How is doing business in Latin America different than in the United States? For starters, there are the languages used there – predominantly Spanish and Portuguese – but there also are cultural differences to be aware of before venturing south of the border. I’ve done business in Mexico and Brazil, and factors ranging from personal space to punctuality need to be considered to be successful when interacting with the locals.
During my MBA program, I went to school in Rio de Janeiro. I worked with TV Globo to establish a flexible benefits program for the company. I could speak Spanish, but Portuguese was quite a challenge. However, one of the biggest cultural differences I noticed was how people interacted with their personal space. In the United States, we like to have little bubbles around us. In Brazil, you are smooching everybody, even when you first meet. People stand a lot closer, they are a lot touchier and a lot more friendly. And if you don’t participate, you can come across as standoffish.
Brazilians also have a different concept of time than Americans, who tend to be very punctual. Five minutes late for a meeting in the U.S. is considered a faux paus. In Brazil, not so much. Brazil is also extremely male-dominated, which can manifest in catcalls and wolf whistles directed at women walking down the street. The relationship between individuals is open to interpretation, and their culture plays a big part in that.
I also lived in Leon, Mexico, working with Caja Popular, the Mexican equivalent of a credit union (a member-owned financial institution). Over the course of several months I learned many things, absorbing both their language and their culture. I wondered about the nuances of speaking a nonnative language. Was my personality the same in Spanish as in English? Probably not because I felt greater anxiety when I was speaking Spanish. Keep this in mind when interacting with people who use English as their second language.
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“Hustle! Hustle!” was a frequent cry from the coach’s bench when you were playing sports as a kid, but now that no one’s there to yell at you—hopefully—do you still hustle as an adult? Maybe not as much as you should be. ‘Hustle’ is key to entrepreneurship and means pushing for value for yourself and your team. What are you going to do after you achieve what you want? What are you going to do to make a difference? How are you going to make it happen? Due to the nature of my work, people often ask me, ‘what does it take to be a consultant or an entrepreneur?’ and the various answers begin a swirling vortex in my brain.
First and foremost, you have to be thirsty to learn. You have to be eager and energized and go after it. You have to want to be a part of something larger than yourself. You must want to get the attention. Stay abreast of the field that you are in, including the trends of the industry. You gotta know your stuff! When it comes to hustling or being an entrepreneur, you have to know more than anybody else what you’re talking about. Maybe that means traditional school or going after a degree, or maybe it just means staying on top of it. Second, you must have a certain amount of swagger. Entrepreneurs must have confidence. They must come at whatever they do with passion.
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I love the attitudes and philosophies that come from playing sports. It builds character while teaching some crazy positive life lessons, like realizing a team needs a variety of human beings to be successful. One of the biggest lessons is whether the team wins or loses, they do it together. A team is a collection of people whose individual moves determine where the team goes. There is trust built in that.
Noted author Jim Collins, in his bestselling book, Good to Great, wrote about “getting the right people on the bus.” It’s the same with team sports. You appreciate the diversity that is required in a team, which likewise plays into Jim Collins’ approach. A team needs a variety of people, with diverse skill sets, drive, desire and performance. Some players are amazing in one position, but lacks in another. It’s important to find the correct roles and getting the team to appreciate that what makes us different makes us stronger.
I’ve played many different sports. My philosophy on the softball field is, if you don’t catch the ball, then go get it. If the ball goes through your legs, don’t throw your glove down and pout. Go get the ball. And you better hustle!
Remember when we were young? Not just younger. Dig deep, go back to kindergarten, pre-school. Heck before you learned to walk! Life was all about learning, whether at home or at school. Now do a little bit of retrospection. What happened to learning being a part of our everyday essence? Sure, we always ‘learn something new everyday’, but are we actively searching out learning opportunities? Are you reading daily? Do you stay current with events? It is always the right time to seek out knowledge, whether staying on top of industry trends, self-improvement work or fixing the vacuum.
Leaders must make learning as accessible and cool as possible. When we’re young, our life revolves around learning. We are used to gathering information, but when we reach adulthood, many of us tend to say, ‘Whew! Thank goodness that’s over.’ We’re not as eager to learn as when we were younger. Lifelong learning not only has value but is essential to continue growing as a leader and human being.
Certain professions have stringent continuing education requirements, such as lawyers and accountants. Most folks approach these classes as a requirement to slog through and roll their eyes while doing so. Instead, they should view continuing education as an opportunity to stay on top of their game. Be the best you can today, to continue kicking butt in the future.
