3 Steps To Globalizing Your Leadership Development Program

Globalization may be dramatically transforming our businesses into international powerhouses, but there are a few aspects that are stubbornly staying the same. I’m talking, of course, about leadership development programs. All too often these programs seem stuck in yesterday’s world even as the business landscape marches past today and into tomorrow.

If you’re doing business in a global environment, you know what we need: leaders with a global mindset who can lead international teams, conduct business across time zones and borders, think creatively, communicate cross-culturally and leverage new technology. Those aren’t skills many of us learn naturally cutting our teeth in an American workplace. More often that not, we develop them through trial and error, expatriate assignments, or customized training curriculum.

An article in Chief Learning Officer discussed the results of The Institute for Corporate Productivity’s 2013 Global Leadership Development Survey, which examined 26 leadership competencies and their inclusion or exclusion in global leadership development programs for 1,200 global participants. In a nutshell, the survey found that many programs aren’t preparing emerging leaders with the skills needed to excel in global environments. While basics like change management and critical thinking are still addressed, abilities related to technology, creativity and innovation just aren’t being cultivated.

This is a puzzle, considering that increasing productivity and entering new markets are topping most company wish lists. Possibly the creators who design leadership development curriculum simply don’t understand the relevance of global mindset, diverse business skills, and cross cultural communication in today’s world. That means that most of us have some work to do in bringing our current learning programs up to speed.

The following three steps can help you globalize your own development program.

Make global leadership development a priority. Make sure your C-suite executives (or whoever’s in charge) grasp the business rewards of cultural fluency in new markets. Infusing a global mindset throughout the general workforce is also important. Once you recognize need for global effectiveness, be sure your leadership understands that typical development programs may not be sufficient. For instance, creativity and innovation are found to play a strong role in market performance and global leadership impact. Fostering a culture of ingenuity and breakthrough ideas across borders requires effort and knowledge, so make sure your organization understands the need for investing in an overhaul in your learning and development programs. Basic workshops on group learning, cultural awareness and strong communication skills may not be enough.

Collaborate cross-functionally with workforce planning teams. No doubt your talent management people are already involved in identifying skills gaps and grooming a succession pipeline of future leaders. By joining forces, you can determine the missing elements in your global leadership development program. One helpful hint: Instead of beginning with needed skills, start with the outcomes you want to achieve and work backward. Figure out the skills and behaviors needed to achieve those outcomes and what programs are needed to build those competencies. Finally, remember to make your new methodologies measurable so you’re not shooting in the dark.

Develop hard and soft skills. While considering program enhancements, be sure to include both hard and soft skills. Do your leaders know how to manage remote teams and network across cultural lines? Are they able to creatively develop solutions and innovate when it comes to processes and internal structures as well as new products? Technology is important too; all too often senior leaders are disconnected from the global effects of social media, which essentially disconnects them from part of their multi-generational workforce. Be sure that everyone knows how to use virtual tools like Skype and videoconferencing to drive closer connections in remote teams.

All too often businesses will assume that their best and brightest will naturally expand their innate leadership abilities to successfully lead global organizations. But managing, communicating and connecting across cultures and hemispheres can require effort. Companies that don’t implement this kind of training into their development programs are setting their leaders up for a painful struggle – while companies that do, can look forward to a smoother and more rewarding expansion process.

Contact: melissa@lamsonconsulting.com

It’s Just Good Manners: Etiquette in the Workplace

We put a lot of focus on teaching and maintaining good workplace skills —communication skills, computer skills, presentation skills and leadership skills. But you know what’s just as important? Plain old manners and etiquette.

Emerging and established leaders need to be mindful of both the impression their own behavior gives their employees, and the behavior of their employees themselves.

The work stuff is easy to address — deadline issues, communication hiccups, slips in performance, poor results. The etiquette side, however, can be a little trickier. Consider the following:

  • Wardrobe and appearance
  • Bringing too much personal life into the office
  • Checking phones during meetings or conversations
  • Cultural inconsideration
  • Respecting hierarchy and authority

These can be a distraction in the workplace and should be addressed deftly. Yet many managers and leaders struggle with finding the right tone. Instilling etiquette and soft skills can be tough to do without sounding parental or fostering resentment. So what is the right way?

