Friday, May 22, 2009

I´m Off to Great Places Again

Last year I did a couple of presentations for some visiting MBA students. I shared a couple of funny anecdotes in that post.

This year I was also asked by BAIN to speak at one of their monthly meetings as well. And just most recently, I was asked by the Universidad Torcuato di Tella to present once more.

These presentations give me that rare opportunity to talk about my company (and myself) in English. It´s nice to practice this once a year or so. And I noticed that I get a little rusty with the mother tongue if I don´t use it.

There are some questions that they always seem to ask me and I thought I would share one of those with you this time. They always want to know about cultural differences. Did I run into something that I thought was normal, but that locally it´s not really?

There are lots of things that are different, but I thought that this time I could actually use some feedback that we recently got from one of our employees.

He approached my wife and thanked her. He basically told her that he was so grateful to us for giving him true autonomy. We actually ask him for his input and when he has an idea we let him try it out and see if he could make it work.

You see, we hired him because we thought he would be good for the job and would not need us to stand above him and approve every decision that he makes. He does not have the run of the place, but instead he has some guidelines, some rules, some limits. If he bumps into one of those he then calls us in.

He said that he had never worked under those conditions before and because we work that way, he is very motivated and more critical of his own performance and those around him. Basically, he has put on the Sugar & Spice team tee-shirt and he is wearing it proudly.

So yeah, while it´s funny to write about the girl who applied and told me she couldn´t learn English no matter how hard she tried and realized that maybe it was due to her hating Americans; or, the girl who suggested that we change the company color from orange to some other color (very first link above for those stories), they don´t move me like the thanks this employee gave us.

I don´t know how local companies in general treat their employees. I am sure there are those that treat them great. This guy, and some other employees as well, have shared their specific experiences with us; and for them, this has not been the normal employee-employer relationship; it hasn´t been for us either, and I have to add that this is all new to us as well.


99 said...

Regarless of being a local or foreign company most managers tend to think that management models based on control work better. I don’t. I think that empowering personnel plus giving them feedback is the best way.
Most employees also think in control terms and tend to wait for all the decisions to be made from above. I guess it has to do with human nature and it goes back to your own leadership skills.
In my business, inspiring and giving the credit to the right people works for me. I might be the director of the orchestra but the players are the ones that have the most information on their instruments, not me. My responsibility is to know the business partiture and I need to listen to and to encourage their variations.
Besides, don´t we all need to know that what we do is good... beyond the paycheck?

Matt said...

Hi Frank,

I worked for an argentine company, and have spoken quite a bit to Argentines and people from other cultures about their experiences here.

Regarding autonomy, I have experienced both ends of the spectrum. With one boss (not from Argentina), I was given tons of autonomy, my ideas were often implemented, I was constantly given new opportunites, etc. When that boss left, and we got a new boss (Argentine), I was basically ignored, never listened to, had all types of autonomy removed. However, I have spoken to others where this is not the case. It depends a lot on the company, and who your boss is (as it does anywhere).
What I do think seems to be pretty standard here is that the workers are quite competitive. This can be noted in both the Universities and Workplace. Many employees (students) will do what they can to look good, even if it means making a co-worker look bad.

It is intersting to see how this type of autonomy has benefited your employee. Sounds like you are both in a win-win relationship.