How to Go Global: Questions Execs Ask

I meet a lot of executives from all over the world and they ask me a lot of questions about expanding their business globally. Perhaps frustratingly so, my answer often starts with —“It depends”.

Let me explain.

No country, culture, or community is the same. So, when an executive asks what will be the return on investment in country X, the answer for country Y may be completely different due to differing tax structures, laws, and regulations. IKEA, for example, started in Sweden but is headquartered in the Netherlands due in large part to tax considerations. Another question execs often ask is about which markets make sense. Well, Walmart thought Germany made sense. It is a large country with a robust economy and strong legal and regulatory environment. But it was a bust because Walmart did not take the time to learn about the country, follow on others’ successful tactics, and adapt a plan as needed.

The problem with these high level, general questions about where and how to expand across borders is that they don’t delve deep enough to give you a clear picture of the market. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ask high level questions. The trick is to ask the questions a little differently. For example, better questions to ask would be:

What’s a reasonable level of risk and reward for us?

Companies have different tolerances for risk. They have different expectations of reasonable ROI. For most expansions, you should expect ROI to increase as you do businesses successfully in a new country.

What kinds of markets make sense for us?

What are the characteristics of markets where we’re more likely to be successful? Analyze your company by looking at your strengths, weaknesses, and experience. Then, consider your strategy and look for markets where you’re more likely to succeed.

So, before thinking about going global, here’s a homework assignment.

Analyze your own company. Highlight your strengths and weaknesses. Analyze your tolerance for risk and your expectation of reasonable reward. This takes a while to do if you do it formally, but you can probably make some rough-cut judgements in a meeting or two with knowledgeable people. Whatever judgements you come up with will be preliminary. As you do your research, you will loop back and modify them, but they’re a good place to start.

Next, make a list of the countries where you may want to expand. Then you can start doing some background research.

Make an appointment with yourself that for 15 minutes every day during the next month you’ll scan international news, go to websites, read the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Economist. Look for stories about the countries on your list. Scan for stories about companies from your home country who do business in the countries you’re considering. Find out more about them. Take notes.

Even better, have several executives at your company do the same thing. Then compare notes once a week. By the end of the month, you will have developed an intuitive sense of how things are in the countries you’re researching.

Remember, you’re not looking for generic great opportunities. You’re hunting for clues about what global expansion makes sense for your company and your strategy.

5 Considerations to Expanding Your Company Internationally

So you are ready to go global? Before you do, there are issues you need to consider first. There are many different ways to assess these issues in the external environment for doing business either in your home country or another country. Almost all of them use an acronym to help users remember all the dimensions, but these always seemed very academic to me. I prefer to be more straightforward and practical. So I don’t have another fancy acronym for you to remember, but I do have a list of five kinds of issues you should consider when you analyze a market for potential expansion.

Politics. This is the political and regulatory environment. How do the official laws and regulations affect the way you will do business?

Every year, the World Bank issues a report on how easy it is to do business in 187 different countries. The report measures how the regulations in ten areas affect the ease of doing business and ranks countries accordingly. The areas are starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency. The report also measures labor market regulation, but does not include it in the rankings.

It’s important to dig down to the details to discover how the government is involved in business. China, for example, has state-owned companies. In South Africa the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) initiative is taken quite seriously and prioritizing job and economic opportunities for Black South Africans is a very important aspect to investing in the country. Government officials are going to ensure requirements are fulfilled.

Infrastructure. The physical environment can make things easy or more difficult to do business. Transportation, communications systems, sanitation, water, and the electrical grid are all examples of infrastructure. When the systems are good it makes it easy to do business.

It’s not enough to know the rating of a particular country’s infrastructure. Once again you’ve got to get beyond the basic numbers to the details of the infrastructure to know how it will affect your business and the people who work for you. In many emerging economies, reliable electric service is rare. If you expand there, will you need to provide your own, reliable electricity, or will you allow for the disruptions that blackouts and brownouts can cause?

