5 Easy Ways to Think & Act Globally

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There’s no doubt that global business is the shape of the future. We live in a world where nearly all high-growth companies work across multiple time zones and in diverse cultural contexts. But the truth is that even experienced business leaders can sometimes get caught up in the small contextual differences of working across different regions and cultures. The solution: paying attention to little details that can ensure potential business deals – and new professional relationships – go smoothly.

Consider adopting the below tips to make next year’s global ventures your most successful yet.

1)   When speaking about the particular way something’s done in business, add “…in this country or in country X” at the end of your sentence. This will help remind you and others that it may not work the same way in other countries, and could, in fact, function quite differently. This will also let your colleagues from other countries know you’re aware that their experiences, assumptions and values might differ from your own.

2)   Remember to set the right time zones in your calendar. Also consider alternating meetings times to make it convenient for all attendees. Having a meeting at three in the morning might not be ideal for you, but neither is making your colleagues in different parts of the world stay late at the office. (Sometimes it’s the 1 or 2 hour time zone differences that cause the most confusion!)

3)   If you’re working in a new, specific, region of the world, get online and memorize five facts about that country or culture. When interacting with colleagues or business partners, use those facts as ice-breakers. In new sales or vendor meetings, you’ll be seen as credible. And by showing an effort to learn about their culture, you’ll gain respect and show genuine interest in your new associates.

4)   Make a resolution when traveling to global locations that you’ll act like an anthropologist and discover new places, people and things. Don’t just rely on tourism books; ask locals to show you around and view sight-seeing as an opportunity to support your business dealings. Just like a real anthropologist would, pay attention to the local communication style and values, the holidays people celebrate and why. You’ll develop deeper relationships with your business contacts and acquire a more nuanced understanding of their backgrounds.

5)   Seek out global news sources, read books set in other countries, and watch international films. Most importantly, share your experiences with family, friends and co-workers. It will get them excited to learn more about the world. People exposed to distant cultures and new ideas tend to appreciate the importance of a global mindset.

6) Ensure everyone contributes to meetings by adopting communication best practices that account for different styles, personalities and cultures. Some like to talk a lot, others not so much, but everyone wants to feel their opinion is valued.

7) Study cross cultural theory to teach yourself about cultural diversity. There are four main cultural dimensions that I propose in my book, that cause the most difficulties in multicultural teamwork. To see my convenient tool, the 4D Culture Model, check out my book, The New Global Manager.

These tips may sound simple, but I promise they will go a long way toward helping you foster positive and lasting professional relationships in global environments. Finally, remember that developing global mindset isn’t only a business benefit; the growth and enrichment that comes with cross-cultural experiences can be as personally rewarding as it is professionally.

Global Perceptions of Sexual Harassment [Survey Results]

The following infographics depict attitudes and opinions of seven European countries and the U.S. as they pertain to what is considered sexual harassment—and what is not. The first combines the results from a survey conducted in Europe with the results of the same survey conducted in the United States. It is interesting to see that the U.S. dissents more radically than Europe in answers to the question “offers a woman sexual favors.”

I wonder, does that mean the U.S. survey participants don’t see offering sexual favors as necessarily unwanted, or do they perhaps understand the word “offer” as a negotiation point and not force?

Also, I found it fascinating to see the dramatic variation of responses from France, Denmark, and Finland to the questions around jokes, looking at a woman’s body, and whistling. Moreover, how much difference in opinion is expressed, across all countries, when it comes to jokes with sexual content.

Finally, given the publicity around a letter that was co-signed and published by 100 prominent French women in January 2018 that branded anti-sexual harassment campaigners “puritanical,” I was struck by how France seems to consider all of the questions, more than other countries, possibly examples of sexual harassment.

The chart below provides additional detail on the survey responses from men and women in the United States.

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After you have looked at the surveys’ responses, what are your thoughts or interpretations?

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

Tips to Help Build Cross-Cultural Business Skills

Posted on August 20, 2013, by Katie Stouffs

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” – Emily Post (1872-1960)

Long before international business etiquette writer, Terri Morrison, penned Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands (a must-read for any real estate practitioner with global clients), Emily Post, a.k.a. Miss Manners, preached the importance of proper etiquette. Post defined etiquette as a code of behavior based on kindness, respect and consideration for the purpose of helping people get along and avoid conflict. If you are a real estate practitioner who works with international buyers or sellers, or if you are tying to expand your business globally, take heed of Miss Manner’s advice! This definition is a great way to think about cross-cultural business and social skills.

