“In their culture, you can’t just shake hands and get down to business. When they offer you tea, accept the offer. Ask about their family. Build a relationship . . .”
This was taught in a cultural awareness class I attended years ago. We Americans have a reputation for being abrupt, getting to the point, and viewing time as money, but I believe the above statement applies here at home as well as in other cultures. Perhaps not the specifics (drinking tea), but the part about building a relationship is very relevant in our culture.
For example, a colleague once commented to me, “but you get results because you are friends.” To bring my above point home, I wasn't friends with the person about whom we were discussing before working together on a project, but I worked hard to build relationships with the project team members. Building these relationships definitely helped me to get results.
But building relationships in business doesn't necessarily mean becoming friends on a personal level. Rather, it is about building trust. This trust can be vital in uncovering potentially hidden problems and ensuring the “right” problem is solved.
This sounds simple, but it isn't always easy. Relationships in business, like personal relationships, are as different as the people involved. There is a time to get down to business because everyone is time conscious, and there are times when we need to drink a little tea and get to know one another first.
So, the next time you aren't getting the results you want on a project, take some time for tea, and get to know the people with whom you are working. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results that follow!