Here’s another example. In India and Brazil, there is a young, well educated, workforce hungry for opportunities, but logistics is a major concern. Many high-tech firms provide transportation for employees in order to minimize downtime and maximize productivity. Traffic is very congested in the cities and it can take hours to travel back and forth to work sites.

Something that seems simple, like participation in conference calls at non-peak work hours is normal in the US and Europe. People commuting to and from the office by car can be on a call undisturbed. Calls taken on a noisy, densely populated bus become impossible and can impede productivity, particularly working across time-zones.

When you’re analyzing infrastructure you should analyze the effect on your operations and also on your people. Ask yourself what special things you will need to do so your operations will run ethically and profitably.

Safety. Safety is important everywhere but it’s an especially critical in certain markets. In some parts of the world occurrences as extreme as kidnapping can happen. Foreign executives make good targets. They usually work for companies who will pay a ransom. And because they’re not familiar with the area, they may put themselves in danger without realizing it. Be aware of your surroundings and make sure you’re prepared.

Security has two aspects whether you’re analyzing the situation for people or facilities. First what is the threat level? Once you’ve assessed that you can develop tactics for preventing an incident or for dealing with one.

Society. Be aware of the strength of family ties. In countries where the people have exceptionally strong ties to family, the workforce may be less mobile which will affect recruiting. You may have to make provisions to include flex-time and support familial connections in countries where family ties are especially important.

For example, Volkswagen, in South Africa, grappled with how to handle days off for employees who had a death in the family. Two weeks for burial preparation and grieving is not unusual there. And sadly, given the high rate of disease, the rate of death is a bit higher than elsewhere.

Culture. There are many cultural aspects that influence the success of business negotiations. How quickly relationships are built, motivators for driving business, and the importance of third-party introductions. Be aware that money may not always be the key driver, but considerations you may not have thought of. It’s very important to have conversations with local partners to determine the best path forward.

If you take the time and make the effort to learn as much as you can about yourself, your company, and the market you’re considering, you are setting yourself and your company up for success in any market you target.

Wanna Expand Your Business Internationally?

I have this vivid memory of when my life path changed course forever. It happened when I was 28 years old. I was walking down a street in Berlin called Friedrichstrasse. On that walk, I decided this was where I was going to live—and start my own business. I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t know a single soul. But I knew I had something working in my favor. I had a desire to do well, an insatiable curiosity, and absolute confidence that I was going to be successful.

What I didn’t know was the ubiquity that global business would become today. Reflecting on my own experience launching a global business and helping hundreds of executives find their success abroad, I have uncovered three striking truths that I absolutely believe will help you and your organization expand internationally.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

This may sound obvious. But before a lot of executives expand a company, they ask questions about the business market they want to enter, such as what is the best location or what will be the ROI? Yet, they often overlook learning about other less obvious but just as important intervening factors such as political dynamics, infrastructure, logistics, family values, and culture. A recent survey of senior executives in a hundred global corporations, conducted by Worldwide ERC, found 95 percent of the respondents believe national cultures of the places they do business in play an important or very important role in the success of their business mission. Yet, an Ernst & Young survey found that many companies lacked the diversity of thought and culture needed to handle global business. Don’t make that mistake.

Let me offer an example as to why knowing what you don’t know is vital. Sub-Saharan Africa is a boom economy because of investments in the oil and mineral business. To be successful in this area, companies must have close ties with the government which is concerned about how business may impact its society and community. Thus, if you try to do business in this region without state officials and diplomats at the table, chances are your deals will be blocked.

Having a comprehensive understanding of the country you want to expand to, whether it be in Africa, Latin America, or Southeast Asia, is critical.

Don’t reinvent the wheel.

A lot of executives shy away from talking to others about how to expand globally because they don’t know what they don’t know—and don’t realize what they could learn from others. Ego and fear of lack of confidentiality also hold executives back. It is possible to maintain confidentiality and avoid learning by doing. It is worthwhile to be a bit transparent about investment intentions to learn from others that have entered the market successfully—or unsuccessfully.

