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Archive for June 2015

Executive Presence-Cultural Spotlight: 6 Keys to Understanding German Culture for Better Relationships

by Terri Williams

The United States Gross Domestic Product (GDP) exceeds $16 trillion dollars.  From a cultural perspective there are two amazing data points:  first, 95% of US customers reside outside of its borders; which has an economic impact of more than $15 trillion dollars.  Second, US minority demographics are approaching 40%, which potentially affects 150 million citizens, residents, and employees.  In this light we observe German culture in observance of its formation of 8 Jun 1815.


Germany Formation

  • Holy Roman Empire 2 February 962
  • German Confederation 8 June 1815
  • Unification 18 January 1871
  • Federal Republic 23 May 1949
  • Reunification 3 October 1990



Given demographics shifts, strengthening relationships with customers, peers, and employees of of all cultures is imperative.  Cultural patterns are learned and passed along by way of communication during the course of our socialization, which contributes to our behavior and our perceptions.  Social Psychologist Gerard Hendrik Hofstede identified a number of deep drivers of German culture relative to other world cultures. Here are six of Hofstedes’s  drivers that I feel provide a foundation for interpersonal engagement:

  1. Germany is not surprisingly among the lower power distant countries.  Highly decentralized and supported by a strong middle class, and co-determination rights are comparatively extensive and have to be taken into account by the management. A direct and participative communication and meeting style is common, control is disliked and leadership is challenged to show expertise and best accepted when it’s based on it.
  2. The German society is a truly individualistic one. Small families with a focus on the parent-children relationship rather than aunts and uncles are most common. There is a strong belief in the ideal of self actualization.  Loyalty is based on personal preferences for people as well as a sense of duty and responsibility. This is defined by the contract between the employer and the employee. Communication is among the most direct in the world following the ideal to be “honest, even if it hurts” – and by this giving the counterpart a fair chance to learn from mistakes.
  3. Germany is considered a masculine society. Performance is highly valued and early required as the school system separates children into different types of schools at the age of ten. People rather “live in order to work” and draw a lot of self-esteem from their tasks. Managers are expected to be decisive and assertive. Status is often shown, especially by cars, watches and technical devices.
  4. Germany is among the uncertainty avoidant countries, so there is a slight preference for uncertainty avoidance. In line with the philosophical heritage of Kant, Hegel and Fichte there is a strong preference for deductive rather than inductive approaches, be it in thinking, presenting or planning: the systematic overview has to be given in order to proceed. This is also reflected by the law system. Details are equally important to create certainty that a certain topic or project is well-thought-out. In combination with their low Power Distance, where the certainty for own decisions is not covered by the larger responsibility of the boss, Germans prefer to compensate for their higher uncertainty by strongly relying on expertise.
  5. Germany is a pragmatic country. In societies with a pragmatic orientation, people believe that truth depends very much on situation, context and time. They show an ability to adapt traditions easily to changed conditions, a strong propensity to save and invest, thriftiness, and perseverance in achieving results.
  6. German culture is restrained in nature. Societies with a low score in this dimension have a tendency to cynicism and pessimism. Also, in contrast to indulgent societies, restrained societies do not put much emphasis on leisure time and control the gratification of their desires. People with this orientation have the perception that their actions are restrained by social norms and feel that indulging themselves is somewhat wrong.

Source: The Hofstede Center

panache-logoTerri L. Williams is an executive presence expert specializing in communications, gravitas, and appearance. She is a seasoned professional with more than 25 years of specialized experience in human resource management and corporate protocol. Terri is also a veteran of the United States Army, with service in domestic and international assignments. As the President and Founder of Panache Career Strategies, LLC, Terri L. Williams leads Executive Presence training programs and seminars that can help you to improve your skills. A leader in facilitating the “gold standard” in a wide range of services focused on solutions for individual, group, customized programs, seminars and keynote speeches. Working with leaders and executives Panache Career Strategies, LLC will support their executive presence goals in communications and gravitas.

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