Your international contacts fulfil tasks too late?

Does that sound familiar to you? The deadlines have been agreed upon and communicated clearly. Your own tasks were not only processed on time, but also in very good quality. Unfortunately, your international business partner or colleague finishes his or her tasks much too late. No trace of punctuality. Again.

We’ll tell you how to enhance reliability on the part of your international counterparts!

First of all, I would like to emphasize that a lack of punctuality can have many reasons. To name just a few:

  • It can have cultural backgrounds. Perhaps punctuality is not as important in country X as it is for your culture.
  • The personality of your counterpart can also be responsible. Perhaps other things are simply more essential to your colleague or he has never learned to be always there 5 minutes ahead of time [this is how many Germans define punctuality by the way].
  • Or it is due to the situation in which your counterpart is in. Revision, for example, is a factor in most modern societies

Understanding is very crucial at this point. In my opinion, almost everyone wants to perform well. To be proud of oneself and the own achievements is one of the main drivers of human action.

If this assumption is correct, you should ask yourself what is preventing your colleague or business partner from actually performing well?!

Solution I: Talk [constructively] together!

The first solution that you should choose is a personal conversation. It is important that this exchange happens face-to-face, if possible, but at least via telephone or video chat. Please avoid conveying negative things in writing at all costs!

During this conversation you should consider the cultural values of your counterpart!

Here you will find detailed tips for a constructive feedback discussion.

Solution II: Introduce a clear feedback culture!

As described in the first solution, giving and taking feedback correctly is particularly important; for the cooperation among colleagues but also for the further development of the whole company. Not talking about negative things [for example, an unpunctual delivery of documents] rarely leads to long-term harmony, but rather to accumulated negative feelings. Precisely because they are not resolved.

If you want feedback to be really fruitful, there should be a uniform approach in this regard within the company. Because you can only avoid that feedback recipients feel offended if all employees know how feedback should take place and what great potential a good, honest feedback culture has.

Solution III: Adjust your communication style!

If the intended punctuality is still not there, you should consider changing your communication style! Because you may not yet strike the right tone with your international counterpart.

For example, you could …

  • … incorporate more relationship orientation into your communication.
  • … be more direct or indirect, because your communication may not be binding enough or may be perceived as too harsh by your counterpart.
  • … act more hierarchically or democratically. For example, some cultures prefer stricter instructions, while others need more personal responsibility to perform well and be motivated.

Solution IV: What exactly is a deadline anyway?

From a purely cultural point of view, there are many options for dealing with time. Some cultures, for example, handle the issue of punctuality in a relaxed manner, while others strictly ensure that they are always on site at agreed times or that they submit work right on time.

Are you sure that your counterpart has the same idea of deadlines and punctuality? Does he or she really know what you expect in terms of punctuality?

Talk about it!

Here you will find further tips for dealing constructively with different time concepts!

Solution V: changes within the organization

Assuming that everyone likes to perform well, there could also be more in-depth reasons for unpunctuality. Accordingly, only deeper changes to your organization can help.

  • Maybe your counterpart doesn’t have enough time to deliver good / punctual work because he has too many other tasks and is overwhelmed by it?
  • Is his hierarchical power too weak to deliver the work on time? He may have to rely on internal resources [that are hard to get a hold of] for the task.
  • Are you maybe not important enough for your counterpart to deliver work on time? Then you could take measures to be a bigger asset to your counterpart so that he or she cannot afford to upset you.

I know that these proposed changes may be hard to implement. Therefore, all of them require an exact problem analysis beforehand. Also, please keep in mind: more complex changes can lead to particularly sustainable solutions.

I would be very happy if one or the other solution helps to improve your cross-cultural cooperation. 🙂


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About Markus Eidam

Nach meinem insgesamt vierjährigen Aufenthalt in verschiedenen Ländern dieser Welt bin ich seit dem Jahr 2004 Geschäftsführer bei den Auslands-Experten von Eidam & Partner. In jüngeren Jahren habe ich Interkulturelle Kommunikation, Erwachsenenbildung und Psychologie studiert und mich zum Trainer, Coach und Personalfachwirt der IHK ausbilden lassen. Unser Unternehmen bietet Ihnen Interkulturelles Training, Interkulturelles Coaching, Consulting und eLearning zu 80 Zielländern.
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