In doing so, I suggest looking for unlikely experts. For instance, instead of hiring a global market research firm, look to former military or intelligence experts. The head of your security team may have invaluable experience and better insight than an expensive research group. The resources are out there to help you determine the best way to enter the market. Use them.

Think before you act.

There is a tool I developed called the Readiness Checklist which can arm you with the right list of questions to prepare for expansion. Get the right answers for those questions, check them off, and ensure you have the right people and strategies in place before you enter the new market.

Every market has little nuances that may catch you off guard and make your investment more expensive than you planned for. For example, European companies that invest in the U.S. gravely underestimate the cost of logistics because they don’t realize how big the U.S. is. In Latin America, taking time to build relationships is critically important to build trust with venture partners. In Southeast Asia you may need a third party negotiator.

Also, it is important to prepare for worst case scenario and create the right exit strategy upfront. Trying to close down an operation can be very expensive if you don’t have sound knowledge of regulations such as labor laws. Be thoughtful and mindful. Try to learn everything you can and then develop a plan.

My curiosity to learn everything I could about Germany and other countries combined with my confidence and determination set me up for success. I got comfortable taking the time to learn about the market before diving in. I strongly believe if you do the same, you will be successful in your international expansion goals.

To learn more about how to enter into the U.S. market, my book, Market Entry into the USA: Why European Companies Fail and How to Succeed (Management for Professionals), is available for pre-order on amazon.

Global Intelligence for Managers

I recently facilitated a training in Europe. As I returned to the US, I reflected on the motivated people I met, and the fact that successful managers everywhere share certain qualities.

To succeed globally, managers need to retain those universal qualities of managerial success and take additional steps toward increasing their global intelligence. These are three top recommendations:

Three Key Skills For Global Management Success

Adapt Your Style

Your ability to adapt to individual employee needs is one of your biggest assets. Consider:

Do people need encouragement to reach stretch goals?
Do I need to be more hands-on?
Is this particular direct report better suited to autonomy?
Is this employee bristling against too much structure? Not enough?
How do I need to accommodate individual personality styles?

When working in a global context, there are additional considerations having to do with the influence of cultural background on time management, attitudes towards hierarchy, or communication style.

Some examples:

In Asia, a manager will typically be more hands-on at first, giving explicitly detailed instructions, then later on as people feel comfortable, the intense detail orientation of instructions will be scaled back.

In Eastern Europe, decision-making really needs to be made in the correct hierarchical chain; people do not feel comfortable questioning authority.

In the US, Americans like to be given a high level idea but resist too much hand holding which is perceived as micromanagement.

Give Constructive Feedback

How do you want your employee to see you? If you want them to see you as a manager willing to invest time in their development, giving feedback is a large part of your approach. The key, though, is knowing how to deliver the feedback and in which situations.

Giving constructive feedback is a critical skill for managers to develop in order to earn trust. Constructive feedback is the foundation of effective conversations that feed maximum productivity.

When considering cultural approaches to feedback, take the time to learn about interaction patterns in specific countries. Take, for example, this scenario from Japan, where feedback is most effective when presented in a more indirect manner:

In Japan, a team of four people included one team member who needed to improve his performance. The team manager used a metaphor of a table that had four legs. He explained that if one of the legs became wobbly, the entire table would be unstable and vulnerable to collapse. The individual who needed to improve was never told directly: “you need to change ‘X’ or ‘Y’” but it was clear to all involved what had to change.

In Germany, the approach would be quite the opposite: the employee is going to prefer to hear directly what needs to be improved and to be given specific details about the problem. They want to know the “bad stuff” in order to work on and improve it. They don’t need the blow to be softened.

Coach Instead of Mentor

At some point in your management career, you are going to confront the fault line between your energy limits and your team’s needs. Coaching is a methodology that helps a manager delegate, empower and solve without wasting as much time and energy. As Jeremy Stover, Head of the Executive Coaching Program at LinkedIn, wisely reminds people: “Coaching makes it possible for managers to scale themselves.”

