Global Leadership Blog

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.

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Melissa Lamson

About The Author

Melissa Lamson, Founder and President of Lamson Consulting, is an author, consultant, and speaker who accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross cultural communication.
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