Beyond the everyday good manners you already use in the course of business, when you are working with foreign clients, how can you be sure that your behavior is appropriate? Listed below are some basic cross-cultural do’s and don’ts. These guidelines can help you reduce the risk of making a cultural faux pas.

Saving face: In the business world, brutal honesty (for better or for worse) is often times appreciated.  However, this is not a universal opinion, rather, a western attitude that could unknowingly cause great offense. Allowing others to save face is a valuable cross- cultural skill. As a rule of thumb, never do anything to embarrass another person, either in that person’s eyes, or in the eyes of others. This principle may sound obvious, but in practice, blunders are easy to make, especially if you are working with a buyer who has never purchased property in the U.S. before. For example, if you are talking with a client about title insurance, you may receive blank stares. Indemnity insurance is likely to be a foreign concept to most foreign buyers. Be careful with your explanation. Avoid statements like, “You look confused. Let me clarify”. While your intention is good, this statement could be deemed insulting.

Additionally, you shouldn’t sacrifice your own face, even if your intention is harmless.  For example, if you are showing a home to a foreign client and need to convert feet into meters, don’t joke that you are useless at math. This simple statement could inadvertently tarnish your reputation.

Build the relationship: When you are first introduced to someone, do not try to create an instant friendship. Wait to be invited before you use first names. In many cultures, first meetings are for getting acquainted; don’t expect deals to be signed right away. The pace of “getting down to business” varies from culture to culture.

Talk less, listen more: Respect the role of silence and know when to talk and when to keep quiet. Communicate informatively rather than persuasively. Practice listening with both your ears and your eyes; sometimes nonverbal behavior can be telling. A shrug of the shoulders, a smile, silence− these nonverbal actions may indicate that the other person does not understand. Remember, “yes” does not always mean “I agree.”

Business card etiquette: In some cultures there is substantial etiquette associated with presenting and receiving business cards. As a general rule of practice, always treat business cards respectfully. When someone hands you their card, take the time to look it over. Show respect by commenting positively. Avoid putting the card in your pocket (especially your back pocket) or your wallet.

These are just a few tips that will help you when working with home buyers and sellers from a variety of cultures. Keep in mind that interactions with foreign clients proceed best and lead to successful transactions when you are sensitive to their expectations of business and social behavior. The more you know about your client’s culture, the more effective your interactions will be.

The Intercultural Communication Challenges of Skype Meetings

The Intercultural Communication Challenges of Skype Meetings

My intercultural business clients often enlist my aid to help them improve their Skype meetings. They count on me to provide them with a unique perspective on intercultural communication and want to hear my views about why it is so difficult and dissatisfying for them. From my perspective, the difficulty and dissatisfaction of using Skype to conduct meetings in an intercultural context is not due to the most obvious reasons.

We all know there are technical issues. Depending on the speed of the connections, coupled with the video and audio capabilities of the webcams and microphones, the display and the audio can cut in and out, and can be difficult to hear or visualize. There can be maddening lags, freezes, crashes and any number of unexpected glitches, all of which play havoc with even the most carefully organized meetings. These are not a big issue when using Skype for conversations within our private lives. But even when things go perfectly on the technical side of things within a business context, there are issues that need to be addressed for ensuring successful intercultural meetings.

For example, every language has a tempo. By that I mean, how quickly people speak, how long a time they leave between one sentence and the next, and how long they wait before responding to someone else’s words, varies. In the French language there is typically a slight overlap at the end of a spoken sentence; the next speaker begins before the other has finished. In English, in North America at least, we pause slightly to signal that it’s the other person’s turn to speak. In the Japanese language there are substantially longer pauses between one speaker and another. Such subtle differences can be found in all languages.

This is what I call the tempo, or rhythm, of a language. When the French or Japanese speak English, they bring their rhythms with them. Anglophones who learn other languages maintain their native tempo, as well. I encounter this phenomenon every day with my intercultural clients, accustomed as I am to observing such things. So I can easily understand how these different rhythms cause problems during intercultural Skype meetings, because when there is even the smallest lag during such sessions, our rhythms get disrupted.

