming. The investors called me in to culturally assess the management styles of both CEO’s, and to indicate the chances of their fruitful cooperation. I had seven days in which to decide whether to advise them to continue or break the merger.

The CEO’s agreed to hold a working session to draft an organisation responsibility matrix of the new company. I applied the Model of Freedom to visualise the leadership style of both managers. The cultural profile of the British CEO appeared to be strongly task- and action-oriented, whereas the French CEO showed a role- and process-oriented profile. This was mirrored in their behaviour. The Brit was direct, open and aggressive and kept himself in a challenging mood throughout the session. The Frenchman was analytical and reflective in a reserved manner, and remained constructive.

Initially, the British CEO denied any cultural differences between his management style and that of his French counterpart. However, after a while both CEO’s accepted their cultural profiles that showed their different styles of leadership, communication and decision making. They understood the potential synergies of trusting each other’s personal style, at the same time changing their behaviour during the integration process.

At the end of the working session the French CEO fully committed himself to the new organisation. He was aware of the significant changes needed in the working culture to achieve integration, and built a wide bridge for his British partner. However, the Brit was not willing to cross it. He had a good vision of the new company and was the creator of the integration concept, but instead of devoting himself to a trustful partnership he played the power game, setting his personal vision as ground rules.

In my debriefing I rated a thirty per cent probability of a successful cooperation between both CEO’s in trying to forge a merger. Considering the outcome of the cultural assessment, the French investor agreed to run an additional assessment on the chance/risk proposition of the merger. Two days later he decided to cancel the alliance.

Read more about the analysis in Managing Mindset