Top 5 tips for cultural intelligence: Latin-American perspective

Diversity & Inclusion requires smart cross-cultural communication skills. New Zealand – particularly Auckland – has one of the most diverse workforces in the world. The leaders that excel here today are those that understand various cultures, including communication patterns, norms, expectations, and taboos.

As a follow-on from our panel discussion today, this blog series focuses on cultural intelligence in the workforce, from the viewpoint of selected Global Women members and associates who represent New Zealand’s diverse ethnic makeup.

Today Global Women member Silvana Schenone, partner at Minter Ellison Rudd Watts (itself a Global Women partner), provides five tips for leaders from a Latin-American perspective that you can effectively build into your teams.

1. Meetings

Always allow for a bit of extra time for a social conversation at the beginning and at the end of the meeting. If you have booked a 30-minute meeting to discuss a certain matter, maybe allow for 45 minutes. Five to 10 minutes would be spent at the beginning of the meeting discussing your background, contacts in common etc, then you can discuss business. Then you leave another 5-10 minutes at the end to ask a few social questions again before leaving the meeting: you can discuss plans for the weekend, next holiday, an All Blacks game or the weather! This routine helps in building trust and would assist the commercial relationship with people from Latin America.

2. Timing

We are a spontaneous culture! Allow some flexibility for change of plans and delays. Don’t get frustrated by it, just try to be flexible about it and confirm meetings or appointments a few times in advance (e.g. the day before and then the morning before your appointment).

3. Personal relationships

We do business with people we know and trust. That’s key in our culture. You need to make the effort to connect and build rapport with your Latin American counterparty, employees or leaders. We work with friends (or become friends with our work colleagues) and we spend our weekends together too! Many times you can also see relatives working together. It’s common to have social interactions with your business partners and team mates over the weekend at your house, to invite your colleagues to your wedding and in general to be their friends.

4. Hierarchy

Latin-American cultures have traditionally been very hierarchical, so let your team know that proactivity is welcome. They may not be naturally inclined to take initiative as they may not want to be seen as trying to take over or not being able to follow instructions properly.

5. A kiss on the cheek

Latin-Americans are warm, friendly and more “physical” in their interactions. This means that polite and respectful physical contact, like kissing in the cheek, is not harassment or an inappropriate attempt! It’s just a friendly way to greet you!

Want more CQ tips? Read our previous blogs:
CQ from an Indian Perspective, from Ranjna Patel of East Tamaki Healthcare
CQ from a Pacific Perspective, from Anne Fitisemanu of Counties-Manukau DHB
CQ from a Singaporean Perspective, from Wendy Lai of Deloitte NZ