How-Leaders-Can-Run-Effective-Meetings-In-Canada-vs.-Other-Countries - Meeting Leadership Podcast Episode Image

The same gestures that are expected in one culture could be seen as offensive in others.

Understanding the nuances of our cultural differences is an imperative for any leader seeking to expand beyond a local shop, or even those who just want to instill real diversity in their ranks. Since meetings are the place where these cultural differences are exposed, we take a look at intercultural competence from a meeting leader’s perspective. However, these ideals can apply to all interactions you might have with colleagues from different backgrounds, both in and out of meetings.

In episode #059 of the Meeting Leadership Podcast, we provide a few cautionary examples of ways culture can affect every interaction, as well as keynote speech excerpt that nails home some key points about how to approach intercultural interactions. By the end of the episode, you’ll be armed with an intercultural approach that improves your ability to reach people from all parts of the world.

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00:00 – Show Opening

Are you a professional who wants to become a more effective leader? Then get ready for daily tips from the coach, with the experience and inspiration to help you succeed in any leadership situation. You’re listening to the Meeting Leadership podcast with Gordon Shepherd.

00:27 – Start Here – Podcast content starts here!

Gordon Shepherd:    Welcome to another episode of the Meeting Leadership podcast, where we help professionals just like you get the practical tips, and the strategies they need, to improve their leadership skills and also learn how to run outstanding meetings. 

00:41 – Running effective meetings in Canada vs. other countries

And today’s episode is going to bring a lot of value because we’re going to talk about an issue that all meeting leaders need to deal with, because today we’re going to talk about how leaders can run effective meetings in Canada versus other countries. Now, I say Canada because that is where I’m from. But it doesn’t matter where you’re from. We’re getting people into our meetings from everywhere else. So, how can you help them to ramp up very quickly to understand the meeting customs and cultures that you have, and also maybe benefit from the ones that they could bring into the situation? 

01:12 – Awareness of cultural differences – A cautionary example

One of the best examples I can offer to illustrate how important this issue is, came from a story I heard about an executive from El Salvador. Now, this fella, he came from El Salvador, and he was working in Canada. Super smart, really good at his job, but he had to get ramped up pretty quickly on the Canadian culture and what to do. And here’s what he said. He said that if he was in a meeting in El Salvador, and he ran into a woman, and he didn’t kiss her on both cheeks and tell her that she looks great, he would get in trouble. But, in Canada, if he went into a meeting and he saw a woman and he tried to kiss her on both cheeks and tell her that she looks great, they’re going to call the cops. And, I mean, that guy, he’s a really good guy, but he had to learn that difference in the hard way. And this gentleman, well, he is a terrific person, but he had to acclimatize to the Canadian culture quickly, to be successful in the work that he was doing.

02:05 – Keynote speech at Smart Connections event for ERIEC

And to help you learn even more about this topic, I’m going to play a clip from a keynote speech that I gave at the Smart Connections event for ERIEEC. Now, ERIEEC stands for the Edmonton Regional Immigrant Employment Council, and at this event there was about 150 professionals who were looking to get to work, and I was there to help them gain some soft skills that they could use to get ramped up in meetings as quickly as possible in their new home setting. And without further ado, here’s the clip.

What are Canadian meetings like? Okay. This is a bit interactive here. Are Canadians polite? A little? Or a lot? A lot. A lot. Yeah. You said a lot, right? Do we love hockey? Yes.Yes. Do you guys love hockey? Enh, right? Do we say sorry a lot? “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry, that’s not what I meant.” We say that, right? Where you guys are from, everybody say sorry all the time? No. We love to talk about the weather. Yes. How much meeting time gets burned up when we’re talking about the weather? I’m going to pick on my friend from Colombia here, because we were chatting before the meeting, and I want to get down to this next point here. We’re just going to use this one piece, but you guys are already a little bit more self-aware, maybe, than you were. If we make eye contact and I’m from Africa, if we make eye contact and I’m from Russia, or Asia, or South America. Can you do me a favor, sir? Do you mind just sharing? If I’m in a meeting in South America, it could be a business meeting. We have a young engineer here. What happens if I make eye contact in a meeting in Colombia? Go ahead. It may be interpreted that you are not respecting someone in a Colombian meeting. Yes.It could be taken as a challenge. I could talk to you for an hour. I wish I had an hour. Thank you. That was really good. Not respecting, and a challenge. Now, let’s compare that to a Canadian meeting. And I really want to talk about a dicey issue here, because I’m going to talk about men and women. When a woman in a Canadian meeting makes direct eye contact with you, and you’re from somewhere else, whether you’re female or male … I don’t know the answer. I’m not saying I know the answer. What I’m saying is you need to know where you’re from, and what your expectations were, and you need to come here, because if you’re trying to get into a Canadian meeting setting, you need to convert quickly, because you guys are trying to get to work. You’re trying to move things along or you’re in a work meeting, you’re trying to adjust to that work setting quickly.Talk to your colleagues. Share your stories. Share the best of what you bring from meetings to Canadians. “Hey, we don’t say sorry all the time. Why don’t you shut up?” I get that back a lot. “Stop it.” Allow the blend to occur. You’re bringing great skills into the situation, and this eye contact one will spark an entire conversation for you around how you can make that more productive. So, think about eye contact, think about walking through into a room, how you’re going to be perceived, and try and get those things down in the way that you want to be perceived, to be more successful.

I really hope you enjoyed learning about how leaders can run effective meetings in Canada versus other countries. And if you’d like to learn even more, there’s a few other episodes on the Meeting Leadership podcast that are right up this alley. In episode 39, it’s called Why Intercultural Competence is Critical For All Leaders, and there we have guest expert Dan Garcia sharing his best expertise. And you can get that episode by going to

04:58 – More resources –;

We were also lucky enough to have Dan on episode 65, and it’s called How Leaders Can Improve Intercultural Competence in Their Organization. And you can get that episode by going to

05:44 – Meeting Leadership Academy –

I also want to let you know that this episode of the Meeting Leadership podcast is brought to you by the Meeting Leadership Academy. If you’re looking for some terrific live training options, or online training options, to help you and your team learn how to become better leaders, and learn how to run outstanding meetings, then visit to learn more. And as always, thank you so much for listening, and we’ll see you tomorrow on the Meeting Leadership podcast.

06:12 – Podcast Outro

Thanks for listening to the Meeting Leadership podcast. Be sure to subscribe for more strategies to help you become an outstanding leader. And don’t forget to rate and review so we can bring you fresh content every day. We’ll see you tomorrow, right here on the Meeting Leadership podcast.

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Gordon Sheppard

Gord is on a mission to change the world, one meeting at a time. Over his 25+ years in business Gord has run or participated in more than 2000 meetings! Not only is Gord the CEO of Business Expert Solutions Inc. (owner/operator of Meeting Leadership Inc), but he is also a Facilitator, Trainer, Business Consultant, Author, Speaker and Podcaster who helps leaders learn how to have great meetings, so they can build outstanding organizations and serve their clients at the highest possible level.

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