How many times do we hear it? We live in a global economy. It seems like practically every project seems to be spread over two or three continents and four or more time zones. This makes a project manager’s job even tougher. How do you get all these people on the same page?
So many years ago I setoff on a mission to learn as much as I could about every country I worked in. I found out a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. During my first trip to Japan I went out alone for a meal one evening and confidently ordered my meal. I was shocked when they brought a dinner for six. Yikes. My gracious hosts eventually bailed me out. But the lesson was clear; be careful what you ask for: unless you know what you’re doing.
It’s ok to fail. It’s not ok to sit on the sidelines. I tell all the project manager, join in, learn about and get into the country. Show a sincere and keen interest in the other person’s life, culture, country, work and life. Show them you care.
Start with the language. You don’t have to become an expert. Just learn the basic polite phrases. The basics like “thank you, yes, no, excuse me, I’m sorry, and all of the “goods” Then you can advance to practical phrases like “One beer,” “Where is the toilet?”, and “I’d like to order something that’s not still alive, please.”
Luckily there are plenty of resources. For $50 you can get an SDIO memory chip with 8 hours of listening time that will teach you all of these basics (how to order a beer or ask someone to dinner and pay the bill). Pimsleur language programs have worked well for me. My best friends even think I sound like a (Japanese) native.
Check out their web site www.pimsleurdirect.com where you can listen to a full half hour of any language.
If you’re going to Japan, learn to say “I’m sorry” first, and listen to the sections on apologies twice!
More tips later: and pass on some of your own.