Growing up in the Midwest, I played softball, minded my manners and was home by curfew. I respected my elders, shopped at The Gap, gobbled cream puffs at State Fair, and snuck the occasional beer in my friends’ basements. I graduated from a Big Ten University and began climbing the corporate ladder. I learned how to network, worked hard in speech therapy to purge my Wisconsin accent (no, I’m not kidding) and established myself as something of an up-and-coming professional in Human Resources.
I was invited to join C-level executives at the table and soaked up knowledge, culture, behavioral norms, strategy and office politics like a sponge. Identifying a mentor, I watched how she moved with finesse between professional circles, wowing colleagues with her expertise, willingness to assist, and humility. Diplomacy became my motto and coupled with ambition and dedication, I succeeded.
And then I moved to Israel.
There not only is no State Fair in Israel, but the dogma, etiquette and corporate culture are entirely contrary to my upbringing. My first professional experience in Israel included a hotly debated topic at a high level brainstorming session – the principals felt strongly about their respective opinions and proceeded to yell and scream at each other in the conference room, pounding the table to make their points. Shortly after the meeting concluded, these same executives gathered for coffee and swapped family-centered stories of their weekends as if they had not been red-faced and fuming only moments before. I was dumbfounded.
My first few years here were a repeated lesson in unabashedly emoting and finding solutions as an Israeli. The predominant culture here encourages expression of oneself, including eliminating “political correctness” from vocabulary and mannerisms, in order to prove oneself correct in any variety of situations from open air market bargaining to dinnertime storytelling and professional strategy debates. In addition, there is a pervasive quality here that encourages a certain creativity and stick-to-it-edness I had never experienced. Can’t find it? Create it. At a loss? Keep moving. Think you’re going to fail? Double your efforts. Seems impossible? Reinvent your dedication!
I ultimately realized that my Midwestern niceties did not generally jive well in Israeli corporate culture. They wondered why I was often silent (read: aghast) at uproarious meetings and nonparticipating (read: still in shock) at the chummy coffee klatches afterwards. I missed my corporate culture of a genuine “How may I help you today?” attitude and found myself calling Bank of America more often than necessary just to hear the inevitable smile on the phone.
The big question: could I retain my American-ness and work successfully in Israel? After being here a few years, some of the Israeli culture seeped into my veins, so now, was I really American or was I now Israelican? Amerili? Could I potentially take the best business practices of both cultures and combine them to provide the best service possible? YES I CAN! And I did.
Now, I capitalize on the dedication to creative solutions I have learned here. I’ve never been one to pass the buck, but now I have internalized how to be even more focused on finding (or creating) resolutions to client problems. Have an issue with business process? Technology? Marketing? I can not only figure it out, but I have recruited and trained a staff who also possess the exceptionally unique and enviable combination of the best of American and Israeli business cultures. I call this fabulous combination “Respectful Tenacity.” It’s rare. It’s also a recipe for success.
American business owners need this unlikely combination of assets, and the only place you can get it is here. Get in touch today for a consultation on how Respectful Tenacity can project your business to the next level!
Submitted by Hilary