One resource I recommend to understand the role of coaching is this vlog from Leigh Nagy Frasher. Coaching relies on you to give your people the resources they need to unlock their own potential. It takes longer in the beginning than simply telling them what to do (or, worse, doing it yourself), but the dividends are huge.

For those of you who manage globally:

In France, it’s important to have a bit of a more in depth conversation about a topic that you’re coaching on because the French take a more philosophical approach to management. Your discussions may need to allot more time for discussions around the theoretical before you arrive at the pragmatic.

In Argentina, people are highly inspired by psychology and psychological methodologies so they may appreciate more of a psychotherapy approach to coaching. They’re willing to go deeper into the issues.

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Don’t Go Global

Global Business

If your business is considering going global, it is easy to have “stars in your eyes” about what that expansion can mean: lucrative profits, a more prominent image, the prestige of being “multinational.” I am here to tell you, those positive outcomes won’t happen without thorough, deliberate planning.

Don’t go global if…

IF Your Management Team Hasn’t Traveled

If your management team has not traveled to the locations where you have market opportunities, your decision to “go global” is premature. It is critical that executive and management teams are briefed not only on the market potential but also on the reality of life in the country where you plan to expand. They need to see it, touch it, feel it to internalize a deeper level of knowledge. They need to explore a dimension beyond “number crunching” and the analysis that brought this country onto the radar screen to begin with. They need to hear what the people in the country think about your product. You need to know if you have allies, foes, or neutral parties.

Don’t go global if…

If People Aren’t Connected

One of the more daunting challenges of a global expansion is the creation of an “us” out of an “us” and a “them.” When you speak different languages, have different customs, and span multiple time zones, what can bring you together? When I recommended “decorating with geographical themes,” I wasn’t intending to imply that a map on the wall would make everyone globally savvy immediately. However, I travel frequently and continue to be mystified that global organizations don’t even have different clocks on the wall to represent what time it is in their various offices.

Recognize the value of people meeting one another face to face. As Alex “Sandy” Pentland stated in this post, “35% of the variation in a team’s performance can be accounted for simply by the number of face-to-face exchanges among team members.” I also recommend taking a note from Dr. Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto: find a way to create an “activation phenomenon” in your new global organization. (The “activation phenomenon” means a team feels more interdependent and connected, and therefore more jointly responsible for outcomes.) Dr. Gawande includes in his checklist for successful surgery making sure every member of the surgical team introduces themselves in order to know each other by name. He notes, “When introductions were made before a surgery, the average number of complications dipped by 35 percent.”

Don’t go global if…

If You Aren’t Willing to Invest

Once the decision has been made, your organization must strategize. John M Hamalian, speaking of effective strategies, said, “A good strategy will both zoom out to the big picture and zoom in to the specifics needed to achieve it. A strategy skewed too far to either side will be unbalanced.” Appoint a team to be responsible for balancing the ambitious goals of your global expansion with the fact that someone (or many “someones”) in the process has to be fastidious about the details.

It is tempting to say “we need to commit our funding to expenses like buildings, land, and equipment.” Don’t leave training out of your budget. An investment in training now can reap big benefits later. Consider the power of a relatively small investment in components like materials, trainer fees, and training facilities to exponentially increase profits through improved communication leading to optimal productivity and efficiency.

IF you go global without taking these steps, you may find yourself and your organization on a “return trip.” Many organizations have abandoned the effort after spending valuable organizational resources. (This article profiles some notable failures of American businesses overseas.)

Don’t be one of those failures. Get past “Don’t go global if” and work toward “Go global when.”

I make it possible for organizations to prepare for successful global expansion. An important part of this program is the creation of a “Global Expansion Toolkit” that your organization can use during the planning, implementation, and evaluation phases of your expansion. Visit my website at www.lamsonconsulting.com for details.

