Tuesday 24 August 2010

Alignment on the SNCF

I must have been a pretty horrible 16 year old.

Arrogant, spotty and sullen.

Correction….I was a pretty horrible 16 year old.

How did my parents decide to deal with this Rebel-without-a-Cause?

In the summer holidays they packed me off, on my own, to a family they knew in France. That was some selling job my father did.

So there I am with my Scout rucksack, sitting in a packed, 8 seat, old fashioned, compartment on the SNCF from Gare du Lyon to Dijon, surrounded by Gauloises smoking, Pernod drinking, L’Equipe reading locals. I was out of my comfort zone and to make matters worse I had an incorrect ticket and le chemin de fer inspecteur had just entered our compartment.

You know what was going through my mind?

‘These Frenchies are just pretending that they cannot speak English. In a minute they are all going to start helping me and speaking the Queen’s English.’

And guess what…they didn’t.

Quelle domage.

To the amusement of my fellow travellers, I had to muddle through with my dodgy O Level French. And I did, somehow. That inspecteur must have been a patient man.

Fast forward three weeks, and I am travelling back to Blighty on the ferry from Calais to Dover and I accidentally bump into a middle aged man. He apologised to me in English and I apologised to him in French. In French! I had even begun to think in French.

Had I achieved this by studying the systems, process and technology in France?


What I had begun to do was understand, appreciate and like the culture, language and people of France.

Culture, Language and People.

So, if you want your sales and marketing teams to start respecting, trusting and working together, rather than the current mistrust, then you need to get them understanding, apreciaiting and even liking their respective culture language and people.

The good news is that you don’t have to be stuck in a railway compartment to start your journey.


A bientot!

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