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  • Claire Le Compagnon

CQ with Leaders #2 Jérôme Le Compagnon Head of Strategy at SAS ( Faurecia)

I wanted to interview leaders from diverse industries, and diverse national cultures. I didn't have to go very far to find a great leader in the automotive industry, I reached out my brother and he accepted to answer couple questions relative to his experience of cultural intelligence.

My parents often joke about what they did wrong to have both of their kids working and living in different spots on the globe. Well, they planted the seed early, raising us in Africa. And that seed grew both with me and my brother apparently.



Jerome Le Compagnon in the middle (Faurecia Mexico)


Can you briefly tell us about yourself?

I have been working my entire career in the automotive industry for a French Tier1 company named Faurecia. I started as a Sales Engineer in France. Pretty soon, I had the opportunity to travel in various European countries as well as in South America and Asia. In 2002 I was given the opportunity to work as a Program Manager in Brazil. It started as a 2 year contract, and ended up being a 10 year experience, moving up the ladder in the Sales function. I then transferred to Mexico for 3 years to start a new plant reporting to a US leadership team. Recently, I was offered the opportunity to move to Japan where I enjoyed a 5 year contract. Right now I'm in Germany working on Business Development and Strategy and who knows what's next!


On a personal note, I'm a PADI Dive master which led me to travel all around the world and meet lovely people. I'm also a keyboard musician, and that created wonderful opportunities to play pretty much in every large city I visited on the planet.


Which culture has been the most comfortable for you to navigate and why?

Brazil without a doubt for me. I'm biased because I have a deep personal connection thru music to this culture. Brazil is a country of immigrants. Its culture is relatively easy to embrace if you make the effort to speak Portuguese. If you are flexible enough, you might quickly be considered a Brazilian.


My brother is a chameleon

One epic failure from a cultural intelligence point of view?

Japan! I worked 20 years ago with a Japanese joint venture to accelerate partnership with Nissan. None of us knew much about the do's and dont's in Japan, and even though we were travelling frequently there, we made a lot of mistakes... and our relationship with our partners was not in a good shape after the first years, so did the business. Someone in the leadership team had this great initiative to organize a Cultural Differences training with a Japanese facilitator. This was a fantastic experience and we finally realized that we had completely different referential, habits and behaviors in the workplace. We realized we were making a lot of mistakes. A typical one would be: a French team member could show dissatisfaction regarding a coworker in a meeting in front of everyone. Then move on, business as usual. It's ok in France, but it isn't in Japan. You should discuss those issues in a private context, meaning outside of the office environment. Many things are resolved outside during a dinner or in a coffee shop.


Your three advices for a leader landing in Brazil to lead a company or a team?

Brazilians are passionate people. Have clear goals, learn Portuguese, be flexible with timelines or schedule.


Since you worked in both countries, what differences did you see between Mexico and Brazil in the workplace?

There's a lot in common, but the main difference to me is the relation to hierarchy. Mexico is way more hierarchical than Brazil. It's something you need to take into account as you lead teams.


If you could pick the best of each culture you experienced?

In Japan, I was naively expecting a quite "closed" culture, I ended starting conversations and making friends very easily. Honestly, the most important thing is to understand that each culture has a different referential. I'm used to seeing the world map with Americas on the left, Europe/Africa in the middle and Asia/Oceania on the right. In Japan, Asia is at the center, Americas on the right and Europe/Africa on the left. Once you realize our differences come from a different referential, it makes things easier and very enjoyable!


How do you leverage being a musician as a side gig to improve your ability to navigate across cultures?

It's such an easy way to make friends. You don't even need to speak the language and are able to communicate thru notes and rhythm. I have played sessions in Thailand and Japan in places where nobody spoke English. The last 5 years in Japan, I can say that music helped me meet wonderful people who welcomed me as the only foreigner in their band. It definitely helped me create new connections and open doors.


Thank you for sharing your experience with me and the readers of this blog.


If you would like to share your experience of Cultural Intelligence, please reach out to me at info@clairelecompagnon.com







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