I knew stop #3 on my global Master the Matrix tour would prove to be the most challenging: 400 Japanese colleagues in a large auditorium in Osaka, with Tokyo, Shanghai, and Beijing joining via videoconference; two interpreters in the room providing simultaneous translation.
I decided I would throw a few Japanese words into my session, including the Japanese word for nervous…which I was…very. I was nervous about the content—would it align with their cultural beliefs? Would it be relevant? I was worried about my delivery–would I be able to slow down my rapid-fire style of speaking? This worry was reinforced when the gentleman next to me on the plane explained that it takes 40% more Japanese words to say what I am saying in English. Slowing down wasn’t necessary just to stay in sync, it was the only way the interpreters would be able to actually provide all the necessary words!
I have worked in Japanese companies and with Japanese colleagues from the start of my career. But until this trip I didn’t truly appreciate how much it takes to make the Japanese and American working relationships effective. I talk about trust as key to making the matrix work. What I came to realize just how difficult it is to build trust globally. It’s not difficult just because of the distance and the virtual nature of our work, but because of language. How do we build trust when we are thousands of miles away and our language barriers keep us from having conversations at a deeper level?
At the end of the session, this question of building trust across the global was the first one posed. I am not sure I have the full answer to this (or any new answers to it), but I think my view was reinforced by this experience. Technology can’t replace an in-person meeting and group meetings can’t replace a personal 1:1 conversation. In the end, regardless of culture, language or distance, trust is built by direct human interaction.