In the last two weeks Ive had 2 emails and 4 WhatsApp messages un-returned; plus 3 meetings rescheduled or cancelled within moments of agreed time. But, it’s not just me. In the same time, Ive talked to five professional friends in Mexico who have experienced the same.
The contradiction en Latam
This is a real economic and skill deficit problem… in an ever more integrated 24 hr world of business, this lack of professionalism in relationships deeply affects the business growth of Mexico (and Latam).
Living around Latin America, one of the most fascinating contradictions has always been human relationships. It’s a contradiction because culturally Latin Americans are such social people with a passion for life.
Relationships, relationships, relationships…
Many have become great friends of mine, and all are wonderful hosts… The first to throw a great birthday party, or an after office happy hour with work mates and I’ve rarely had to wait more than a two minutes for any friend here to say “yes” to an invite to an asado or out for cervezas (or pisco in Chile).
But expecting timely responses or a sense of urgency or showing up to your coffee meeting, event or call on time is a running joke. So much so that in different countries locals make fun of themselves and how late they are, such as; ”Chilean time is 20-30 minutes late”, or in Mexico, “you better double or triple confirm the morning of to be sure the meeting is still on.” OR “if you want to start your event at 7pm, announce it begins at 6pm.” Why is this funny? Why is this OK?
- It slows development of trusted business relationships
- It kills momentum on projects
- And it literally causes deals to be lost and projects to die
It’s like a built-in cultural foot brake that slows the speed and progress of everything
The great weakness in the system
Am I expecting too much? Am I asking latin professionals to “be more like USA?” Am I disrespecting cultural norms that are “ just the way things are rob,” No! Leaders in Mexico ask me everyday, “can you help us grow, build or succeed?” I say “yes”. By sharing these truths in this column. Professional relationship building is a great weakness in the system.
In this globally competitive market, you’ve got to take you foot off this brake! We’ve got to start teaching and developing these “soft skills” as much as we churn out new engineers or software coders.
4 basic tools anyone can use
When I was 19 years old my dad taught me how to sell. But he didn’t call it sales, he called it “professional relationship development”. He had a simple set of 4 principles which I have leaned on for the 31 years since.
- The 3 P’s: Polite, Professional Persistence. This is rule #1 for me everyday. It’s my operating mantra. Can it be “pushy” sometimes. Yes: persistence, but it’s always respectful (polite) and it’s always about advancing the relationship for mutual benefit professional.
- Respond to every message or call within 24hrs. You do not have to reply “with final answers”, but replying indicates human respect and creates progress.
- Make a Daily Action List. But measure your progress weekly during special set aside time. Let this list become the daily driver of your priorities and activity.
- Set aside ½ of one day per week (4-5 hrs) to do nothing else but take action on your weekly task list and open communications. Invest 5-10% of your time to build your relationships.
My dad always told me there is an “Art & Science” to relationship building. ”You put in the daily follow up work (science) so that your inner artist (your passion, talent and personality) can shine through”.
Latin America is full of artists, now we need to become more scientific if we want to grow to meet our dreams!