This is where true leadership steps in. Organizational leaders should set the example for other to follow; after all, if they don’t show their employees appropriate respect and consideration, why should employees be expected to respect each other? And if you’re mentoring others who hope to manage and lead one day, you should focus just as much on instilling these important considerations as you do the more obvious business skills.

Some of these issues can—and should—be addressed on a corporate level with clearly laid out policies every employee knows and understands. If you don’t have them already (or perhaps it’s time to take another look), develop corporate standards and policies around some of the more hot-button issues. Create a dress code. Institute an employee social media policy. Offer reminders and guidance about appropriate office behavior.

The great part about setting policies is that if problems start to arise, you can simply send out a general reminder about particular policies to periodically reinforce them to your team.

You may even consider implementing culture and gender diversity training. Why? Here’s an example: I’ve seen workplaces where men hug female employees and shake hands with male employees. This could be interpreted in several ways, such as that cross-gender work relationships are more personal, or that women are emotional in the workplace.

For global organizations, the cultural implications of what seems like a minor difference or breach in etiquette can be huge. For this reason, any workforce that consistently does business in other countries can benefit from training or documentation to help avoid embarrassing or offensive cross-cultural misunderstandings.

Above all, the important thing is to always act with the appropriate care, respect and consideration for everyone you work with, and to ensure others take this lesson to heart. It may require some uncomfortable conversations, but not as uncomfortable as inappropriate behavior spreading unchecked. Stand up, be strong, and be a leader.

Contact Melissa melissa.lamson@lamsonconsulting.com

Millennials Across the Globe: Similarities, Differences and Why They’re Not So Bad


Millennials get a bad rap. And grumblings get louder when it comes to the workplace. You’ve probably heard phrases like, “Millenials don’t have the same work ethic, they need hand-holding.” or “They’re entitled and want constant praise.” But those grumblers also tend to ignore one big, hard truth: According to Pew Research, Millennials are the first generation in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income, than their two immediate predecessor generations. In some ways, it’s not surprising—Millennials on the whole got more from their parents and were told they could do anything they wanted to do. And then out in the real world, there are some real barriers. It’s not surprising they may need a bit more reassurance.

Let’s move beyond that for a minute. What’s interesting to me actually is looking at the Millennial generation from a global standpoint—are Millennials in the US the same as those in China, India or Europe of the same generation? The answer is yes…and no. Understanding these similarities and differences is vital for recruiting and keeping this generation (who, let’s face it, are the future of your company) happy and productive.

Work/life balance and flexible schedules—In a change from the previous generation, which valued hard work and advancement, Millennials in many areas of the world—especially in Northern and Western Europe—prefer to have a work/life balance. It’s not that they’re afraid of hard work; it’s just that work isn’t necessarily their main priority in life. It’s something they’re willing to change jobs over.  The exception tends to be Asian countries, where working hard and long sometimes over-rules work-life balance.

Authority and cultureIn a study of its own global workforce, PwC found that “Millennials place a high priority on workplace culture and desire a work environment that emphasizes teamwork and a sense of community. They also value transparency (especially as it relates to decisions about their careers). They want and need the support of their supervisors…” There are also the views on authority to consider. In the US, where individual contribution is highly valued, Millennials have fewer qualms about speaking their mind in front of authority figures. Contrast this with those in Singapore or Japan for instance, where hierarchy is very important and employees are more likely to defer to authority figures in an open forum.

Aspirations—Many older folk interpret the focus on work/life balance and flexibility to mean Millennials have no drive or goals. Actually, it’s quite the opposite—and “aspirations” mean something different around the world. US Millennials are indeed driven, but their goal is to find meaningful work that they’re passionate about. In India and China, however, it’s less about passion (in fact, you might get a giggle if you use the word in the workplace) and more about ambition, thanks to cultural pressure to be extremely successful. Yet one aspiration does hold true across the world for Millennials, and that is the drive to be entrepreneurial.

