Case Study: On Assignment in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Destination: Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Assignment: 6 months in country (with possibility for extension). 

Who: Senior Manager.

Background: The senior manager was assigned from the company’s US headquaters to spend an initial period of six months in Sao Paulo to implement and oversee changes in the location’s accounting processes. Because he was a successful accountant at home, it was felt “this is the pro we need in Brazil.”  In both his pre-assignment assessment and during his initial interview with the coach, he was found to be a direct, no-nonsense “let’s get the job done and don’t ask questions” kind of guy. He didn’t speak a word of Portuguese and during his interview made a comment that raised a major red flag:  “they speak English, and if they don’t they’d better learn.”

Having lived and worked in Sao Paulo, the coach knew this attitude would cause inevitable friction with his co-workers, and in his ability to settle into the new location.  In a series of pre-departure interactions, the coach focused on convincing him to “tone it down,” pointing out that Brazil is a “collective, we” culture, and the problems he’d encounter if he held himself above or apart from the team.  

Once in Brazil, the manager learned his approach tended to shut people down, and in his follow up call with his coach, began to talk about his negative experience in-country; only, this time, he sought her advice and guidance. She explained, as they had discussed earlier, that successful bosses within Brazilian business culture are more cooperative and non-hierarchical. She sent him several articles and recommended a book on the subject, and for several weeks they spoke regularly via Skype to discuss his new more inclusive approach, and the progress he’d been making with his Brazilian colleagues. 

Solution: The intervention (requested by the manager) enabled him to be more effective on the job – and vastly more comfortable. After six months on the job, his Brazilian “charges” were asked to fill out a formal assessment, which documented his effectiveness as a manager (his ability to listen and motivate), and their overall satisfaction in working with him. 

Categories: Case Study.

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