Personal Diary : The Mentor

Adjusting to the new culture

Talking to the mentor was a great experience. Similar to my personal observations, I was told that when sharing my story,  I could do a better job emphasizing accomplishments. Among others, being more descriptive when highlighting existing clients was one of the lessons that I learned from the mock-interview session.

In addition, the mentor also pointed out to my body language during our mock-interview. Subconsciously, my posture was not held straight and my gestures were non-existent. Therefore, an area that I need to work on improving was the posture during professional situations and the expression of emotion through gestures.

What surprised me the most during the mock-interview with the mentor was the fact that I had little knowledge about the true nature of the American business culture. Despite my past experiences, I was surprised to see how their energetic nature was carried out in a business environment.

Accordingly, my mentor explained that despite the outgoing nature, American entrepreneurs are busy individuals who value time and money. As such, restricted by time, I had to make learn to control a conversation and steer it to where I wanted it to be.

Previous to this mock-interview, I had not practiced any pitch for my business – as I had assumed that it would come naturally. However, after trying it once, I noticed the need for structure, added confidence and a defined conclusion.

One of the things that I was most proud of was my vision as an entrepreneur. The idea of having a realistic end-goal is comforting and it helped me conceptualize a clear path for myself – which would sound appealing to a potential future investor.

However, me and the mentor recognized that work had to be done with respect to communicating that vision in a clear and concise way.

 

Next time, I intend to upgrade the scenario by meeting with a client of mine that is based in Massachusetts.

The goal is to practice the new behavior in-front of an actual native entrepreneur.

I had tremendous difficulty expressing confidence in excess of the normal dose. The problem stems from the conflict of my personal humble nature, relative to the new behavior I was trying to adapt to.

I knew, however that a change would have to be made because this point of conflict has been haunting me in Kosovo as well. My business partner has pointed out countless times that my withdrawn and pessimistic character could be costing us business, a statement that was indirectly confirmed by my mentor during our mock-interview.

While answering the above questions, I have already pointed to some aspects of the 3C’s. In my case, all of them would have to be applied for the new behavior to become truly integrated within this new cultural behavior that I am trying to nurture. 

Conviction, in this case, is defined by the need for success and accomplishment. To be more specific, the need to expand character (confidence) in order to step outside the comfort zone. Conviction helped me remember throughout my mock-interviews the reasons why I was undergoing this cultural experience / examination.

Customization for me revolved around preparing my subconscious behaviors for future client meetings. The goal with customization was to define a strategy that would help me gain control over any discussion. Initially, I was struggling to control the tide of the conversation but after a two weeks of practice I started to notice differences. The questions I asked, and the answers I gave were becoming more controlled – allowing me to pivot conversations in the right direction.

Lastly, clarity helped me understand that

“Hey, even if I do not succeed in reaching the optimal amount of promotion during the meeting, I will still have set my business in the radar of that client”.

Clarity helped me set realistic expectations that helped me understand the true risk behind this cultural shift.

If a friend was facing the same situation that I am facing than I would highly suggest that he find a mentor who would guide him through the initial process. Setting expectations and defining a clear plan going forward will also greatly improve the fusion of the new behavior.

Personal Diary : The Actual Client

Practice makes perfect

Yesterday, I met with one of my clients at one of the cafés in Waltham. Most of my clients are small businesses; thus, meeting at a caffe is the norm. Every one of my clients has a unique personality, while some are formal, others are more laid-back.

This particular client owned an insurance agency, and with regard to their personality they were relatively laid-back – which meant that I was going to struggle to carry the conversation within certain parameters. However, much to my surprise, I was able to communicate our past accomplishments, and open the discussion for a potential budget bump in the upcoming months – which was ultimately the goal of the meeting. The fact that I knew the person helped me navigate through the conversation with ease.

What I learned from the meeting is that practice makes perfect. And the past weeks of training my mentor have definitely prepared me for future encounters.

What surprised me the most was the clients’ acknowledgment of our success. In the past, I had feared that price negotiations would lead to us losing the client to a cheaper-priced competitor; however, that assumption was based on my pessimistic beliefs that our work was not good enough.

Therefore, a shocking unveil from the meeting reinforced our newly established US-based slogan

“Swiss quality services, at Kosovo-based pricing”

Reflecting back, the proudest moments were those where I talked about myself, and my business. In the past, promoting myself felt awkward and out of the ordinary; But, in yesterdays meeting, no such emotions emerged. Of course, we have to understand that these assumptions of success are subjective, and they could have been perceived differently by the other party. To verify the assumption, we will have to wait until the finalizing of the deal.

In the next meeting, I would like to have the chance to practice the new behavior in a formal scenario with an unknown personality. This I believe will be a true examination of my progress in this cultural project.

The psychological challenges related to this situation were minimal. Largely because I had faced them at some point in the past. After having worked with the client for almost a year, I knew before-hand the challenges that I would face, and figure out ways to overcome them.


Interestingly, however, the nature of the conversation led to post-meeting challenges. Uncertainty and doubt have clouded my mind, as I waited to get a response from the client. The new behavior that I exercised may have been perceived as foreign by the client – who also knows and understands my humble nature. However, I recognize this situation was unavoidable, and it would have happened eventually.

