When asked to describe meetings in the USA, a word which Americans often use is aggressive. This confrontational approach, (where openly and directly debating all the relevant issues even at the expense of personal relationships is valued) is very alien to those cultures which always put diplomacy and harmony at the heart of their approach to meetings.
Of course, many cultures mistakenly see this direct approach between colleagues as a sign of bitter, personal animosity – which it always invariably is not. It is endemic in the American approach to communication in meetings and is seen as a positive step towards addressing whatever the vital and pressing issues might be. Time pressured, ambitious American business executives do not have time for the vagueness, diplomacy and lack of focus which they perceive as typifying meeting situations in such diverse cultures as the UK and Japan.
Meetings often include formal presentations by one or more of the participants and these presentations are a vital element in the demonstration of professional competence. Thus, presentations should not only be relevant and well researched but also delivered in a positive, enthusiastic and committed manner. The meeting and especially one in which a presentation has to be made, is seen as an opportunity to impress – important if personal success is to be achieved.
Meetings are increasingly virtual with one or more participants joining from a completely separate location by either conference call or video link. These meetings can often prove less successful than face-to-face meetings due to communication difficulties (especially if some participants are non-native English speakers) and it is possible that the right skill-sets are not always in place to make the most of these difficult meeting types.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
One of the paradoxes about the States is that we all know it from the media, films and music and we all form an internal image of the country and the way things are done there. The problem is that when you start to do business in the USA, you find that your internal image is a far cry from the reality you encounter on the ground. We go to the states with a million preconceptions, only to find them all challenged during the cut and thrust of normal business activities.
People often arrive in the States with the notion that it is the land of free-wheeling capitalism, where everything goes and red tape has been eradicated. Nothing could be further from the truth. Doing business in the States is as complex and challenging as in any other new international market. You need to do the same amount of initial research and strategising when entering the USA market as you do anywhere else in the world.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – many have and suffered the consequences.
At Global Business Culture, we are often amazed that clients feel they need to gain a better understanding of Chinese or Brazilian business culture but that the USA will somehow be easy or in some way ‘business culture free.’ Like all countries, the USA has a distinct and formidable business culture which drives most strategy and day-to-day interactions. Of course, there are some distinct regional differences but there are also States-wide attitudes that are well worth understanding and which will make your business dealings in the States more successful.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of business culture in the USA in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: