Corporate volunteers reaching worldwide

by Dave

Cultures differ in their approach to tasks, time and relationships among other things. Not having an understanding of cultural differences makes for painful business interactions.

via The Boston Globe
Ask John Leiter, who came back a changed man from three months in Uruguay in 2006 under Ernst & Young’s corporate social responsibility fellows program. A Boston-based senior manager for the accounting firm, Leiter normally helps companies carry out internal investigations into financial wrongdoing.

In the capital of Montevideo, he was assigned to help a 12-year-old information technology company develop its first real five-year strategic plan. That meant doing a new kind of work, at a new firm, while coping with language and cultural differences. For a fast-paced American, even the traditional quarter-hour of chit-chat preceding meetings was a tough adjustment.

“I worked out of my comfort zone the entire time,” recalls Leiter. Now, back home, he operates differently, trying first to get an overall sense of client needs before starting work. “Oftentimes, we have such a myopic focus, and it doesn’t allow us to take a large view of the issue,” says Leiter.