Music appeals to people from every culture around the globe and it burns into the deepest depths of my soul tapping a deep well of memories and emotions. Music is also a gluten free, non-GMO, fat free food for the brain and leadership, helping develop language skills for the young and keeping those young at heart sharp.
I’m admittedly a bit of a band geek and a lover of song lyrics. Lyrics can build a staircase to the stars or unleash the beast hiding in the darkness. While preparing for a presentation in Mexico, I studied lyrics to Spanish songs improve my make my conversational Spanish-speaking skills more fluid. While working with a teacher fluent in Spanish, I was able to learn words that don’t come up in more formal conversations as well as gain the beautiful cadence songs provide. Language and music really have a strong connection, and that, of course, applies to everything we do in leadership.
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Work-life balance is really a bunch of bull. If something important is happening in one area, it affects the other. It’s just called life.
Dr. Stephen Covey famously demonstrated this for students by filling a bucket first with big rocks, then smaller rocks, then sand, then water – stopping at each step to ask people if the bucket was full. The lesson he shared was that no matter how busy your schedule is, there is always room for more, but handle your big rocks first. What are your big rocks? Family? Career? If you add all the little worries—the sand and water—first, there’s no room to deal with the big issues.
When you are not focused on your big rocks, stress tends to creep into your day-to-day. Be aware of the role stress plays in your life. When stress is present in the body, some non-essential systems start to shut down, including the immune system. If you get stressed, you get sick, and then getting anything done can be difficult.
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I’m a road warrior. I travel an average three days per week – all over the United States and sometimes to other parts of the world. Travel brings three benefits critical to leadership development: tolerance, perseverance and a broader sense of situational awareness and focus. Here are a few personal examples.
I was in the United Kingdom shortly after Brexit. Being in the U.K. at that momentous point in history gave me a great deal of perspective of politics on both sides of the Atlantic.
I also visited Ecuador in 2007 for work with financial institutions in the area. And in 2007, the specific institution we visited was already using text banking, making it more innovative at the than its American counterparts, contradicting its third-world status.
In 2009, I had the opportunity to visit China which was incredible but also completely different than visiting another English-speaking country or even another Hispanic culture. During my visit I had the chance to see the terra cotta warriors, which was a breathtaking experience. I did what any tourist would do and took a picture of the warriors with my phone and attempted to text it to dad. My phone shut down. At first, I thought my phone went haywire, but as it turned out, the Chinese government has so much control over the cell towers and the internet, they simply shut off my phone’s access to the network. I was unable to text for the duration of her visit, and the phone did not regain function until I returned to the U.S. I later learned two million people are employed in China just to sweep the internet. Definitely not something I was prepared for in the slightest.
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The millennials, those crazy kids, aren’t exactly young anymore. They were born somewhere between the late 1970s and the year 2000, with the vanguard approaching their 40th birthday. This generation has been the focus of scrutiny since they were tykes. We have been trying to figure them out for a very long time. There are a lot of stereotypes directed at millennials, like ‘lazy’ and ‘entitled,’ but they also are tech savvy and quick moving. Certainly, they are going to help with explaining technology to the generations that came before them.
Millennials are an important generation to get to know, especially the ins and outs of how they interact as leaders. In my work as a professor at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, I tell students it does not matter if they personally are lazy or entitled. What matters is what everyone in the business world thinks they are. Perception is reality, and it’s one that needs to be overcome.
Teenage millennials watch up to three hours of YouTube per day, which is a significant shift our society is making – how technology and social media affect people in their daily lives. Cell phones have gone from being a way to get ahold of someone to an integral part of our lives. Organizations have tried putting in place policies and procedures banning employees from having their phones on them while at work. In some cases, they are specifically banning people from going to Facebook when they are on the clock. What if, instead of trying to resist this evolution of leadership, we try to build on some of the strengths?
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Stop whining and let's get to work. And if you can’t let stuff go. Get over it! ‘Get over it’ has been my mantra for several years, since The Eagles released their “Hell Freezes Over” album in 1994.
It has become a family rule even for my two young boys. When they are crying and whining I tell them, “Crying helps nothing. Calm down, breathe and focus on the results you want to have.” Living in the emotion of the moment gets in your way. Whining in business demonstrates low emotional intelligence. We need to have emotional maturity so minor things do not become major speed bumps in our progress as leaders.
