Inspired by a group of fellow successful keynote speakers and experts on Personal Development from all over the world, and with my background as a Practitioner and Trainer on Cultural Differences and Organizational Transformation, I feel obliged to raise a warning regarding some of the “classic” recommendations given to people in order to become more successful or more productive, especially when these recommendations are across cultures so I’ve selected two of them below:

  1. “Say No to Good so that you can say Yes to Great.” (Maxwell)- nice, but only if you’re working in the USA (less in the UK and excluded in other more laidback anglo saxon cultures, not to mention the effects this has in the hierarchical cultures or the consensus driven cultures). Even across personalities this recommendation doesn’t always work, as nicely highlighted by one of the spekers and their varying openess to work on a task that was reqeusted from them in a less pleasant manner.

2. “Do first things first, and second things not at all” (P. Druker)- this one is even more dangerous especially if the Organizational Culture is not an aligned one, and doesn’t have a crystal clear vision with inspirational leadership. As well if the leader that learns this motto is not extremely wise this will backfire on the organization. Another unfortunate situation is when this is being thought to middle managers that are overwhelmed by their current work and that were educated in cultures where the group has higher priority than the individual because it will lead to the creation of a very toxic work environment (if needed I’ll elaborate on the reasons).

There are two aspects that we have to take into account before transmitting a powerful motto message across cultures:

  • The Organizational Culture in which we do that, and
  • The Up-brining of the receiver (their National Culture)

If the Organizational Culture is confusing, meaning that people there feel overwhelmed, de-energized, demotivated, the motto messages coming from the American management literature most likely will backfire. The Japanese concepts might be engaging but unless the corporate traumas are resolved, they will not stick so the time and effort investment was wasted. The French or the British concepts might make the organization survive (for different reasons), and the leader will be able to survive for a while, but the correct approach will be to evaluate the current way of working with a reliable instrument on organizational culture and resolve what needs to be resolved in that particular case, before trying to inspire the professionals with motto messages that come from another culture (and might work only there).

If the National Culture is not taken into account and the Organizational Culture is not aligned in a conscious manner (although it might be a constructive Organizational Culture), inspired by such mottos, the personality of some of the leaders might hi-jack the ways things are carried out in the organization, and they will slowly shift the environment towards a toxic one in which they are very productive for their own success and benefits, and the next leader in line to take the position will get to reap the storm.

As a general observation, if your boss is coming from a hierarchical society in which the group ensures the survival of the individual more than their freedom does, and your less wise boss has read some of the American best-selling management literature on how to become successful, there are high chances that the way you’ll be treated will worsen considerably, and you’ll wish to change the organization in the hope that you’ll get a more decent treatment. But at least you’ll understand the reason for that, and at some point, you’ll be able to pinpoint the disconnection between the environment in which the motto recommendation was created and the environment in which it is being applied.

It is very interesting, and not at all surprising, the fact that you will not feel any toxicity when an anglo-saxon leader will apply all of the above-mentioned motto recommendations on your team (even though they’d be a foreigner in your country), and on the contrary, you will feel empowered, energized and engaged, and that is the beauty of Cultural Differences and the reasons why they should be taught by experts.

If you would like to ask something more regarding this topic, or you want me to elaborate on some of the ideas, you can book a 15 min call with me by using the link below:

If you prefer to ask your questions in writing, send me an email or comment under this article.


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