Harmony in Diversity: Navigating Cultural Nuances in Leadership

In the realm of “Language Barriers and Leadership Challenges” I encountered numerous uncertainties, and to shed light on this matter, I’d like to share a personal experience. Unfortunately, this experience is very common in foreign companies, and few top executives are aware of it.


We find ourselves in a foreign company with a branch in Mexico, and the position of General Manager has recently been filled by a long-time member of the company who has the full trust of the CEO. In other words, this person is well-prepared and familiar with the company’s requirements. We will call this person “Mr. Goodchief.”

Upon arriving in Mexico, Mr. Goodchief identified “Mr. Evilhead,” a foreign team member in the Administration department, apparently proficient in Spanish, in charge of supervising the entire administrative operation. Mr. Goodchief saw in Mr. Evilhead an opportunity to have an invaluable element for excellent control of the company. Or at least, that’s how it seemed.

The Mexican Perspective

Mr. Goodchief arrived with contagious motivation and enthusiasm. Every order was promptly executed; however, any errors or deficiencies were attributed to the locals (Mexicans). Unfortunately, Mr. Evilhead convinced Mr. Goodchief that Mexicans were deficient in many ways.

On the other side of the stage, Mexicans were trained and coordinated, efficiently managing daily tasks. One day, Mr. Evilhead requested information from his team; the instructions were illogical or incomplete (Example: how much money does the employee pay to the company. In Mexico, the employee does not pay to have a job.). To justify himself, Mr. Evilhead claimed that Mr. Goodchief lacked the knowledge for the position, so he requested senseless information, encouraging processes that wasted time trying to “guess” what was being asked, causing much confusion. If any Mexican needed information, Mr. Evilhead would respond, “It’s an order from Mr. Goodchief,” ending the discussion and making it clear that no help would be provided.

The Other Side of the Coin

One of my mentors (whom I affectionately and respectfully call “Pilo”) always said that every story has two versions. That’s why I sought an interview with Mr. Goodchief, and thanks to his extraordinary openness, I discovered the problem behind Mr. Goodchief’s “orders.”

On this occasion, Mr. Goodchief had requested HR KPIs. As the HR department has several KPIs, each with its process and fundamental information, when I asked specifically which KPI he needed, using my basic English skills, I understood that he wanted to know how much tax the company withholds from employees (In Mexico, the company must withhold a predetermined amount from the employee for tax purposes, known as ISR). When I showed him the KPIs we managed, he was pleased and confused because Mr. Evilhead claimed that these KPIs did not exist and blamed the delay on Mexicans because “we didn’t understand” his orders. When I mentioned the order that Mr. Evilhead gave us, a look of bewilderment appeared on his face because he did not understand how a person with supposed experience in the area and local processes could be confused.

From that moment on, I could confirm information requests with Mr. Goodchief; shortly after, Mr. Goodchief detected many anomalies in Mr. Evilhead’s management, who was dismissed and replaced by a more experienced administrator who did not need to give orders on behalf of another person.

With this, I don’t want to leave the idea that Mexicans are the good ones and foreigners are the bad ones; on the contrary, your nationality does not define your character or professionalism: your actions speak for you.

I hope this experience serves you to not close yourself to the idea that Mexicans are bad workers and that you can form a strong team that allows you to achieve your goals.

“The wolf will always be bad if we only listen to Little Red Riding Hood”

– Anonymous –
Roger Mariano

Roger Mariano

Deputy General Manager, Manager, Consultant, Professor, lecturer, with over 20 years of experience in key roles in the Human Resources field, often serving as a change agent in both National and Multinational Companies. I aim to support my national and international colleagues, as well as anyone interested in learning about my experience in human resources management in Mexico.

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