A few years ago I was asked to take up the challenge of helping to fast track top level Indian analysts into global capital markets. I have worked at the forefront of communication for years, first as a commissioner for TV shows, including the news, and then as a coach. For many years I’ve coached top business leaders and business TV presenters across the globe, so this was my heartland with a twist.
Fast forward two years when I recently went back to the offices in Delhi where one of the original teams were. I was with my new group of trainees and as we left the floor one day, my old group saw me and rushed over. Seeing the “before” and “after” was a joy – it was one of those moments that makes it all worthwhile. Our mature graduates looked and sounded different. They had made huge strides, all of them interacting with London daily and visiting there too. All have stepped up and flourished. So what had worked?
The key is to recognise that there a number of cultural systems at play here, and the interaction between them needs to be managed. City culture is not quite UK culture. UK culture is not quite European culture. Thinking simply about the UK and India alone is a red herring if you want to understand and activate offshore talent, because there are, in this context, shared ground layers of gender and religion/ethnicity. Last but by no means least is departmental and company culture. We don’t train analysts who support carnivorous broking firms in London the same way that we train risk managers for firms in provincial Germany.
The assumptions are that the basics are the same and the packaging is different. What escapes most people who use analysts offshore is that the packaging doesn’t matter – it’s the basics that are different.
So what made the biggest difference?
- Knowing their why
Across the world “why” is important, here even more so as it’s easy to lose sight of personal goals. There are so many people telling you what to do, what to aim at and what is “right”. Goal setting was relatively unheard of and sometimes cultural issues lurked in the background around setting expectations. Breaking things down so they could see quick results gave value to the process.
- Understanding the audience
The challenge was around how to understand an “audience” that is on the phone over 6,500 miles away and in a different time zone. How to interact as a person – cricket v football, TV shows, family – all good international currency if you work it well, and trite if you work it badly. We have discussed at some length what it must be like for UK managers, arriving on a cold wet morning in to the office, possibly spilling hot coffee and the first thing that happens is a bright and breezy voice at full pelt. Not the ideal start to the day.
- Managing Expectations
This is a big one. It comes up over and over again. Recently it manifested itself into “saying no boldly”. There is a tendency to say yes as a default, when the answer is clearly no. Then a week of scrambling takes place to reposition things way past the deadline. Loss of face at one end; steam and frustration at the other. Life is so much easier when “solution-based Nos” are clear. Still a lot to be done here at both ends to ensure Yes is Yes, No is No and Maybe is we’ll try our best, but with caveats.
- International English
We love diversity, we celebrate accents, however working on the international stage requires being heard, whether from Calcutta, The Bronx, Texas, Scotland or Southend. As I described it to someone yesterday – it’s how you adjust when you speak to your aunties and uncles at a family dinner. You stay you, but adjust your voice from how you’d be in a crowded bar late at night with your friends.
Now, I bet you are wondering why this is here. Finance, data – it’s all storytelling. How to tell it succinctly so that others understand the story, instantly, is often over looked. Usually it’s very simple, but turns into data soup. Strip it out, work out the landscape, the characters and the ending… that’s for another blog.
An Indian analyst was asking me “why”. Why India? Why them? My answer: because talent is to be found everywhere in the world, if the right training is on offer to activate it.