The German Way

germany-flag“The will is the soul of the work.” – Old German Proverb

My schedule this past week had me at the Contingent Workforce Strategies (CWS) conference in Berlin, Germany.  The event was a tremendous success, and the interest in MSP and RPO is growing rapidly across Europe.  Some of you know how passionate I am about the workforce solutions industry, so It is uplifting to see new customers embracing its value proposition.  I am leaving Germany energized and excited the emerging contingent workforce management market developing in Europe.

You have no doubt noticed several  of my leadership messages feature observations made during my travels.   To be fair, I travel far too much (I am working to find a better balance).  But I must admit that one of the benefits of my job is the opportunity to experience different cultures.  I am one of those people who embraces those experiences.  When I travel, I try to view life through their eyes.  See things from their perspective.  And find the lessons and the wisdom in their ways.

This trip to Germany was no different.  It was amazing to see Berlin – a vibrant, bustling metropolis that only 24 years ago was a tale of two cities.  A city torn apart and literally divided by the conflicting policies of the East and West.  Today it bristles with growth.  There were more construction cranes in Berlin than in all of Texas combined (at least it seemed that way).  Simply amazing – the resilience and fortitude of the Germans.

Which got me thinking – how successful Germany has become.  Think about this – while the rest of Europe sits mired in economic malaise, Germany is a shining example of success.  Their GDP sits at $3.6 trillion – the highest in Europe, and the fourth largest in the world.   They are the second largest exporter in the world (I was surprised to find that out).  And their unemployment sits at 5.4% – amazing when you consider ours sits at 7.6%, the rest of Europe sits at 12.1%, and some countries like Spain are running 27%.

How is it that a culture can produce such amazing results even in difficult times?  How is it that they have recovered from both the post WWII rebuilding AND the reunification of East and West to become the financial cornerstone for Europe?  And what lessons can this teach us about leadership and building a successful company.  Well, if you will humor me I’ll share my thoughts and opinions on what has made Germany so successful:

  • Resilient – This is a culture that epitomizes resilience.  They face challenge with determination to overcome.  Change does not scare Germans, failure does.  Just looking at how far Berlin has come in only a few short years is amazing (and in nation building terms, 24 years is nothing).
  • Efficient – Everything is a process.  Everything is optimized.  And everything is efficient.  Great example – their efficiency at the airport.  The time between when our planed pulled up to the gate until the time I walked outside with my checked luggage was less than 10 minutes!  I’ve been through many airports in the US and waited more than 30 minutes just for my bags.
  • Driven – At times bordering on fanaticism.  When they commit to something, it must be done.  No questions asked.  No discussion allowed.  Just a passionate focus on completing.
  • Done Right or Not at All – Ever driven a Mercedes, BMW, or Audi?  These cars aren’t built to be used, they are built to be driven.  Hard and fast.  They are amazing machines, and reflect that German mentality of doing it right or not at all.

Now please don’t misunderstand.  Life isn’t just about financial success and progress.  I could (and likely will) write about the beauty in cultures like France, Spain, and Italy – who live life to its fullest and view work as necessity between spending time with family and friends.

As in all things, one must find balance.  But even in that balance, you should give all you can.  And the German’s sure know how to drive success and progress.  The old German proverb says it all – “The will is the soul of the work.” – and the Germans sure have the will for work!

PS – German life isn’t all work.  After spending the weekend in Germany, I can also say they know how to celebrate life – food, drink, and music flowed quite freely!!!

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