If Germans﹣those leading as well as those being led (shared logic)﹣prefer generally formulated, mission-oriented tasks (more what, less how), if German managers focus more on the strategic level, less on the details of implementation, it follows that they will maintain longer lines of communication with their team members: less interaction, less frequent status meetings, fewer iterations on tactical issues.
If Americans﹣those leading as well as those being led (shared logic)﹣prefer specific, command-oriented tasks (what and how), if American managers are player-coaches who lead on the strategic level, but remain involved on the tactical level, it follows that they will maintain shorter lines of communication with their team members: more interaction, frequent status meetings, more iterations on tactical issues.
American leaders over-communicate. “Visiting the troops” and "management by walking around" is interpreted as unwarranted supervision and control. It is distracting, demotivating, and in many cases viewed as a sign of mistrust.
German team leaders under-communicate. “Face time” with the boss is in short supply. It becomes difficult to know, understand, or predict what the leader wants. It requires unnecessary guesswork, can be demotivating, and, in most cases, is seen as a lack of involvement.
Advice to Germans
Again, if you are the team leader, manage more like a player-coach versus a teacher-coach. Stay engaged with your team at the tactical level. You need not become overly prescriptive. You need not "change into your uniform and get onto the field," but stay involved as their coach.
Increase your communication with the team by 50 percent. You won't feel comfortable doing it. You'll think it's a waste of time. You'll fear it will distract, or even unsettle, your team. It won't do any of these things. You won't succeed without shorter lines of communication.
You are part of a transatlantic team and your American boss over-communicates? It is not a sign of mistrust. On the contrary, you should worry about your performance if you see and hear less and less from your American leader!
The higher the level of communication, the more relevant your work, the more important you are for the success of the team. Enjoy the interaction. Engage with your team leader. You can exert influence on strategy and important decisions.
Advice to Americans
You lead Germans? Reduce your communication by 50%. You won't like it. You'll feel deprived of the key tool in managing your team. You'll wonder what to do with your time. Focus on the broader strategic issues which can positively or negatively impact on your team.
Remove roadblocks to their success. And use the time to protect your team from those constant internal turf-battles so famous within German companies.
Your German boss under-communicates? Experiencing "face time withdrawal?" It is not an indication that you have a problem, in fact, it's the exact opposite! Your German leader is communicating with you.
The message is: "Hey, you're doing a great job. I can leave you alone. I spend my time on the problems, not on the areas which are working. Keep up the good work. Maybe we'll bump into each other some time!"