I turn on the tube and what do I see,
Ivan Pavlov, the Russian scientist who experimented with classical conditioning and most famous for the pairing of a ringing bell with feeding a dog. Eventually, when Pavlov would ring the bell and the dog would salivate thinking it would get fed, whether there was food available or not. Certain actions can cause base reactions in humans as well, but we do not have to react blindly.
As an example, if I leave for the day with a mutual understanding that Jimmy, my husband, will have the dishes done and when I get home, I expect the dishes will be done. If they are not, I have several options: I can get mad, I can become frustrated, I can break plates, I can throw things, or I can do the dishes myself. None of those options, however, result in the desired outcome – for Jimmy to do the dishes. It is in that moment you decide to make a choice, get over it and focus on the end result.
Victor Frankl, an Auschwitz survivor concentration camp and went on become a psychiatrist. He wrote a book titled, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” talking about the power of choice. Frankl says human beings can project into the future what they want to accomplish. They have the ability to choose in the moment how to respond to certain actions that will lead them to different results. That is a powerful choice. Admittedly, sometimes it is difficult not to get caught up in the emotional drama of a moment and to focus on what we truly want out of it.
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In 2005, I began teaching at the College of Southern Nevada. On my first day, during my first presentation for a classroom full of students, I leaned on a table. The table toppled over and so did I. Colored markers flew everywhere, and the students gasped, wondering if I was okay. I stood up and could feel my face and neck burning red with embarrassment.
Walking to my car later, I felt very “woe is me,” and it struck me: What is the worst thing that could happen? That the students call their friends and share this hilarious mishap? Hell, I wanted to call my friends and tell them what happened myself. If I had let that feeling of self-pity take over, I would not be where I am today. We have to be able to move on and get over it, but, believe me, I do not lean on tables very often anymore.
In 2016, Jimmy and I decided to do a triathlon. Neither of us had competitive swimming experience, so we prepared by training as much as we could. On the day of the race there were strong winds on Lake Mead, which created some gnarly waves. When a nearby racer had a panic attack and had to be rescued, I began to have doubts, “Could I finish this?” I realized, the only way to get this done (and not drown) is to just keep swimming. Yes – I pulled a Dorie from Finding Nemo – but I got over it and finished the triathlon. That perseverance has served me well in the months since the race. If you are tired, know you are doing something for a purpose, so focus on the end and just swim
I could feel my face and neck burning red with embarrassment.
Ryan Stankovic is the Director of Quality Assurance at Hamilton Storage, and an analyst for Mitchell, Stankovic & Associates. He also happens to be my little brother! Ryan says the phrase “Get Over It” means, don’t dwell, on problems or your successes. “Move on with forward thinking rather than getting hung up on a problem,” he advised. “You have to always think about what is next. Instead of getting stuck on, ‘Look what I did,’ project your next course.”
In his job, the need for quality assurance is constant. Ryan does must take both corrective and preventative action, so he looks for root causes and accountability. He wants to see people owning their problems so issues can be fixed and everyone can move forward. Early in his career, Ryan worked in manufacturing. He recalls setting up a mold on a machine but failing to tie up the water hoses correctly. End result? He flooded the entire building! Ryan had to determine the problem, own the mistake and take action. And then, he moved on to the next mold.
Additionally, Ryan said, “The lesson learned in high-paced automation was you cannot dwell on anything. Every second the machine does not open and close is lost time and money. He continues to ask himself, ‘What are we doing now to make things right?’ and ‘What are you going to do to make up for the time that was lost?’”
Your personal brand is a relationship or experience somebody has with you; it’s what people say about you when you’re not around.
Personal brand is cultivated, and takes full-time management. It is the expectations others have. They know the level and quality of work you do, and thus that expectation becomes part of you.
We often communicate with others digitally, so if people do not have a ‘real’ relationship with you as a human being, they are going to have a relationship with your brand, and the impact of that is tremendous.
Your personal brand should represent who you want to be. When My Space first came out I frequently posted pictures from parties and softball games, and my friend would say, “You must not care about what you look like, because many of these pictures you put out there are madness.” It didn’t mean much at the time, but several years later I wanted to delete those photos.
It’s not about being inauthentic, but about presenting what I want people to know. If the primary place someone has a relationship with me is online, they need to know the whole me.