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Soundview Executive Book SummariesA Guide to the Can-Do, Go-for-It People
Writing a book describing a group of people as diverse as Americans in general terms is an intimidating task indeed. But doing so while providing guidance to those from as broad an audience as the rest of the world can make the task even more difficult. To tackle this complex undertaking, Craig Storti has tapped the skills he has developed in his international communication training and consulting firm. These vast skills have allowed him to produce a guidebook that aims to help non-Americans understand those from the United States with whom they work, as well as help Americans understand how they might be viewed by people from other cultures.
Intended more for white-collar managers than their blue-collar underlings, Americans at Work provides cultural observations about office people who "work at desks, usually in front of a computer, go to lots of meetings, and almost never sweat." Storti acknowledges that there are many different types of workplaces and people throughout the United States, but writes that he focuses primarily on the dominant American culture that has grown from the assumptions, beliefs and values originally derived from the early European settlers in the United States and later amended by their experiences during the first two centuries of American history.
All Art and Very Little Science
Storti notes that his generalizations are bound to oversimplify, and that predicting human behavior is almost all art and very little science. But he explains that his goal is to provide useful generalizations of Americans at work and, despite the problems inherent in doing so, take the guesswork and surprise out of interacting with them. By providing details that help readers anticipate how Americans will feel about or respond to certain ideas or actions, and describing how Americans expect others to respond or act, Storti shows readers how they can find ways to act that will improve their chances of getting the response they want.
After giving readers a big-picture view of Americans (those from the United States and not its neighbors to the north and south who could also be considered "Americans"), Storti examines six fundamental American values that he believes account for many common workplace attitudes and behaviors. After he describes each, he explains how it shows up in the workplace and influences how Americans think and behave. Covering topics that range from efficiency to favoritism, and from directness to indirectly saying no, Storti describes the basics of workplace relationships and the do's and don'ts of life on the job.
The six most important American cultural themes that Storti details in Americans at Work include the following ideas as well as these tips for how to work with those who embody them:
- "The Land of Opportunity." Try to sound positive. Being merely realistic or objective may get you branded as a pessimist. Try to act excited about taking risks. Never suggest giving up.
- "The Can-Do People." Don't be too afraid of trial and error. Americans admire trying almost as much as succeeding. Be careful about too much analysis or planning. Don't expect Americans to be impressed by tradition.
Don't Play Favorites
- "Equality for All." If you're a boss, don't play favorites, obviously treating some subordinates better than others. Try to judge everyone by the same standards, which should be as objective and transparent as possible (such as results or performance).
- "You Are What You've Done." Clear away obstructions that keep people from getting things done, such as elaborate procedures, a long chain of command, or excessive testing. Never act complacent or satisfied. You can always do better.
- "On Your Own." As a boss, sketch out the big picture and then let subordinates "do their own thing." Give instructions and guidance, and then disappear. Don't expect corporate loyalty from American workers, and don't interpret being challenged as a sign of disrespect.
- "Time Matters." Be on time for appointments and meetings, so you don't waste other people's time or throw them off their schedule. Get to the point quickly in a conversation, meeting or presentation.
The rest of Americans at Work provides guidance for better communication, working with subordinates, and the proper etiquette to use in the office.
Why We Like This Book
Storti's clear generalizations about American businesspeople are both telling and accurate. Not only are they informative, but his suggestions to help others deal with those American traits offer helpful guidance to those unfamiliar with the American workplace, and a refresher course for those who wonder why those from other cultures respond to their idiosyncrasies in the ways they do. Copyright © 2005 Soundview Executive Book Summaries