One Meeting in Brazil, Three Perspectives
An Aperian Global power trio consisting of Adwoa Osei, Debora Chacon, and Virginia Eickhoff Haag, recently met in Brazil to develop new business opportunities, build stronger relationships with existing clients and scope the Brazilian market for our global learning solutions.
During their time in Brazil, they were facing a lot of meetings. Each of the three internationally-experienced business professionals brought their unique perspective to these meetings.
- Our Senior Global Account Manager, Adwoa Osei, is based in the United States, has never lived in Brazil, and was educated in Ghana.
- Our Program Manager, Debora Chacon, is based in Denmark, but was born and educated in Brazil.
- Our Associate Virginia Eickhoff Haag is based in Brazil and was born and educated in Brazil as well.
We were interested to hear each of their unique perspectives of the same meetings and the Brazilian business culture. (Have you seen our infographic “How well do you know Brazil” yet?) Adwoa, the one with the least connection points to Brazil, naturally turned to our online learning tool, GlobeSmart, to consult about Brazilian meeting styles before even leaving the U.S. Her preparation notes looked like this:
Once she landed and met with Virginia, she received valuable information from the native-Brazilian:
“One of the most difficult points for people that are used to doing business in the U.S. is related to our understanding of rules and procedures. For Brazilians, procedures are a route to guide you, rather than something that you need to follow strictly. We often adapt the rules according to the situation. This can be perceived as a way to mislead but, on the contrary, it is a strategy to gain more time or avoid future problems. This is something that can confuse foreigners: How do I know the right point of these adaptations? When is it an adaptation and when are you going against the rules?”
Adwoa quickly noticed that not only was she more dependent on her local colleagues for this type of advice, but also when navigating the business meeting without speaking the language:
“When they say Brazilians don’t speak English, believe it! I knew this going in, but I guess I truly did not understand the extent of this. Portuguese was essential in meetings, especially with Brazilian multinationals. I was fortunate enough to be joined in these meetings by Brazilian colleagues fluent in Portuguese which was crucial. On a few occasions some of our contacts were proficient in English, but in most cases our meetings were conducted in Portuguese with a few elements in English, where possible. It was important to have all reference material in Portuguese.”
Debora left her native country of Brazil more than six years ago and had her own observations about the meeting culture:
“After living in Denmark where people are very direct when expressing their thoughts and ideas, it was quite interesting to observe and catch the indirect hints from Brazilian counterparts during meetings and negotiations!”
Picking up on subtle hints, a change of direction in a conversation, or an indirect remark that might disclose some confusion, other interests, or the need for further clarification are a vital communication skill in Brazil. Meetings can often take unexpected turns and flexibility is a key skill to match these changing objectives.
“Brazilians can change strategies and even objectives very easily. This is part of our culture and characteristic of our history, which is full of constant changes in the economy, rules, etc. Before judging it as indiscipline, try to analyze the context and see if the new strategy better responds to a circumstance,” notes Virginia, stressing the need to stay flexible and open to changes, whether it concerns time, content, or circumstances.
Debora agrees and adds that Brazil is often considered a difficult market by European clients, especially due to the cultural differences in creating trust, building relationships and closing deals.
As our Associate Virginia Eickhoff Haag points out,
“Avoid comments and observations that ‘close the discussion’ at the beginning. If you call a meeting in Brazil, it is because you want to discuss ideas or important points with your team. It is vital to listen and understand the context, instead of rushing into expressing your opinion directly. On the contrary, you will be perceived as rude and people will stop interacting with you.”
Business culture in Brazil is changing, with a new breed of young professionals coming into managerial positions. While some of them may have been educated abroad, many of them are slipping into global management roles without any international leadership experience.
In her closing remark, Adwoa observed this trend in their discussion with multinational and Brazilian companies in Brazil:
“One of the themes in almost all meetings was the need to develop a new breed of leaders. For some of these organizations, rapid growth has led to the emergence of many new leaders with little to no experience managing and leading important initiatives and sites. This has become important particularly for Brazilian multinationals as they are moving aggressively into new international markets and need to develop leaders with a global mindset both home and abroad.”
Aperian Global can help develop high potentials into global leaders by providing customized learning solutions that fit the context and situation of each company’s needs. Learn more by reading about our Global Leadership Development solutions.