Leading an Offshore Team in Mexico

By Jose Ruiz

Jose Ruiz serves as Alder Koten’s Chief Executive Officer providing vision, strategic direction and the roadmap for the firm’s future. He is also involved in executive search work focused on board members, CEOs and senior-level executives; and consulting engagements related to leadership and organizational effectiveness helping clients create thriving cultures.

Every culture has its leadership and communication styles. American managers who are considering to lead an offshore team in Mexico should understand the differences between US and Mexican styles and cultures. While there are universal values that apply to most, if not all cultures, such as honesty, friendliness, and dedication, recognizing the unique nuances would help in a long-term working relationship.

First

First, in Mexico, the management style tends to be more paternalistic than in the United States because they place more importance to hierarchy and structure. It translates to authoritative leadership style, where a leader must show sufficient control, honor, and the final say. However, the manager is also expected to be warm and friendly at the same time.

Second

Second, the communication style in Mexico is warm, loyal, reciprocal, and clear. Loyalty and warmth are reflected in the manager’s genuine caring demeanor toward the subordinates. Being clear is especially true when giving out instructions, as most Mexican workers expect to follow instructions without any further discussion. When being persuasive, focus on your perspective rather than on logical arguments.

Third

Third, in Mexican culture, being criticized may be considered “losing face,” thus criticism and feedback should be provided politely and clearly. The manager should also be clear on what went wrong and who made a mistake, since otherwise blaming may occur. Handle feedback delicately, so it would not be considered an “insult.”

Fourth

Fourth, Mexicans are more group-oriented and relationship-oriented, rather than individualistically-oriented. It is also called being more communal. Therefore, in Mexican workplaces, group rewards are more motivating than individual rewards. It would be preferred that the forms of incentive are financial, status, and praise.

Fifth

Fifth, familial and close relationships are paramount in the Mexican culture. Close friends and colleagues are considered “family.” A strong manager must understand this and expects to manage his “family” team members as a “parent” or “older sibling” figure. Be sensitive to seniority, social class, and age. Sincerity means a lot in fostering a good relationship.

Sixth

Sixth, be positive, express emotions, indirect, and formal when communicating with Mexican workers. Most Mexicans are Catholic, and one of their favorite phrases is “God willing,” which may sound fatalistic. However, for the purpose of good communication, refrain from being too analytical with theological concepts. In everyday conversations, it only means “I will do my best.”

Seventh

Seventh, on business cards, include titles and degrees whenever possible. This would reflect your intellect and seniority, which is key to earning respect. Social classes and distinctions are considered important in Mexican culture, thus if you have them, you are encouraged to show them, as long as you express them politely and with dignity.

Eighth

Eighth, business attire in Mexico is more formal than in the United States. Thus, pack more formal clothes rather than semi-casual ones. Managers are expected to carry themselves with much authority, therefore, make sure to have clean and well-ironed business suits, pants, and skirts.

At last, as a manager, you will notice that many of your subordinates would tend to say what you would like to hear, rather than telling the factual truth. Among workers, sympathy and solidarity mean more to them than being objective. Most American managers find this trait of Mexican workers quite baffling.

Managing an offshore team in Mexico is both a rewarding and a challenging position. As long as you do your research in advance to understand the leadership and communication styles better, you should be fine.

About Alder Koten

Alder Koten helps shape organizations through a combination of research, executive search, cultural & leadership assessment, and other talent advisory services. The firm was founded in 2011 and currently includes 6 partners and over 28 consultants in 4 cities. The firm’s headquarters are located in Houston and it has offices in Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City with partner firms in New York, Boston, Chicago, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and United Kingdom. We know where to find the executives you need and how to attract top talent to your organization. Our approach to executive search is based on a thorough understanding of the strategic, cultural, financial and operational issues our clients face. Our executive search engagements are targeted and focused on the specific requirements of the position including industry and functional experience, skills, competencies, cultural fit, and leadership style. Our process is rigorous. We take a disciplined and structured approach to identifying potential candidates that meet the position requirements including subject-matter, functional and regional expertise. We use our high-level professional networks, industry knowledge, and internal research resources to achieve results in every executive search engagement.