In truth, what Millennials want is not necessarily so different from other generations; they just see things differently. For example, the PwC study found that the desire for work flexibility was common across every generation, so much so that respondents noted that they’d be willing to give up pay and delay promotions in order to get it.

Millennials are not the enemy. They’re just a new generation with potentially new ideas and in some cases a different way of doing things. Embrace them for who they are instead of grumbling about their differences, and see what impact they will have around the world as they grow into tomorrow’s leaders.

Gender Cooperation in the Workplace: Let’s Stop Diversity Training and Do Something Productive Instead

Gender Cooperation Workshops

Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In re-ignited the conversation about women in the workplace when it was published last year. Lean In has spread global awareness and significantly progressed the dialogue about women in the workplace. By now, most of us have heard the statistics and we all know there’s a problem – women just aren’t getting to the top of organizations, worldwide.

This has to change – and I am not just saying this because I am a woman. MSCI AC World index found that companies with a gender-diverse board outperformed those with only men by 25% over six years. Women and diversity are important for the growth and success of organizations. Period.

Certainly, men need to work on creating a more equal and inclusive workplace environment, but it won’t work unless women also take an active role. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s book The Confidence Code, addresses the main tool women need to posses: confidence. Yes, the research says men’s and women’s brains work differently and yes, we have been socialized to behave in different ways, but ultimately women need to have confidence in themselves and their abilities. Andeven more importantly, as Kay and Shipman point out, we need to understand that men and women perceive confident behavior differently. In some cases, what we think shows confidence, men see as exhibiting weakness (and vice versa).

Given all of this, I think companies are mostly taking the wrong approach. Networking groups, diversity training, and company events are the standard programs. These are important to support an initiative, but in my experience, none of these actually facilitate needed change in an organization.

What we need is a revolution in our approach to gender relations in the workplace: something that stimulates change, and truly improves communication between men and women,

Here are my suggestions to take action:

1)   Admit it’s an issue. Google and LinkedIn recently came out and publically stated that they had a challenge with regards to Diversity in their workforce. This is an excellent example of companies willing to be vulnerable. Lack of women in leadership is an issue most companies face today (especially in high tech industries) and it’s okay to admit that you don’t have all the answers, yet. However, by making a public statement, Google and LinkedIn are making themselves accountable, an important step in ultimately finding a solution.

2)   Identify and suggest specific changes. Diversity training is not effective. We have tried it for years and it doesn’t seem to make a difference. If you want to see change, ask for it. Chances are, management is not going to magically change their unconscious bias. Go to the highest-ranking executives who will listen and offer specific and actionable changes you want to see made. Among other things, suggest they allocate money for a sponsorship program for women. (Contact us for more information on how sponsorship differs from mentorship.)

Ideally we want everyone to understand the issues, empathize, and then take action. However this is just isn’t practical. Social psychology has proven that by changing behavior – even if its mandatory — will eventually change mindset — one internalizes the attitude and then starts to believe in the new behavior.

3)   Consider hiring a true expert. This person shouldn’t just be a Diversity trainer, but a strategic consultant who understands gender relations and can take a hard look at your hiring policies, internal promotion, salary breakdown and team communication to give you the hard truth about the source of your challenges. In addition, consider hiring an executive coach to do some leadership development training with the women in your organization. A true expert will understand how a push and pull strategy in the organization will truly foster change, quickly.

4)   Look beyond the workplace. Sheryl Sandberg makes several points in her book, but one of the most important (in my opinion) that we often ignore is how we need to look at our relationship with our partner. If men were expected to do as much as women, we might not even be having this discussion. Women often feel guilty about not being the perfect wife and mother, and that ultimately affects our careers. It is important to leave the guilt behind and have an open dialog with your partner about how to share the other responsibilities in your life.

It may not be easy and it may not be comfortable, but at the end of the day women need to take a more active role and ask for what they want. At the same time, men need to recognize that they have unconscious biases and be open to being vulnerable and taking action. If we make actionable changes in our organizations, our minds will be soon to follow.