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In my two decades with Accenture and Avanade, here are two of the most important things I’ve learned

  • Posted on June 3, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
In my two decades with Accenture and Avanade, here are two of the most important things I’ve learned

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Two decades is a long time. At least, that’s what people keep telling me as I hit my 20th year of service with Avanade and Accenture.

I have all kinds of hard-won insights to share from my years as a CRM delivery lead and general manager, and today, I’ll look at the two biggest learnings from my experiences.

20 years, two important learnings

Before I dive into these learnings, it’s important that I give you a bit of background. Up until 2015, I’d mostly worked across Europe. While there’s plenty of diversity to be found across the EU, living there still only gives you a western perspective on things. I’d always craved the variety and broadened understanding you only get by working further afield.

So, it was a dream come true when I was offered a position that would take me to Hong Kong, and all across Asia, Brazil and Australia. If I had to pick a defining moment in my career, it would probably be here—it was when I taught myself to throw out my preconceptions and open my mind to two important learnings.

Learning 1: reset your biases as often as you can

Taking a job in a different continent teaches you all sorts of things. But it gave me one insight I’ll never forget: Everyone has cultural bias, and if you let that affect your professional decisions, you lose.

In my case, I had to adjust my management style in Hong Kong. As an engineer, you get used to being direct with your feedback. And I can be a little loud—quite an unusual combination in a Hong Kong office. I had to reset my approach and find a management style better suited to my new environment.

Because here’s the thing, all the little things you do without giving them a second thought? They all have different meanings everywhere you go. Offering feedback, inviting someone for a beer after work, even tapping a colleague on the shoulder to get their attention; these small gestures mean very different things in different parts of the world. You have to think before you do almost anything, or risk offending or demotivating people around you.

It can be hard to unlearn these unconscious habits but doing so is valuable. Small changes will help you better manage teams from diverse cultures—whether we’re talking about different regions around the world or different cultures across organizations and departments.

But understanding different ways of working doesn’t happen if you only learn the theory. You have to put it into practice. So, be adventurous. Take the opportunities to work with new people and always be prepared to reset your biases.

Learning 2: take wellbeing seriously and set a work-life balance that works for you

If you really want to work in a high-performance team, it starts with keeping an eye on your wellbeing. After all, only those who live a well-balanced life will have the energy they need to do great work.

Working in different continents opened my eyes to how important it is to maintain a good work-life balance and how you can approach it many ways. Partly because when you spend a lot of time travelling between places, it’s easy to lose the time you’d normally set aside for your friends and family or to work out. So you need to be disciplined about finding that time elsewhere to recharge your batteries. But travelling also taught me that different people from different cultures all have unique approaches to balancing work and life, and you can learn a lot from these unique perspectives.

When I get the chance to work with employees from younger generations, I’m always impressed by how well-informed they are on issues around wellbeing. They take work-life balance much more seriously than people from my generation. And that means we need to start taking it seriously too. Because if we as the old guard don’t look after ourselves and have the energy we need to serve clients effectively, what kind of example are we setting?

This also applies to organizations. If you don’t offer a workplace culture that encourages and allows your people to balance work, family, friends and fun, you’ll put off the best young talent. And that’s no way to grow a high-performance business.

What does the next 20 years have in store?

As the head of Avanade’s Gallia region, I plan to keep taking these two learnings to heart to bring the best people together.

We’re currently processing new acquisitions, and I hope staying open-minded to different workplace cultures will make this a smooth process for us, and for the new experts joining our business. I’m also confident that keeping open minds will help us improve collaboration with different Avanade regions and share our ideas effectively.

And by keeping a focus on health and wellbeing, I’m confident the Gallia team will be as happy and productive as possible—now, and as we grow.

Why not join me for a virtual coffee or tea?

I’m always happy to share experiences and ideas about the most effective ways to manage people. If you’d like to talk through these learnings or share your own ideas, I’d love to chat over a coffee (probably a virtual one, given the current situation).

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