Are You Too Old for the Global Workforce?

Creating Global Mindset

Imagine you get to select all new hires for a high-powered international team. From smart support staff to dynamic leaders, you have the opportunity to build a dream team that will operate across the globe.

How old are these ideal team members? Be honest with yourself.

You see, there’s a lot of talk these days on Millennials –how they behave in the workplace and how their Generation X and Baby Boomer bosses should handle them. I myself wrote a post on how Millennials differ across the globe. Yet there’s another side to the age coin and that’s how those Gen X and Boomer workers are regarded in the global business landscape.

There’s no denying that our workforce is getting older. People are retiring later and later – and the number of people over 60 is expected to hit 2 billion by 2050. For perspective, that number was 600 million in 2000. That’s a significant shift.

Now consider that “older” employees can be viewed differently from culture to culture – and may have varying expectations themselves. Let’s say you’re 28 and enjoy a friendly, relaxed relationship with your 52-year-old American boss – then you get promoted and begin reporting to a leader around the same age in Japan. Can you expect the same level of informality? As a seasoned executive with longevity in a global company, you might find yourself treated as a respected leader in France but seen as an out-of-touch dinosaur in Israel.

Specific cultural dynamics regarding age can impact your reputation and your performance – but you can learn how to foster positive relationships across the generations.

Sidestepping Stereotypes

You can probably name a few age stereotypes and biases off the top of your head. Many people believe that older workers aren’t as tech-savvy or innovative as younger workers, or that Millennials will exhibit entitled behavior, change jobs frequently and be social media and tech geniuses.

But experienced leaders know that every employee brings a unique set of skills and limitations to the table. Maybe it’s true that Gen X’ers were influenced by the technology boom and dotcom era, while Boomers were shaped by the Vietnam War and social movements of the 1960s – but so what? Key is that each employee’s unique skills and competencies are being leveraged for optimal company productivity and effectiveness.

For example, baby boomers are really comfortable and skilled with verbal communication, while Millennials know how to develop strong relationships over virtual platforms. Older employees bring rich experience and knowledge, and are loyal to their place of work. Younger employees bring enthusiasm for collaborative team environments and readily share best practices.

It’s also crucial to remember that our generational categories span years. A Gen X leader born in 1965 has probably been shaped by different experiences than their Gen X colleague born in 1977. And of course, influences can vary widely from culture to culture. A Canadian Baby Boomer may find a South African colleague the same age was molded by very different forces.

From Ageism to Achievement

Many of us confront ageism in the workplace eventually. One day we’re the company’s young rising star and then a few years pass and suddenly we’re competing for positions with candidates fifteen or twenty years our junior. This can feel especially unnerving in global business when we find ourselves subject to shifting cultural biases.

Obviously your experiences – whether you’re a professional of a certain age or a young worker wanting to work constructively across age differences — will vary depending on the industry, company and culture. But there are a few universal approaches that can help dissolve ageist barriers:

Focus on solving today’s pain points. Important if you’re a seasoned leader interviewing for new positions – or promoting your own relevance. Too often professionals will point to past achievements when trying to promote their worth. But focusing on the past can be a mistake in a company focused on the future. Instead, figure out the problem the company is trying to solve and prove that you can solve it. If you can demonstrate that value, you’ll leapfrog over a host of age-related biases across cultures.

Don’t fall back on assumptions as a crutch. If you’re dealing with significantly older or younger colleagues and staff, set aside generalizations. Yes, age differences can feel alienating in the workplace, especially across nations. Your older staff members might surprise you in their ability to learn new platforms and stay nimble, where your younger employees may show more consistency and loyalty than you assumed.

Do some research. Realize that colleagues with diverse cultural backgrounds may have experienced different cultural events and professional trends on their way up the ladder. Get to know their influences. Find out the local expectations and etiquette on working with people who are significantly older or younger than you.

Open a dialogue. Don’t shut out employees or leaders because of an age difference; keep the lines of communication open, find out how they want to be treated and honor those standards.

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that diversity in the workplace tends to foster innovation. The next time you interview candidates or meet new colleagues, make an effort to look past their birthdates and see the potential in front of you. Sometimes age really is just a number – and a diverse mix of ages in the workplace can drive the results and numbers that really matter.

Taking Situational Leadership Global

Creating Global Mindset

Imagine that you’ve been tasked with leading a team overseas. You feel confident about your ability to engage and motivate your new group; after all, your leadership style has been highly praised in the past. Then you begin working with your new team, only to find they don’t respond to you quite so positively. Whether you’re giving feedback, delegating tasks or building relationships, your efforts seem to fall flat – time and again. You begin to wonder if you really have good leadership skills after all…

This scenario happens every day to even the most experienced executives. As a result, more companies have been moving toward situational leadership. This school of thought recognizes that an approach that works with one individual or group may fall flat with another. Unlike development models that focused on cultivating one “ideal” leadership style, forward-thinking companies are looking for leaders who can adapt their approach to specific dynamics.

It’s no mystery why this is so valuable in today’s era of global expansion. What works well in one culture could be unintentionally alienating in another, causing a rift between a manager and his or her team. Effective leaders must be able to mirror the shifting standards of multiple regions and apply effective leadership styles globally.

Global Intelligence

To see why global situational leadership is so necessary, think about it from the employee’s viewpoint. If you get a new manager from another culture, you naturally want to be sure you’re valued as a contributor. So you watch your new leader closely, interpreting his or her words and actions to see if you’re appreciated as a top performer. When your manager fails to provide the feedback you expect, or behave in a way that (to you) signals dissatisfaction, you begin feeling demoralized and disconnected.

That’s a shame, because this can happen even when both leaders and employees start out with the best intentions. It’s only mismatched expectations that drive the relationships off course.

To establish common ground with your cross-cultural teams and act with global intelligence, be aware of your leadership style in the following areas.

Hierarchy. Maybe at the office where you usually work, employees at every level are fairly informal with each other. But then you go overseas and your new team addresses you formally and maintains a specific social distance. Is it because they don’t like you? Should you try to be pals? No and no. Research the diverse cultural viewpoints of hierarchy and adjust accordingly.

Management style. Most of us have experienced both the micromanaging boss and the hands-off boss. In some cultures, teams will expect a manager to keep a tight rein and will feel abandoned by a boss who allows more independence. Other cultures are the opposite. Even something as simple as the difference between “Do you need help?” and “If you need help, let me know” can assist you in meeting your team’s expectations.

Making decisions. Some cultures approach decision-making by talking through the ethics surrounding the matter; others focus only on the potential results. Adopting the wrong approach can lead to a perception of callousness or ineffectiveness, so do your research ahead of time.

Giving feedback. I worked with a team once where problematic employees would be criticized as indirectly as possible. “If a table had a weak leg and that leg broke, it’d be unfortunate for the whole table,” someone might say. Everyone would know whom they meant, but the metaphor saved face for the criticized employee. Other cultures, of course, are more direct. The danger here is that what’s candid in one country can be perceived as harsh and humiliating in another, and what seems polite to you can fall on deaf ears.

Time. As the saying goes, we all have 24 hours in a day – but cultures make use of those hours differently. If you come from an environment where deadlines are sacred, it may come as a shock to be in a workplace where honoring relationships takes precedence over deadlines. But in many cultures, it’s highly important to establish and maintain personal connections before focusing on getting a deliverable across the finish line.

Recognition. This area can be a minefield of misunderstandings. In some cultures, the leader gets the credit and the blame for the team’s results. In other regions, there’s more of a focus on recognizing individual accomplishments. The same applies to visibility – where you may see yourself as protecting your staff from unpleasant meetings, they might feel sidelined and want more of a seat at the table. Other times, you feel you’re delegating and providing a development opportunity, where the employees may feel burdened.

At this point, you might be asking, “So what’s the solution?” Here’s my advice. Always do your homework regarding cultural nuances in the workplace. Collect input from colleagues who’ve also led teams in that region. But don’t be afraid to communicate directly with your staff to align expectations. Once you’ve fostered mutual respect and rapport, you’ll understand how to lead your team to success.

Contact Melissa to assess and develop Global Mindset in your managers.

4 Steps to a Better Online Reputation (Globally)

Global Expansion Strategy

As a working professional, you know the social media rules – at least, I hope you do. No incriminating content: that means no photos of you partying hard and certainly no bashing current or former workplaces and bosses. Almost everyone who’s smart and ambitious understands these standards and keeps their social presence relatively clean.

At the same time, the Internet has a way of surprising us with content we never expected anyone to see. A college political paper defending a controversial position. Photos from a wild beach vacation with friends. An old online dating profile we forgot about. We might even find ourselves named in an unflattering article by a former employee.

In a world where everyone from clients to HR departments to rivals to new bosses will be Googling you, maintaining an intelligent and non-offensive digital presence is critical – and when you’re part of a global team, the stakes get even higher. I can guarantee that because they’re not working side by side with you every day, your remote colleagues will research you online. The higher up the ladder you go, the truer this becomes. People want an inside look at anyone influential in their career. Who can blame them?

And that introduces a whole new set of criteria when evaluating your digital presence. Take a second look at your LinkedIn photo. Maybe it’s appropriate for American businesses, but won’t pass muster in that other culture you’ll be working in. Your wish list on Pinterest – does it send any particular kind of message? How about your photos on Instagram?

Remember, interpreting cultural nuances correctly is the key to successful global business. Your digital footprint must be viewed through a cross-cultural lens, not just an American one. And while you might consider your personal Facebook and Twitter accounts private, think otherwise. If they can be linked to your working name, they will be found, shared and judged by other employees and professional contacts.

Building a good global reputation

There are four best practices for maintaining a globally positive online reputation: clean up, cultivate, create and monitor.

1. Clean-up: Start by cleaning house. Search under your name – maiden and married – and look for any embarrassing photos or written content. Maybe a blog you started under a pseudonym is linked to your real name in the WHOIS database. If you find something ugly or mortifying, go ahead and ask the site managers to take it down. Sometimes this is simple; sometimes you’ll need to be persistent. If for whatever reason you have a trail of not-work-friendly content out there linked to your name, you may want to invest in a professional service that cleans up profiles for a fee.

2. Cultivate: Once you’ve scrubbed your digital image, it’s time to cultivate your personal brand as you’d like industry influencers and global coworkers to perceive it. Do you want to be seen as active and friendly or distant and cool on social platforms? Are you quietly confident or bold and challenging? The idea is to decide how you can portray your best professional self across cultures, rather than posting willy-nilly content that may send a false impression.

3. Create: Next up: creating the content for that presence. This shouldn’t be a fabricated performance – it’s about being authentic and appropriate in all eyes. It’s also a golden opportunity to bury negative online content about you. Write articles and op-eds, take lots of work-safe photos and get active in community events. One quick trick for burying old search results: commenting under your real name on extremely popular blogs and web sites. It’s all about search rank. Take a look at your internal company profile too, and assess how you come across. Can you contribute to a company blog? Is there an internal social network where you can build an appealing profile?

4. Monitor: Finally, you’ll want to monitor your footprint. Establish a Google alert in your name. If your profile is especially visible, sign up with a social media hub service that tracks conversations across multiple platforms. Again, pursue the removal of content when you can, but if you can’t, take any opportunity to respond thoughtfully.

So there you have it: the roadmap to a good online reputation. I know the temptation to stick your head in the sand might be strong, but it’s always better to address what’s out there rather than be the last to find out about it. Take a proactive approach and you’ll avoid any embarrassing surprises – and you’ll build an impressive digital presence that can be a fantastic asset in your global career.

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