Being a minority can be turned into an advantage in a global organisation. All you have to do is turn on the charm for 5% of the time, says author, trainer, and consultant Stephen Krempl at STORM magazine’s Keep It Going event. By S. Sakthivel
The Asian culture of silence and choosing not to speak up is a major roadblock to the executive who is trying to excel in today’s global business landscape.
Stephen Krempl, a veteran of four Fortune 500 companies —YUM Brands, Motorola, Starbucks and PepsiCo Restaurants — now travels the world teaching executives how they can modify their behaviour to make the best first impression and to get noticed when it matters most.
Krempl, who runs his own consultancy based in Seattle, shared his views and insights with business leaders at STORM magazine’s Keep It Going event, Standing Out As A Global Executive.
Krempl, who has authored four books, was drawing from his latest, The 5% Zone, at the lunch talk. As the title implies, he says that executives only need to be able to switch their behaviour 5% of the time to compete with their peers from all over the world.
“For 95% of the time be who you are, but you need to make an impression, you have to step it up and act slightly differently.” A 5% change and having the nous to pick the right time and act accordingly could be the difference between clinching a landmark deal with a prospective client or impressing the board during a crucial board meeting.
Knowing when and how to make the switch becomes imperative when companies decide to operate overseas in places that may have vastly different business landscapes and behaviours. “Everything looks the same, but the rules are totally different. One of the key difficulties of operating internationally is that many organisations and individuals operate using the wrong rules.” So, building on local success and expanding into new markets can be dependent on the “soft skills” of those who represent the organisation all over the world. “The best executives know how to watch out for which rules are being played and they make the change,” he explains.
From his experience in the industry, he suggests that people tend to use culture as a crutch to avoid being noticed. “It is a very Singaporean thing to keep quiet and let others talk when asked for comments; our cultural background immediately kicks in when we are looking for an excuse”. This however does not need to be the case as Krempl says that executives can learn how to communicate confidently and articulate their views clearly. To keep up with competitors from a western background, where they are brought through a system that encourages them to speak and be heard, he says that Asians have to “drop their cultural baggage”.
He also claims that being the only Asian in a Western organisation, often seen as a severe disadvantage, can be turned on its head and used to dramatic effect by the savvy executive. While they are expected to be quiet and diminutive in stature and character, speaking out and communicating ideas effectively and with charisma can have three times or even five times the impact on creating the right impression in a global setting, putting them on par with their western peers or often, even propelling them ahead.
More information can be found at www.stephenkrempl.com.