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In our Diversity@NORMA series, we highlight the diversity of employees who work at NORMA Group. In 2022, the series focuses on the different cultures at NORMA Group. Colleagues from different departments and countries provide insights into their culture, how it influences their approach to work and how intercultural exchanges takes place at NORMA Group.
Lee Borsberry works as Plant Manager at the NORMA Group site in Hustopeče, Czech Republic. Previously, Lee has worked at NORMA Group sites in the United Kingdom (UK) and Sweden. In the interview, he talks about the different cultures and how he has benefited from the cultural exchange.
Lee, can you tell us a bit about your journey with NORMA Group and the cultures of the different geographies you experienced as part of this journey?
I am from the North-East (NE) of the UK. The people from here are friendly and outgoing. It is an industrial area, people here work hard but can also enjoy their free time. In the South of England (where NORMA UK is located), people are different, they take more time to open up and are more work oriented.
From April 2018 to June 2019, I worked at our plant in Sweden. I noticed quickly that people in Sweden are very welcoming. In the Czech Republic, where I now work for almost 3 years as Plant Manager, it feels like I have almost gone back to home. Czech has a very similar culture to NE UK. Here, people in process are as important as the process itself.
How long did it take you to get accustomed to the country the culture and learn the language?
I have no problem with different cultures. I don’t really struggle to fit in. But I am English, so I am terrible with languages. And to be honest, I did not really try to learn while I was in Sweden as I did not expect to stay long, and English is very widely spoken in Sweden.
But I did try quite hard to learn Czech – through lessons and friends. It is not easy, but I am making progress every day. As Czech shares the culture with NE of UK it was quite easy for me to fit in. Going on trips with local people, for example outdoor activities, helps me to learn the language and at the same time I gain great new experiences. For example, I skied for the first time here.
How did the culture you grew up in affect your style of work?
NE UK has a “work-hard, play-hard”-culture. I might not stay out late now like I did when I was younger, but I do enjoy myself outside of work, to relax and be with people. I wanted to be a football player when I was younger. As many other young boys, I failed. But this failure led to my career as engineer.
I was always actively involved with machines and technical equipment and liked them. I found books frustrating; machines did what they were supposed to. If they did not work, it means that something was broken – easy and logical. As I moved ahead in my career, I had to work more with people and had to learn how to do this effectively. I had some good mentoring, coaching and feedback over the years. I also studied at university. At NORMA Group, it is much more about the people; there is a good balance – of making demands and treating people doing it, the right way.
Is there a difference in working cultures? If yes, how did it affect your working style?
In Sweden and UK there are more automated processes while in the Czech Republic, we are going through the transformation from manual to automated processes. The mix of both is great and makes the difference.
Do you think your working style had some effect on the people you were/are surrounded with?
Yes, I would like to think so. I look for people who share a similar mindset as me. There are three important things for me I care about: Trust, respect and desire. People I work with don’t need to be fantastically talented but must have a strong desire to work. I wish to trust people, people who have respect for their colleagues and a desire to give their best, to go above and beyond – when necessary.
How do you opine that the intercultural exchanges (e.g., bubble assignments) help?
In February 2020, we had a Leadership Development Conference in Germany. To see how different countries react to leadership challenges was stimulating. As far as I am aware of, I don’t think that there are many interregional bubble assignments. There might not be several people who would be willing to do it or suitable, but it would be interesting to explore and encourage this further to support the exchange between the three regions.
How do you say, the cultural exchanges and working in 3 different working environments, effected your working and/or management style?
Before NORMA Group, my work as a manager was tough and demanding, now, I am calmer, patient but still driven to succeed. Working with and across different countries fine-tuned my working style. I worked with several people who had good influence on me.
Is there a highlight or an incident or occasion, with respect to cross-cultural communication and/or exchanges, that left some mark in your mind?
I would say the conference/training of Leadership Development in February 2020. All directors from all regions of APAC, EMEA and Americas came together. It was a fantastic event and an interesting learning experience. We still keep in contact. I also had the opportunity to visit the plants in North America; it was at the 10th anniversary of NORMA Group. We extended our stay and did some sightseeing too. It was a great experience as well.