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Top 5 tips on working with French colleagues and clients

02 Oct 2018

Lequin Executive Coaching and Training has worked with several French organisations and from our expereince - and from research taken from multicultural understanding studies - these are Lequin's top 5 tips when working with French employees and clients:

1. How the French go about problem solving

  • By comparison to the US or UK where decisive action and speed are virtues, the French appreciate a more deliberate and precise approach to solving problems.
  • While the British approach would be to run with an idea to test it out, the French will look to test it by ‘breaking it’ with debate upfront. So, the French will talk conceptually about an issue before coming to a conclusion, which can make discussions with the French seem lengthy and disorganised.

Tip: be patient.

2. How to prepare for meetings with the French

  • Meeting are best seen as exchanges of information – decisions are rarely made and from the meetings we’ve attended, no ‘action points’ have been circulated afterwards, and rarely has there been a summary at the end of the meeting (as you would expect in the UK, for example).
  • Prepare for longer conversations and unstructured meetings. Americans bypass conceptual discussion so to the French might seen lacking in necessary rigour.

Tip: be prepared for a lengthy debate and if you want action points and a summary, you will need to initiate this yourself.

3. Don’t surprise 

  • The French don’t like surprises.
  • Structure and planning are required.
  • Lequin once borne the burnt of a French client when a few weeks before the training we announced that we’d changed trainers – we wanted to bring in a more experienced trainer given that the client had announced a change in the seniority of participants. No matter, the client was furious they were not informed with a month’s notice.

Tip: even if you don’t think it’s important, tell your French colleague of any changes to a project as soon as you know them.

4. Negative and positive feedback from the French

  • While Americans wrap positive messages around negative feedback, the French see this as inauthentic.
  • They are often very talkative and will let you know when they are unhappy – they express dissatisfaction strongly and can be confrontational. Nor do they give a great deal of direct positive praise, but provide more subtle signs that they’re happy – so to people from the US and UK it can seem like clients are unhappy.

Tip: Don’t take it personally - don’t expect high-fives and praise when you do something well, but do expect to be told when you’ve done something wrong.

5. The customer is NOT always king!

Customer service is poor in the eyes of all those Anglo-Saxons who believe that the customer is king. Not so in France. The French are often self-motivated to be the best in their trade so expect respect for what they do, after which they are very much willing to serve you well.

Tip: Don't expect American style smiles but do expect to be treated as an equal even if you are the client.  

Important note: These tips come from our observations and from a British view of the world - your expereince of working with French colleageus and clients will most likely vary, and people do not all conform to the stereotpye of their nationality.

Lequin provide workshops on multicultural understanding, client service training, and soft skills training in Paris, London, Bristol, Bath, Slough, Reading, Exeter, New York, the UK, througthout Europe, the US, Hong kong, Singapore, Japan and many other countries.

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