Similar to the previous diary, all the C’s have been used in this situation.

First, conviction helped me define a sense of purpose for the meeting. I sought to negotiate a price bump by emphasizing the value that we provided to the client. Second, customization allowed me to adapt the new behavior flawlessly during the meeting. As previously stated, most of the customization is behavioral and it’s use is hardly observable  – unless one knows my previous personality in great detail. Yet, the undisputed fact is that I have started becoming accustomed to the new “me”. Third, clarity is the third aspect that helped me normalize the challenge depicted in question 5. If the client was unwilling to value our work at a fair amount than is that client worth keeping? After all, over the long-run, they would restrict capacities and potentially lead to the loss of future business.

To the friend currently faced with this behavioral challenge, I suggest keeping an open-mind. Do not overthink uncertainty, and use clarity to set expectations. This way you minimize stress, and avoid disappointment.

Personal Diary : The Potential Client

Building a relationship

The final diary is directed to the actual meeting which I held with a potential client in Massachusetts. The meeting was held in the offices of the client, and the situation was far more formal than I had expected – considering the US Culture Code. Regardless, I was prepared for such a situation; thus, decided to wear a suite to the meeting.

The meeting lasted for almost an hour, where we discussed a potential digital marketing collaboration. Excited to hear about their willingness to collaborate, I had forgotten the purpose of the meeting. Yet, thanks to past trials, the new behavior had grown within me. Reflecting back on that single hour, I can vividly remember promoting myself in a way which embodied both my past and present cultural behaviors.

Upon finishing, I arranged a new potential date with the owner of the business, to ensure that they knew my desire and willingness to collaborate. The core lesson from this part of the project was that theoretical aspects of behavior will eventually blend in with one’s personality – assuming they practiced hard enough. Regardless of the success, I felt that there was a lot of room for improvement.

Over the next months, I will have countless opportunities to interact with other local entrepreneurs, with whom I plan to exercise this behavior.

Sounding like an American, without being an American can be a source of conflict. But, much to my surprise, the American counterpart perceived this behavior relatively normally. With regard to myself, I was surprised to see how I was able to execute the new behavior without putting much thought into it.

There were two relevant moments from the meeting which stood out with respect to this project.

The first is related to small talk. Historically, I have struggled to maintain a productive small talk conversation with family, friends, colleagues and clients. This was largely attributed towards my withdrawn personality. However, this has gradually changed over the years, and it was particularly apparent during this informational interview. Not only did I manage to withhold a productive small talk discussion but I also managed to throw in some humor when appropriate. Although not the main goal of the project, it is never a bad outcome if one hits two birds with a single stone.

The second relevant moment was an AHA moment, a sudden realization that I had been able to express confidence in a meeting without having to think about it ONCE. The primary objective of this project was to adapt a new behavior that differed completely from what I had been used to. As a result of practice, I have successfully taken the first step to adapting to a new culture, without necessarily loosing track of my past personality.

A cultural norm, behavior or personality can’t change within a time frame, as short as this project. Thus, there will be room for improvement in the upcoming weeks, months and years. I have scheduled a few new meetings with new individuals, who I expect to be different from those that I met in the past. 

After having experienced all the psychological challenges of global dexterity – authenticity, competence and resentment – I believe that I have gained the cultural knowledge necessary to minimize their negative impact during a specific situation (i.e. meeting with a potential client).

For the first time, I believed that I had found the sweet spot, as depicted by the overlap between my personal comfort zone and the zone of appropriateness. Despite the fears of being challenged from the new behavior, I had internalized the idea of exercising control over a cultural experience. Yes, Americans are outgoing, analytical, and – at times – overly confident, however, that is not a reason to fear confronting, talking, or debating with one.  

The 3 C’s are a phenomenal concept whose worth I understood when interviewing my actual client. In that case, I sought to use all the 3 C’s as a means of practicing for the real gig – which is the situation with the potential client. 

Different from the other cases, here I only had the chance to exercise one of the 3C’s, namely customization. The goal of this project is to adapt a self-promoting behavior that fits within the US cultural appropriate zone. This behavior, although foreign to me, was the key to my success in the meeting. It even caught wind of the potential client, who acknowledged my professional goals in the US. 

On the other hand, conviction and clarity were two of the concepts which I did not observe but may have taken place subconsciously. During the meeting, I was not actively thinking of controlling the conversation or practicing the “self-promoting” behavior since it occurred naturally. Moreover, there was no need for clarity either. The meeting was clear and well-organized, it left little room for doubt, judgment or even resentment. 

Never expect that a mock-interview will be a representation of the actual situation. Personalities and cultures are subject to various interpretations that differ from person to person. Preparing for an outcome with a local mentor can help you set clear expectations that will guide a specific behavior. Eventually, if done right, that behavior which seemed strange at first will become of second nature. In my case, I went around practicing all the cultural C’s and facing all the psychological challenges of adapting the new behavior but eventually it all paid off.