Working with managers from the Former Soviet Union (FSU)

This post will describe my experience is working with people from the former Soviet Union.
I do not suggest that I describe anything more than my experience. Every pattern has exceptions, we all know worldly Americans, disorganized Germans, loud Thais and humble Israelis. But there are patterns.

I have worked with about 40 people from the FSU in intensive consulting relationships. Over time, I began to see things that repeat themselves despite different types of business, different ages, and a different time frame for having left the FSU.

The people I have worked/work with are based in Germany, the UK, the US, Canada and Israel.

1) Relationships start from mistrust, then migrate to trust.
2) There is a lot of cynicism, and most of it is healthy. Cynicism is the parallel of the American yes-we-can, except it is no-we-can’t. However, it is a starting point from which to move on to: how can we do it anyway.
This stands in sharp contrast to yes-we-canners, who suddenly develop cold feet.
3) There is a lot of compassion and true caring, masked by toughness. The talk is soft and the heart is compassionate.
4) There is a lot of passion, a lot of investment, and a lot of emotion.
5) Organizations are about details, not high level abstractions. There is very low tolerance for sloganeering. It is all about pragmatism. Idealism and Utopian ideas are scorned.
6) Transparency is viewed with deep suspicion. Yes, it is needed, but organizations are political, and people need to protect themselves.
7) Things are thought out and thrashed through in informal meetings with trusted people. Formal meetings are more ceremonial.
8) Communication style is dour with little place for humour in formal setting, although informally, the dourness melts away!

My satiric Gloria blog has an absurd character called Comrade Carl Marks. Many former Russians love this colourful character. Many Americans/Canadians have told me that Comrade Carl is a bit insulting. Very telling difference.