Leading Offshore Teams in Mexico

Leading Offshore Teams in Mexico

By Jose Ruiz

Every culture has its leadership and communication styles. American managers who are considering to lead an offshore team in Mexico should understand the differences between US and Mexican styles and cultures. While there are universal values that apply to most, if not all cultures, such as honesty, friendliness, and dedication, recognizing the unique nuances would help in a long-term working relationship.


First, in Mexico, the management style tends to be more paternalistic than in the United States because they place more importance to hierarchy and structure. It translates to authoritative leadership style, where a leader must show sufficient control, honor, and the final say. However, the manager is also expected to be warm and friendly at the same time.


Second, the communication style in Mexico is warm, loyal, reciprocal, and clear. Loyalty and warmth are reflected in the manager’s genuine caring demeanor toward the subordinates. Being clear is especially true when giving out instructions, as most Mexican workers expect to follow instructions without any further discussion. When being persuasive, focus on your perspective rather than on logical arguments.


Third, in Mexican culture, being criticized may be considered “losing face,” thus criticism and feedback should be provided politely and clearly. The manager should also be clear on what went wrong and who made a mistake, since otherwise blaming may occur. Handle feedback delicately, so it would not be considered an “insult.”


Fourth, Mexicans are more group-oriented and relationship-oriented, rather than individualistically-oriented. It is also called being more communal. Therefore, in Mexican workplaces, group rewards are more motivating than individual rewards. It would be preferred that the forms of incentive are financial, status, and praise.


Fifth, familial and close relationships are paramount in the Mexican culture. Close friends and colleagues are considered “family.” A strong manager must understand this and expects to manage his “family” team members as a “parent” or “older sibling” figure. Be sensitive to seniority, social class, and age. Sincerity means a lot in fostering a good relationship.


Sixth, be positive, express emotions, indirect, and formal when communicating with Mexican workers. Most Mexicans are Catholic, and one of their favorite phrases is “God willing,” which may sound fatalistic. However, for the purpose of good communication, refrain from being too analytical with theological concepts. In everyday conversations, it only means “I will do my best.”


Seventh, on business cards, include titles and degrees whenever possible. This would reflect your intellect and seniority, which is key to earning respect. Social classes and distinctions are considered important in Mexican culture, thus if you have them, you are encouraged to show them, as long as you express them politely and with dignity.


Eighth, business attire in Mexico is more formal than in the United States. Thus, pack more formal clothes rather than semi-casual ones. Managers are expected to carry themselves with much authority, therefore, make sure to have clean and well-ironed business suits, pants, and skirts.

At last, as a manager, you will notice that many of your subordinates would tend to say what you would like to hear, rather than telling the factual truth. Among workers, sympathy and solidarity mean more to them than being objective. Most American managers find this trait of Mexican workers quite baffling.

Managing an offshore team in Mexico is both a rewarding and a challenging position. As long as you do your research in advance to understand the leadership and communication styles better, you should be fine.

About Shelmex

Shelmex provides agile manufacturing and distribution services in Mexico. The Shelmex ecosystem can support clients through the complete product manufacturing and delivery value chain. The ecosystem enables clients to quickly deploy production and distribution capabilities in Mexico to achieve low cost with minimal risk.