Subject Matter

German Approach

Germans want to work in subject matter areas in line with their education, training and job experience. The goal is to deepen subject matter expertise. The German economy, therefore German companies, value the specialist more than the generalist.

Patterns

American Approach

Americans want to work in subject matter areas which offer solid compensation, a clear path for advancement, and increasing opportunities and options. The American economy, therefore American companies, value the generalist more than the specialist.

Patterns

German View

It’s not uncommon for Germans to views their American colleagues as lacking in subject matter expertise. Time and again they are surprised that many work in areas in which they have neither education nor training. Often Germans are neither convinced nor impressed by American generalists.

American View

It’s not uncommon for Americans to consider their German colleague lacking in general skills, especially so-called soft skills. They are overly specialized, and work for far too many years in one particular discipline. Often Americans are neither convinced nor impressed by German specialists.

Advice to Germans

If you lead an organization with Americans in it select carefully which ones you place in the specialist or generalist roles. Getting that wrong will decrease motivation, thus performance.

Your inclination as a German will be to promote specialists into leadership roles. Americans do the opposite. In the U.S. leadership has little to do with technical expertise. The higher the level of management the more important are so-called soft skills.

Advice to Americans

The same advice. If you lead an organization with Germans in it select carefully which ones you place in the specialist or generalist roles. Getting that wrong will decrease motivation, thus performance.

Now let’s flip this around. Your inclination as an American will be to promote generalists into leadership roles. Germans do the opposite. In Germany leadership has primarily to do with technical expertise. The higher the level of management the deeper and broader the technical expertise expected.