Global Dancing

in Latin America

Dancing in Latin America can be an exceptionally enjoyable experience.

A bit of salsa, maybe a tango.

Merengue for those who like it fast.

But this post is about another kind of dancing. I call it global dancing, and it can make a significant difference in your success when doing business in different cultures.

Global dancing refers to a slight shift in your behavior, so you are more in alignment with the culture you are working with. People in some cultures are very direct, so with them, you respond quickly and clearly. Those in other cultures might want time to build trust; you slow down and go with their rhythm.

Of course, you stay who you are. You do not give up your center of gravity. Rather, you consider small adaptations to fit the tempo of the culture.

Two minutes or less: Go for it!

When you global dance, feel free to apply efficiency guru David Allen’s two-minute rule: If you can do something in two minutes or less, go for it.

While some global dancing takes much longer, I have four examples of global dancing in specific Latin American countries that are quick and easy.

1. Mexico connection: The sweet spot

You step off the plane and into an office in Mexico City, and people notice you are there. They rise and leave their desks to come over and shake hands with you.

How was the flight?

How is the family?

They seem genuinely glad you are there.

How long does this greeting last?

Sometimes 30 seconds, maybe 60, and at times 120 seconds.

You would consider it warm and welcoming if you like it, and a waste of time if you don’t. But in Mexico and much of Latin America, it is not a waste of time. It sets the stage for the work you will do together.

2. Brazil: Multi-tasking masters of the universe

While talking with colleagues in Brazil, I am not happy at how often our conversations are interrupted by their cell phones ringing. Granted, they never talk long, and they always apologize. Still, it gives me a delightful rush to fantasize snatching their phones and hurling them off of a cliff, out of the window, under the wheels of a passing bus…anywhere where they will be instantly destroyed.

But Brazilians live in a polychromic culture. (Polychromic: many things at the same time.) Inveterate multi-taskers, they pride themselves on juggling a lot of balls simultaneously. They have more tolerance for interruptions.  No amount of hurled cell phone fantasies are going to change this.

So I suck it up and spend those 20 to 120 seconds thinking about anything that floats through my mind at that moment. A momentary respite from the day. Their call ends, and we continue with our business at hand.

Why no hello?

Eight networking engineers from the US and Costa Rica jump on a call to discuss a vital issue a US customer is facing. The Costa Ricans are taken aback that these US engineers do not even say hello to them.

There is no, “How ya doin’?” Nothing. Just, “What is going on with this customer?”

“Is it too much to ask that they greet us before they ask about the network?” the Costa Ricans ask.

Well, in this case, it was.

I recommend the Costa Ricans do a bit of global dancing of their own. In the world of these US networking customers, problems must be solved without delay; every minute is already spoken for. Save the small talk until after the crisis has passed.

Argentina: A little peck?

If you are from a culture that places a premium on relationships, you know what you have to do. You personally may or may not be a relationship-oriented person. In Argentina, like many countries in Latin America, men and women at work might greet each other with a quick kiss on the check after returning from a long weekend or a vacation. They also have a quick air kiss when saying good night after a business dinner.

I happen to love this.

One day, I said to an engineer after a business dinner during the goodbye kissing time, “Isn’t this wonderful! What a great culture!”

He rolled his eyes. “Actually, I hate it. I just do it because I am Argentinean and the culture requires it.”

See? You can even global dance in your own country. And a quick kiss is way under two minutes.

I will admit, sometimes I prefer others to just dance my dance. But in reality, both my clients and I go farther faster when we are willing to global dance.

And Latin America, with its many vibrant cultures and countries and over 620 million people, offers great opportunities to dance, both in work and play.




Disclaimer: Looking forward to your thought-provoking and constructive comments. Play nice. Comments are (quickly) moderated for the sanity of all.

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