Jan 20, 2021
| 4 min

Three key learnings from working across cultures

Sartorius’ Key Account Management teams are where their customers are – all across the globe. In their ambition to help their customers speed up life science research and make biopharmaceutical production more efficient, they foster the exchange of complementary perspectives across national boundaries, cultures and social backgrounds to question decisions and unlock innovative ideas. Collaboration is key to this. One of the teams, spread across four continents from Australia, to China and Singapore, to Europe and all the way to the United States, share their hands-on insights and tips on working in a truly global team.

This article is posted on Sartorius Blog.

Elizabeth Hodnicki, Manager of Key Account Management, Baltimore, United States

Look for similarities to bond with your team.

“When working in a global team, you quickly learn how people from different cultures and countries tick. And in the business environment, you somehow adjust and find a common basis. However, what I find most interesting is that, when you work as closely as we do in our team, you learn how people’s private life is like in another country. You learn about things like school districts, about how they are managing coronavirus and really about everyday life. The other day, we were on a call with the client’s team in Ireland and we were killing time, because somebody was late. One team member was excited because finally, the barbers opened up in Ireland and she was able to get a haircut for her son the first time in a very long time. But it had become very expensive! It used to cost 12 euros and now it is 22 euros. Of course, this is not essential business information. But it makes you realize how similar we are, and it helps you to feel more connected when working in a global team. Those similarities bring us closer to each other, no matter where we are from because even though we express ourselves differently, we all have the same issues. People are people, no matter where they are.”

Jakob Mohr Christensen, Head of a Sartorius Key Account Management Group, Malmö, Sweden

Pick up the phone.

“I have worked in global teams for years. However, some things seem to stick with people. For example, emails. If people come to me because they’re having trouble getting ahold of a colleague, my first question will always be: Have you called them? It seems a bit obvious, I know, but most of the times, calling someone does the trick. When we are not working at the same time and at the same place, what we lack most are informal meetings. While walking to the coffee machine together, we deal with things without scheduling a meeting and handle topics in a very efficient way. An email will never be as efficient. So if you cannot meet people casually: Call up, put the video on. That commits people, even clients. It is much better than building up an ever-longer chain of emails.

Also, getting on the phone is an opportunity to chat about non-work-related topics, which is important to learn about each other’s life and culture and keep up the team spirit.”

Bing Liu, Account Manager, Shanghai, China

Remember that there are different styles of working.

“Working on a global team is fantastic opportunity to learn about different cultures and different working styles – and at the same time it’s a constant reminder that people tick differently, value different behavioral styles and habits. For example, in China, a relationship comes first. It is important to become familiar with each other and to build trust before doing business. Therefore, with colleagues and with customers, we would share personal stories before we talk about the project. When I am working with colleagues and customers from Europe and America, there is small talk too, but we get down to business way faster. This is something you need to be aware of in order to play along.”

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