Speak So Your Audience Hears
It may be so obvious that it’s frequently overlooked, but no company is a carbon copy of another. All organizations have their own unique culture, one that’s commonly captured in their motto, such as Trindent’s “Make it Happen™”.
Company culture shows great insight into the executive management style at the top, which then influences behaviors of managers, and in turn that of the employees. How companies operate on a business level is similarly shaped by their culture and how that culture fits into the context of the company’s size, industry, business model, and goals.
For management consultants, understanding, acknowledging, and respecting a client’s company culture must necessarily start on day one of an engagement, otherwise the crucial support and buy-in for project work will become an uphill battle.
Speaking a Company’s “Native” Language
Understanding and acclimating to a client’s culture is a critical first step to breaking down communication barriers. Client engagements are already fraught at the outset with performance issues as staff struggle to understanding the tasks in front of them, or the changes they’re asked to make. This is a problem that gets amplified when what’s being asked of staff is done in a way that’s foreign to them, especially given the concerns people have around working with consultants.
Adopting a client’s terminology and communication styles allows for expectations to be set out clearly and concerns to be managed effectively right at the start of an engagement. And it might take something as small and easy as using the client’s internal group messaging app instead of email to communicate, or adopting a naming convention they are familiar with.
These small steps may be easy to dismiss as unnecessary or inconsequential, but if taken seriously, they go a long way towards facilitating effective client ownership of an engagement and its tasks.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Adapting to client company social culture can, and should, go beyond verbal and written communication. It can start with something as simple as eating with staff in the client’s cafeteria or attending their social events.
Interactions such as these serve a double function. They allow staff to get comfortable with outside consultants, to start to trust them. And they allow consultants to understand their client’s culture better by becoming immersed in it rather than trying to learn it on paper. This in turn permits them to be agile in making small modifications within the engagement to create a better fit into the client workplace.
You’re Speaking in New York, But Do They Hear You Down South?
How important is gauging communication style to your client? Extremely.
Mannerisms in conversations with a small medical company from the south will be different to those used when speaking with a national financial institution in New York because their regional cultural context is so vastly different. The principles remain the same, but the way they are presented must be done in the correct cultural context in order to get the client onside and maximize chances successes.
Having a familiar style that fits into a client’s current culture changes mindsets from “us” and “them” to “us together”.
Adapt to Not Fail
Culture can be as important to an organization as the commerce part of the business. To create sustainable changes in how a company operates, their culture must to be taken into account, both to gain employee support and to understand how the company’s “personality” will react to any kind of process change. Without this kind of buy-in, an engagement risks not being successful.
Trindent recognizes the importance of knowing your client’s culture and embeds it in their approach to projects across all verticals.
The author of this blog – Megan Webb is a Consultant at Trindent.