Start with the basics

While traveling last week, a colleague asked me a question about how to connect with one of our European offices. They had gotten off to a rough start with each other (something along the lines of Hi! I’m from corporate and I’m here to help and the usual gymnastics that follow), and he was going to visit in person to start over.

My first thought was, I don’t know much about the culture in that country; my impressions are fraught with stereotypes. I don’t know that I can offer much advice. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that the advice I was inclined to give had very little to do with specific culture or business practices. It had to do with people.

Here’s what I finally told my colleague:

Just being there in person will make a huge difference. Listen a lot and take care of the easy things fast–even while you’re there, if you can. Find out where their pain points are and make suggestions for things YOU can do to help, even if only in a small way. Then do what you say. It will likely take time, so don’t give up.

I finished with a few personal observations about similar situations which I had navigated. In the end, connections are about people. Showing up in person, being willing to help, and following through on promises made work together to build credibility. And credibility, trust, is the cornerstone of any solid relationship, regardless of culture or location. Start there and fill in the rest.

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