If Germans﹣those leading as well as those being led﹣prefer generally formulated, mission oriented tasks (more what, less how), it follows that they will maintain longer lines of communication with their team members: less interaction, less frequent status meetings, fewer iterations on tactical issues.
If Americans﹣those leading as well as those being led﹣prefer specific, command oriented tasks (both what and how), it follows that they will maintain shorter lines of communication with their team members: more interaction, more frequent status meetings, more iterations on tactical issues.
From the German perspective American team leads overcommunicate. “Visiting the troops” and „management by walking around“ is interpreted as unwarranted, unnecessary, annoying supervision and control. It is distracting, demotivating, and in many cases viewed as a sign of mistrust. German team members ask themselves: “Doesn’t my team lead have a job to do?”
From the American perspective German team leads undercommunicate. Face time with the boss is in short supply. It becomes difficult to know, understand, or predict what the lead wants. It requires unnecessary guesswork, can be demotivating, and in most cases is seen as a lack of involvement. American team members ask themselves: “What does team lead get paid for?”
Advice to Germans
Manage more like a player-coach versus a teacher. Engage with your team on the tactical level. No need to be overly prescriptive. No need to „change into your uniform and get onto the field.” But at a minimum stay involved as their coach.
Increase your communication with the team by 50%: staff meetings, phone calls, drop by and say hello. You won‘t feel comfortable doing it. You‘ll see it as a waste of time. You‘ll fear it will distract, or even unsettle, your American team members. It won‘t.
Your American boss overcommunicates? It is not a sign of mistrust. On the contrary, you should worry about your performance if you see and hear less and less from your American lead. The higher the level of communication, the more relevant your work, the more important you are for the success of the team. Enjoy the interaction. Engage with your team lead. You can exert influence on strategy and important decisions.
Advice to Americans
You lead Germans? Reduce your communication by 50%. You won‘t like it. You‘ll feel deprived of the key tool in managing your team. You‘ll wonder what to do with your time. Focus on the broader strategic issues which can positively or negatively impact on your team. Remove roadblocks to their success. And, use the time to protect your team from those constant internal turf-battles so famous within German companies.
Your German boss undercommunicates? Experiencing face time withdrawal? It is not an indication that you have a problem, in fact, it‘s the exact opposite. Your German lead is sending you a clear message: „You‘re doing a great job. I can leave you alone. I spend my time on the problems. Keep up the good work. Maybe we‘ll bump into each other some time!“