American management style can be described as individualistic in approach in so far as managers are accountable for the decisions made within their areas of responsibility.
Although important decisions might be discussed in open forum the ultimate responsibility for the consequences of the decision lies with the boss – support or seeming consensus will evaporate when things go wrong. The up side of this accountability is, of course, the American dream that outstanding success will inevitably bring outstanding rewards.
Therefore, American managers are more likely to disregard the opinions of subordinates than managers in other, more consensus or compromise- oriented cultures. This can obviously lead to frustrations, which can sometimes seem to boil over in meeting situations.
Titles can be very confusing within American organisations with a bewildering array of enormously important-sounding job descriptors on offer (Executive Vice-President etc.). Titles, in any case, tend to be a poor reflection of the relative importance of an individual within a company. Importance is linked to power, which could be determined by a number of factors such as head-count responsibility, profitability of sector or strategic importance to the organisation at that point in time.
A distinction is often made between management style (around organisation and process) and leadership style (more strategic and inspirational.) Great leadership is expected at the top of an organisation rather than competent management but it can be difficult to define what great leadership actually is – and a US definition may not mean much in other parts of the world.
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: