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

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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.

Global Work/Life Balance is an Outdated Concept: Today, It’s All About Setting Boundaries

Work/life balance became a buzzword a couple of decades ago. Everywhere you turned there were presentations, articles and self proclaimed “experts” all promising to help the overworked find better balance.

The thing is, I’m not so sure work and life are really separate concepts anymore. Isn’t work just another part of your life, just like family, hobbies, pets and whatever else is important to you? “Life balance” is probably a much more accurate term today, and people work every day to try to achieve this concept. It is a balancing act that involves harmonizing family with career, hobbies with the job, and health with work.

Sure, there are still the no-holds-barred leaders out there whose commitment to work eclipses everything else and there are those who think that’s the way it has to be if you want to be successful. Some of these people might even be happy with their life this way, who are we to judge? Many experts today still proclaim it is possible to have it all. However, what exactly does “all” mean? Well, as difficult as it is to say this: I don’t think work/life balance is completely possible. If you want balance, you will need to sacrifice something.

What we should be talking about isn’t work-life or life balance, but becoming aware of what’s important to an individual and helping them create the right situation and strategy for THEM. Work/life balance isn’t about being home at 5 everyday, it is about being able to accomplish what one wants out of life. In my opinion, it’s about setting the right boundaries. If you clarify what you want, create a plan, set boundaries, and manage it well, fulfillment in one’s personal and professional lives can be yours.

It’s all about boundaries.

To achieve life balance, you have to set these boundaries both in your personal life and your work life. An article in Harvard Business Review referred to this as making “deliberate decisions.”

It has to go both ways to work out. Global leaders often have to respond instantly to crises and sudden situations. Then again, sometimes your personal life is more important—your preschooler is in a theater production, a parent is diagnosed with an illness, or your eldest is graduating from law school. The fact is, when a situation with enough importance emerges (in business or personal life), we make time. And you know what? The world doesn’t end. This just shows that having boundaries and stepping away is possible. Planning is key and with proper boundaries in place, it becomes easier to give attention to all areas of your life.

  • Define “balance.” First, you have to know what balance means to you. Is it being home for dinner three nights a week? Only traveling a certain number of days a month? Climbing Mt. Everest someday? When you know what you want out of life, you can create a clear plan to achieve these goals.
  • Set boundaries at work. Once you know what you want, you have to set expectations in the workplace to achieve these goals. Maybe you’re home early three afternoons a week, but you’re available during certain hours after the kids go to bed. Decide what types of situations you really need to respond to, learn how to say “no” and delegate more to your team, or job-share with coworkers.
  • Be proactive at home. In some ways, this goes hand-in-hand with the above point. Talk to your family and significant other about what’s important to you but also address what types of work situations may require your attention no matter what. This can help avoid children or partner resentment when those events arise.
  • Walk the talk. Don’t preach life balance and then send emails in the middle of the night, regularly stay late at the office, and text your team members at off hours. Managers are often unaware how their own behavior unintentionally sets the standard for the team. People may feel they have to respond in the middle of the night, stay late until the boss leaves, etc.
  • Introduce your personal life into your work life. Back in the day, talking about your personal life at work was a big no-no, but now those walls are coming down. You see more and more amusing family anecdotes or personal stop-and-think moments being integrated into presentations and speeches. The more you make your workplace feel like home (as much as your company will allow), the more balanced you’ll feel at work.

As the late Zig Ziglar once said, “I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.” The idea of work-life balance isn’t just corporate lip service anymore, but it isn’t really about having perfect balance either. It’s about creating an ideal situation for yourself as an individual – accepted at home and at work – so that you can thrive both personally and professionally.

For a workshop, webinar, or speaking engagement on How to Set Boundaries and Achieve More Life Balance, contact Melissa: melissa.lamson@lamsonconsulting.com

 

Global Talk: How to Capture (and Keep) Your Audience’s Attention

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a conference and found a presenter—even big-shot international leaders—so dry that I spent more time checking my email than taking notes. And it wasn’t because the information was boring,  it was because the presenter did such a terrible job of making drawing in the audience and making the topic interesting.

As a global leader, you have a responsibility to make people care about what you say. This is because what you have to say is important, whether you’re presenting to hundreds at a public conference, holding an important meeting or leading an internal videoconference session with employees from around the world.

Great presenters engage the audience. They make them feel like they’re a part of the presentation and will miss something exciting or new or vital if they tune out for even just a second. So how do you accomplish this? Here are some tips I’ve picked up from my favorite presenters;

1.    Open with a personal story.

This is a great method for creating a connection with your audience right away. The best part is that it doesn’t have to be related to what your presentation is about. If you can tie it in, great, but don’t feel you must.

For example, if you’re visiting an office in a new city, share an experience you’ve had with a common traffic issue, food or unique cultural aspect. In addition, maybe you’re keynoting a conference, and you share a story about teaching your three-year-old how to say “conference.” Just make sure your story is authentic and resonates across generations, gender and culture.

2.    Ask a powerful open-ended question.

This works best in smaller settings, although you can pull it off with a large group. This engages the audience and gets them thinking right from the get-go; they’ll be pondering the answer throughout your presentation, which will (hopefully) give them even more food for thought.

In a small setting, ask the question and then go around the room and have them answer. If you’re presenting to a large group, you can approach this method a couple of different ways. First, develop some prepared answers, and ask the group to stand or raise their hands with the one they associate most with, or ask the audience to shout out a few answers (just be sure to repeat them so all can hear).

3.    Make a destination statement.

Sometimes just knowing what they’ll get out of this presentation is all an audience needs to hear to keep their interest. This can be especially powerful in meetings as it sets the tone for the meeting and makes the outcome known from the start. However, it’s up to you to enforce the ultimate destination by staying on-topic—and keeping everyone else there, too.

 4.    Have a roadmap.

People love clear directions. Bullet points. Numbered lists (see, you’re reading this one, aren’t you?). For example, a talk on female leadership may emphasize three points: 1. Networking 2. Self-Promotion 3. Communicating in Other Cultures. Much like a destination statement, a roadmap makes the topic clear and invests your audience from the beginning. And don’t forget to use transition sentences like, “I just explained A, now I’m going to discuss B.”

5.    Do something unexpected.

As a global leader, you’re expected to be smart, articulate and on the ball. But people (and employees) take delight in seeing high-level leaders show their lighter side. It’s a good reminder that leaders are people too, with a sense of humor and interests beyond the latest financials. When appropriate, slip in a silly picture, quote or dance move that catches your audience off guard and breaks up the seriousness of your topic.

What tips would you add to this list?

Traits of Global Leader Part 2: Be Mindful

In my recent post, Traits of Global Leader Part 1: Know Thyself, I introduced my theory that great global leaders have two essential sets of traits: awareness of self and awareness of others. That first post explored the awareness of self, including understanding your personal brand, sticking to what you believe, and how these two traits affect public perception of you as a leader.

Now we’re going to move on to awareness of others. This doesn’t mean that great leaders are universally liked. As a recent Inc. article on leadership explained, “Great leaders aren’t always the most likable people. In the long run, great leaders recognize that their job is to get people to do things they might not want to do, in order to achieve goals they want to achieve.”

In a nutshell, your goal as a global leader should be to earn respect by doing the right thing and making the hard decisions that benefit your organization. At the same time, you don’t want to alienate your employees — so be sure to demonstrate empathy and understanding, even while reaffirming your role as a strong leader.

Of course, many leaders assume they’re already aware of others in every way that matters, but there are two practices that can deepen every leader’s ability to connect with others.

Listen to People

Plenty of leaders like to talk, but the best leaders realize the value in listening. The problem is, a huge part of being a good listener is acknowledging you don’t know everything, recognizing when you don’t know something and allowing someone else to fill you in—a tall order for many in leadership roles.

Once you can get over the fact that you’re not always the most informed person on a particular subject, you might be surprised by how much you learn. There’s a less obvious reward too: the enhanced respect that comes from giving your employees an opportunity to shine.

This is especially important when critical or difficult decisions must be made. Sure, you could just make the decisions yourself, but by opening up the conversation to others on your team you can gain valuable insight and discover fresh angles. More importantly, you give your employees a chance to be a part of the decision-making process, which recognizes their value and allows them to become invested in the outcome.

As TV host Larry King once said, “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”

Broaden Your Reach

When was the last time you talked to an entry-level employee or visited a far-flung office or division? Traveled around to store locations? Rolled up your sleeves to help with a small project? To many employees in your organization you may just be a name at the top of an organization chart, or the office where major decisions are made – and that needs to change.

Great leaders are more than just a name. They’re a symbol and a source of encouragement, stability and expertise for employees. So don’t hide — get out there and meet your people and get a taste of their daily lives at work.

Best Buy’s CEO, Hubert Joly, epitomizes this notion. When he took over as Best Buy’s CEO in 2012, he spent a week working as a floor employee at a Minnesota Best Buy store, helping customers, restocking shelves and going on Geek Squad calls.

I had a similar experience when I started my project with the global, Swedish-owned furniture giant, Ikea. They asked me to work for two days in a store to understand fully what an employee’s day was like. I worked the cashier, lugging furniture in the warehouse, in floor design, sales, and in the back offices. It was a phenomenal experience and taught me a lot about Ikea’s company culture.

I think Kasper Rorsted, head of global manufacturer Henkel, perfectly stated the importance of being available as a leader in a recent interview with McKinsey. He said: “I am convinced that a visible and accessible leadership style is most effective. My door is open; I encourage colleagues to call me directly. Our employees know who I am and what I’m doing. I eat with employees in our canteens whenever I am traveling or here at headquarters. You cannot run a global company from your desk. That’s why I spend around 170 days per year abroad, meeting employees—from top executives to young high-potential individuals—as well as customers and business partners.”

To close this two-parter, I’ll encourage you to remember that everything leaders do has a trickle-down effect. Be mindful of your actions and relationships, because your colleagues and your employees will emulate what you do. Successful organizations need inspiring leaders. Be the confident, self-aware and empathetic leader your employees want, and they will follow your example.

Traits of a Global Leader Part I: Know Thyself

I got to thinking recently about what it is that makes for a great global leader. It goes beyond having a title and being in charge of people. What I mean is, being a boss does not make one a leader. So where’s the distinction?

To answer my own question, I started considering the leaders I admire—some I’ve worked with, some I haven’t—and really pondering their unique traits and characteristics. In truth, no two leaders are great in the same way. Some lead through charisma and big personalities, while some quietly inspire confidence. But even in those differences, I could see similarities.

When I boiled it all down to the most essential points, I discovered two sets of traits driving these global leaders: awareness of self, and awareness of others.

Let’s explore those a little bit. We’ll start with awareness of self, and why understanding who you are and how you’re perceived is so important for global leaders.

Cultivate Your Personal Brand

Quick—name a few global leaders who have a clear “brand” all unto themselves. Love them or hate them, people like Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, and Melissa Meyer know exactly who they are to the public and their employees. They’re always working to preserve and even promote that image. Branson, the larger-than-life innovator, cultivates a persona of the cool dude riding the edge of what’s new. Jobs, the introspective visionary, was famous for his presentation style and black turtleneck/jeans combo.

Being a global leader often thrusts you into the spotlight, and it’s beneficial to carefully consider what image you want to present to the world. Who are you as a global leader? What adjectives describe you, and what leadership style defines you? Do you publicly trumpet your business successes or quietly divert attention to your causes? What is your personal mantra, as a global leader?

The fact is, your public persona has a power all of itself. Don’t ignore it; embrace it. Give it the same careful thought and consideration you give to your business. I’m not saying to become a caricature. Just make sure you know who you are and what impression you project to the world.

Have A Point of View and Stick to It

I was recently working with the CEO of a smaller software company. He boldly states his position in every keynote or speaking engagement: He’s firm on the importance of Internet freedom and privacy. It’s a little bit controversial, but it shows true confidence to proselytize one’s opinions.

Part of developing your personal brand is knowing yourself and what’s important to you as a leader, in the business world and outside of it. Don’t be afraid to strongly support or defend the things that are most meaningful to you. Bill Gates vocally supports giving away wealth in the name of charity, and publicly calls out other billionaires to challenge them to do the same.

Branson has always had outlandish predictions for his products taking over market leaders. Though he’s not always right, his confidence in his business endeavors is inspiring. Branson and Bezos both jumped into the space travel conversation, believing that such a remarkable opportunity should be open to the public. A few years ago, people openly laughed at such a notion. Now, a spaceport has been built in New Mexico and Branson’s Virgin Galactic has had over 550 people pay upwards of $200,000 for the opportunity to travel to space.

Having a point of view is vital to the awareness of self in global leaders. It offers a rallying point and a clear voice to those under your leadership and those eyeing what you do as a leader.

Awareness of others is just as vital as awareness of self. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Traits of a Global Leader, where I’ll talk about the traits great global leaders exhibit when handling specific situations as well as how they adapt to different environments.

For more on Global Leadership, see www.lamsonconsulting.com

6 Secrets to Overcoming Jet-Lag

I travel a lot for business. And its not only the shorter jaunts from Phoenix to San Francisco or Chicago to Boston. I travel from North to South America and Europe to Asia. Sometimes I’m on planes for 15-20 hours. For years now, I’ve suffered from jet-lag. It can be brutal, lasting a week, sometimes with flu symptoms, but I’ve sucked it up and dealt with it because I love my work, enjoy being in different countries, and learning about new cultures.

Last year, after several back-to-back trips to far-away places, I made a deal with myself I would employ some new jet-lag fighting tactics and see if I could find a better way to cope. I asked those executive friends of mine (who travel more than I do), did some internet research, and simply tested out a few strategies. Finally, after almost 25 years of business and personal travel, I think I’ve finally got this jet-lag thing beat.

Here are my six secrets to overcoming jet-lag:

1) Prepare a sleep-kit: Sleeping on planes is difficult enough, make it as comfortable as you can. First, get something to block out the noise; earplugs, headphones, or an extra pillow. Second, make sure you’re warm enough. A lightweight down jacket can bunch up into a headrest, add extra padding to your seat, or simply keep you nice and warm on an over-air conditioned plane. A fleece blanket or poncho and a hat or hood is helpful, too. And don’t forget your eye mask to block out light. If you’re lucky enough to travel business or first class, you’ll get most of these accessories with your seat.

2) Skip the wine: This is a tough one because they serve some nice wines on the European airlines. Singapore Airlines will even make you exotic fruit juice cocktails, like – surprise – the Singapore Sling. Alcohol may put you to sleep quickly but chances are you’ll be up again in an hour or two, wide awake from the sugar content in alcohol. It can also make recovering from jet-lag once you get to where you’re going tougher. It dehydrates you and you can feel even more tired.

3) Medicate if you dare: If you have trouble sleeping on planes it might be well worth taking some medication. Some folks prefer Melatonin or a homeopathic sleep aid, others use Tylenol or Advil PM. Sometimes a doctor will prescribe a sleeping pill for international flights. There’s nothing like being well-rested when you get to your final destination. Experiment with some options and find what’s best for you, but do try to sleep at least half of any trip over eight hours. Especially if its an overnight flight.

4) Eat VERY lightly: Again, this can be difficult. Meals help with the boredom on longer flights and the international airlines can serve up some mean grub. I recently had filet, asparagus grits and mixed sauteed vegetables. It was surprisingly delicious. I paid for it though, couldn’t sleep a wink. Luckily it was a day flight so I took the calculated risk. However, when I eat a salad with lots of raw veggies, no meat or carbs, board my flight, eat very little (if at all) on the plane, I tend to sleep well and feel better when I land.

5) Get some fresh air: I feel like my mother. When I was a kid, she always said, “Let’s get some fresh air, shall we?” What I think she really meant was, “You’re driving me nuts inside bouncing off the walls.” Anyway, I can’t emphasize enough how much of a difference it makes recovering from jet-lag. Rain or shine, when I get to where I’m going, I go out for a stroll. (Assuming its a stroll-able location.) A brisk walk, especially if the air is cool, takes away that slight headache, refreshes you, and it’ll help you sleep better that first night.

6) Exercise, exercise, exercise: Critical to overcoming jet-lag (and to your overall well-being) is getting some exercise everyday – before, during and after your trip. Even a thirty minute workout can do wonders. It gets the blood flowing, your brain working, it builds your immune system to fight colds and viruses, and makes you feel dang good. If you’re staying at a hotel without a good gym facility, ask about a neighborhood gym nearby. Go for a run or join some people playing a sport outdoors. I’ve even downloaded a couple of workout apps and in a pinch, do those in my hotel room.

Of course you have to find what works best for you. I can’t promise you’ll conquer jet-lag entirely but I can promise the above tips will help a lot and you’ll feel more prepared for your next trip abroad. Happy travels!

 

 

How to Stand Out as a Woman in the Technology Field

It’s no secret that the technology sector is a testosterone-driven environment. Women make up 27 percent of those employed in software or computing jobs and 49 percent of publicly traded IT companies have no women on their boards.

Despite this lack of gender diversity, there is no doubt that women have the intellect and creativity that tech companies need. We just need to learn how to effectively and confidently assert our place in such an aggressive, fast-paced environment.

Here are seven tips for women who want to stand out and succeed in the technology field:

  1. Be structured and analytical. In the male-dominated world of tech, it’s important not to react emotionally when you don’t agree with a co-worker about the usability of the UI. Instead, take a few minutes to organize your thoughts and determine how you can both work together to improve the experience for the end user.
  2. Say no. If you’re over-extended and asked to run a trivial errand like getting coffee for a male counterpart, it’s OK to say no. You’re not someone’s Girl Friday. You’re a smart, talented woman in technology. Politely and simply state that the task is outside of your role. If you have too much on your plate, don’t be afraid to speak up or ask for help. Men aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves; you shouldn’t be either.
  3. Step in and explain how you can help. In general, men tend to be more proactive when it comes to shaping role within an organization, while women tend to have a more passive approach. Unfortunately, that’s not doing you—or the company—any favors. If you know your strengths are in a certain area, talk to your supervisor and ask for those types of projects. Schedule regular meetings with superiors to discuss your career path and explain how you can best add value to the company.
  4. Develop a thick skin. When you work in a male-dominated environment, it’s inevitable that you’ll hear a few sarcastic comments or jokes that can be offensive to women. While you should never have to work in a hostile or uncomfortable environment, you may be better served by arming yourself with a clever comeback than by ignoring the comment or reporting the co-worker to HR. Be assertive, crack a witty joke back and address the behavior in a calm, clear and friendly way.
  5. Don’t be a perfectionist. Women tend to put an incredible amount of thought into their ideas and focus on presenting the perfect idea. In that same amount of time, men will have run through five ideas, discussed their strengths and flaws, and identified the best solution. Tech companies are notorious for their culture of creativity and openness. You need to participate in this vital process to succeed, be heard and be valued.
  6. Forget societal norms. Women subconsciously put up roadblocks by conforming to outdated societal standards. The days in which women in the workplace were expected to be submissive or respond to the needs of the men in the office are long gone. That said, there is nothing wrong with grabbing a coffee for a male co-worker. Just be sure to ask him to return the favor later.
  7. Embrace power. Cheryl Sandberg’s campaign to “ban bossy” is resonating with women in all industries, not just tech. Why? There’s a stigma surrounding the word bossy and Sandberg argues that many times, “bossy” really means “assertive” or “decisive”—two traits associated with leaders. Don’t be afraid to accept positions of power and authority. Your education, expertise and accomplishments show you earned it.

While the male-dominated tech field can be intimidating for many women, most men appreciate the unique perspective and approach we bring to the table. If you learn to stand up for yourself and jump right in alongside your male counterparts, you’ll thrive in this exciting industry.

From Bossy to Bold: Embracing Female Leadership

In the last year, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has electrified the professional sphere for women. Now, to celebrate the publication anniversary of her best-selling book Lean In, Sandberg has joined with Girl Scouts to “Ban Bossy” – a movement designed to encourage female leadership.

The idea came from a dynamic frequently spotted on playgrounds across America; a little boy who asserts himself in a group is called a leader, but a little girl who does the same is chided for being bossy. While debating the word might seem like a frivolous semantic argument, this difference reflects deep conflicts in our cultural attitudes towards female leadership. Being called bossy tells little girls not to speak up or share their ideas or take risks. It’s an insidious dynamic with repercussions that last beyond childhood; by middle school, girls are less interested than boys in leadership and stay that way into adulthood.

“Ban Bossy” shares tips for parents, girls, educators and managers to encourage confidence and leadership in girls, but it’s also sparked a conversation around the conundrum so many professional women face: How can you be perceived as assertive and influential in the workplace without seeming bossy? If being a boss is a good thing, why is being bossy bad? And why is it a word applied to little girls so often but not little boys.

A new breed of leadership

The answer to the last question, of course, is that boys are expected to take charge and demonstrate leadership. When girls are assertive, or direct others, it subverts the social expectation that boys are best qualified to be in charge.

That’s a problematic reality – yet as we look at the first two questions, there’s no denying that “bossy” has a negative connotation. Often it’s associated with someone who demonstrates a pushy management style, or is unwilling to listen or collaborate. At the same time, the word can be unfairly slapped on a woman who’s demonstrated a decisive and driven style. (Two key leadership characteristics, it’s worth noting.)

Complicating the matter is the evolution of our business world, which has been heading in the direction of enhanced compassion, collaboration and diplomacy: what is often called a flat hierarchy. The most successful leaders today, male and female, must understand how to lead both gracefully and effectively.

So just what is the secret to striking the right balance in the workplace – how can women assert themselves and take charge without the dreaded bossy label? Below are some tips.

1. Be collaborative – ask for joint decisions and draw on other people’s abilities and strengths, rather than viewing them as competition.

2. Listen to multiple perspectives and factor them into the decision-making process.

3. Because relationship building is important, socialize people individually on ideas or concepts to help gain buy-in.

4. Remain unemotional, neutral and clear in your communication style, especially with men.

5. Delegate presentations and decisions to show you value others’ contributions.

Not sure where you fall in the bossy debate? Ask yourself these questions; the answers might illuminate paths to more fair and effective dynamics in your own workplace.

  • Have you been called bossy before, or called someone else bossy?
  • Do you react to assertive women differently than to assertive men?
  • Have you used specific techniques to avoid the bossy label while taking charge on the job?
  • Does your workplace feature domineering or command and control leadership styles? How have you tried to foster positive, collaborative leadership?

Taking Tech Companies Global

If you’re a tech company expanding outside of the US, you’re going to need more than a slick logo and a ping-pong table to make an impact. From not anticipating cultural differences to failing to research the market before expanding, hyper-growth organizations can’t always predict the challenges presented by taking the business multinational. If your company is considering global expansion, considering the tips below will go a long way to making your growth across borders both pleasant and profitable.

Don’t Rely Solely on Virtual Communication

It’s no secret that good social and cross-cultural communication skills are vital to successful virtual relationships. Unfortunately, many tech companies (and start-ups especially) are comprised of engineers, developers and other employees used to working autonomously and independently, often working out of their homes or remote offices.

Email is the default method of communication. And sometimes various chat functions are used.  But studies in managing virtual teams show that face-to-face communication is 10 times more effective than phone, and phone is 10 times more effective than email. This means that you must encourage phone, video conference and even face-to-face conversations when at all possible. Making it clear to your employees that you expect them to know each other as people, not just as email thumbnails, fosters a personal connection between your global workforce. Personal relationships don’t just make project work more effective – it also increases employee retention rates and promotes a global mindset for staff.

Product Development: One Size Does Not Fit All

Expanding your products or services globally is a lot trickier than many international tech companies anticipate. Standards and viewpoints we accept in the US may not be viewed so positively abroad. For instance, Facebook has run into privacy issues in other countries, from the amount of user data they collect to claims that the ‘Like’ button violates certain German laws.

China is a notoriously difficult country for US firms to expand into. LinkedIn is poised to become one of the few US tech companies allowed in this restrictive market, in part because it offers a service not well established in China: Business networking.

The solution: Care and attention to the local culture, customs and laws. Take the time to create relationships with local economic development agencies, chambers of commerce and other local tech companies. Talk through your business proposition with leaders to discover what cultural challenges you may run into, then create a global game plan. Having a trusted business leader on the ground during your global expansion will prevent easily-preventable conflicts through innovative solutions only available from a leader with intimate knowledge of the country into which you are expanding.

Internal Culture is As Important as External

Consider the business culture of the new market you’re entering and make sure your internal communications reflect it. In the US, business mixes personal and professional. Tech startups especially build their teams around passionate people who love what they do, love the company they work for and are happy to rally around and even celebrate a set of common values. Many Asian companies also embrace a close company culture and in some cases look at a firm as an extension of family.

In some European countries, however, you’ll be hard-pressed to drum up this type of workplace enthusiasm. Employees see it as a job, they’re happy to come work, happy to have success, but the concept of colleagues as family is foreign.

Management style and decision-making methods need to be considered as well. Tech companies place an emphasis on consensus building and crowdsourcing ideas from among their disparate experts. Managers must find the right balance between leading the team toward a goal while still allowing the experts to feel their contribution matters.

Work-Life Balance is a Myth (But we can try!)

Let’s admit it – there are workaholics in the tech industry. It’s the norm to work long days and sometimes all night to get things done. When you’re based in the US, with only US times zones to deal with, it’s not as much of an issue. But if you expand into Europe, where work-life balance is taken very seriously, all-nighters are anything but typical and a different approach is necessary.

An even more delicate balance exists in India, where a heavy US business presence means Indian employees often work crazy hours to keep up with the demand of US-based customers. Does this make work-life balance difficult? Yes – while workers complain about working long hours and being stressed because of it, the hours also make workers in India feel needed and valued. There is an international trend towards making work-life balance attainable, and that’s important for business leaders to consider when planning global expansion. Make sure you are prepared to manage expectations across your culturally diverse workforce as part of your global business plans. It’ll improve relationships and increase employee engagement.

Now that you know the trends I see with expanding tech companies, I’m curious to know what unique challenges you’ve faced with global expansion. Drop me a line at melissa.lamson@lamsonconsulting.com and let me know. With your permission, your story might be one of the ones featured in a future blog post.

Want to approach your workplace with more Global Savviness? Ask these 3 Essential Questions

When you take a vacation to a different country, you spend a lot of time researching the culture -everything from the food to cultural customs such as tipping in restaurants or conducting yourself at historic sites. So why shouldn’t you do the same when looking to expand your business?

As you look into market potential, labor costs and building codes, don’t ignore the cultural implications of doing business in that country. Research what cultural, ethical and legal differences exist, and come up with a strategy to navigate them. Building respectful, culturally appropriate relationships is crucial to the success of your new venture.

One idea: to help develop global savviness, find locals to be your guide. When searching for consultants, accountants or law firms in the new country, for example, look for firms that have previous experience helping foreign companies make a successful transition. Make contacts in expat business communities or look for government or economic agencies that specialize in international relations.

As you make these connections, there are three vital questions you should ask to ensure your business doesn’t run afoul of hidden traditions, considerations or business practices.

1.     How are contracts negotiated, structured and agreed upon?

Business laws and contract requirements vary wildly across the globe. Besides the differences in ethical, legal and structural requirements, there are often specific cultural conventions in play. For example, in some Latin American regions, a verbal commitment and a handshake is more important than the paper. In fact, too much emphasis on a paper contract could turn off potential business contacts because they view a verbal commitment as being more trustworthy. Finding the right legal representation in the country is key to handling this process correctly.

2.     What expectations do employees have about office culture?

In the US, cube farms are so plentiful, they have become a part of our culture (and our pop culture). However, cubes are not necessarily an accepted office setup in other countries. As I discussed in No Such Thing As Small Talk, 7 Keys to Understanding German Business Culture, in Germany, legally, employees must be able to look out a window. It’s also more common for Germans to work quietly at their tables so they don’t need the noise buffer of cubical walls. When they do have conversations, they’ll move to a meeting room or take a break in the coffee corner. (They don’t spend as much time speaking with others while working as we do here in America.) Ignoring these cultural differences can result in confusion and even foster aversion to cooperation.

3.     What are the unique HR considerations we need to consider?

So many cultural aspects affect your HR policies and procedures in a new country, from hiring practices and acceptable interview questions to the employee holiday calendar. In the US, we have guidelines about what you can and can’t ask during the application or interview process. But these restrictions don’t exist in other places. In India and some European countries, it’s common for applicants to submit photos and include things like age and marital status.

With some countries, radical cultural differences and cultural sensitivity plays an even bigger role in HR. In South Africa, healthcare plays a large factor. For instance, it’s common to have mandatory HIV testing for employees on the shop floor. And therefore, sadly, funerals are important affairs in South Africa. When an employee requests time off for a death, they can expect to have up to two weeks of leave.

Opening your organization to a global mindset unlocks endless possibilities for professional—and personal—enrichment. But global savviness does not happen overnight; it requires patience, an open mind and above all, respect for those around you.

Contact us for more answers to your questions about global expansion: info@lamsonconsulting.com