When you are speaking your native language, such things are easily overcome. However, when you’re speaking a foreign language, each time you face such a disruption you become distracted from what you were in the middle of saying or hearing. The larger the number of cultures participating in the Skype meeting, the more complicated it becomes. Why?

How Easily Can You Multitask in Your Mind?

What is rarely acknowledged is that when we are speaking our native languages, we are able to multitask in our minds. We listen easily, formulate what we are going to say next, think about what we’re going to have for lunch, generate opinions about the others around us, notice the air temperature in the room, and so on. So what’s another minor distraction like lag?

Simply this. When you are using a second language, it’s impossible to multitask in your mind to the same degree; you have to focus more on listening. So if you don’t hear part of a sentence, then understanding suffers. If you’re distracted by that lack of understanding, it’s then more difficult for you to formulate what you want to say next. And even if you are able to formulate what to say next, the rhythm you are used to is disrupted and you are unsure of when to add a comment or question.

Furthermore, even if you are able to make sense of the partial sentences you’re hearing, can formulate what to say next and jump in at just the right time, there’s the next trap waiting for you. This is the biggest stumbling block for many of my clients: you see yourself while speaking a foreign language. As one client candidly told me, “That is a sight I’d rather not see!”

It’s easier to convince yourself when speaking in person to others that your accent isn’t so bad and the way you form the unfamiliar sounds of a second language doesn’t look weird to your listeners. (Indeed, how many of you who speak a second language dislike leaving a phone message because you don’t want your voice to be recorded in English? I know I prefer not doing so in French.) When using Skype you have to watch yourself looking uncomfortable and unsure while trying to construct a coherent message in another language within a technically challenging context. Frankly, all of us have to have nerves of steel to get through it. As a result, many Skype meetings are conducted without any video. It’s common in such cases to use slow Internet connection speeds as an excuse. But I wonder when I hear that whether it’s not more about a sense of self dignity that we are trying to defend.

Skype is not the villain here. Instead, it simply amplifies things that all of us working within intercultural situations in a language other than our native one face every day. This can result in some uncomfortable conversations but as I say to my clients, “Discomfort goes with the territory.” In turn, they tell me what a relief it is to discuss these issues of difficulty and discomfort so openly. They are rarely discussed at the office, where everyone simply pretends to be confident and comfortable during such meetings, with varying degrees of success.

When this fact of intercultural business communication is finally out in the open, the burden of pretending is lifted. Suddenly everyone can agree about just how awkward it is to function effectively in a foreign language when using Skype. That openness inspires people to be more patient and helpful, and less judgmental of one another. A shift in attitude, along with improved intercultural communication skills, not just an improvement in technology, is what it’s going to take to meet the unprecedented challenges of communicating globally across cultures online.

This post first appeared on sherwoodfleming.com Sherwood Fleming is an intercultural communication seminar leader and author of Dance of Opinions.

What Makes a Global Leader Savvy?

What is a global leader? What is a leader?

When people think of a global leader the words that come to mind are world-wide, international, inspiring, someone who takes charge, and someone who is capable of gaining followers. Leaders are assertive, they know exactly what they want, they are not afraid to speak up and are well-liked. Anyone can be a global leader, but what makes someone a strong leader? A savvy leader? People admire positive, inspiring, and ambitious people because they have a passion and vision on what they want to do in life and that is something many want to attain. Successful global leaders are well-rounded and also know what’s going on locally and globally. To become a savvy global leader, you don’t have to be born in another country or have parents in the foreign service but you do have to understand what is going on internationally. “Savvy” people understand and never stop learning so to become a savvy global leader, you need to be willing to learn and understand on a global scale. People can become a global leader with the right direction and simply making the decision to be globally-minded. Here are some tips to become a global savvy leader.

1. Learn another language: You don’t have to come from a international background to speak another language, you can simply learn one. You can learn new languages by taking classes, reading, and using audio-visual language courses online.

2. Travel: How can you be considered a “Global” leader if you don’t go global yourself? Traveling out of the country is the best way to learn a new culture. Talking to the locals in a particular country helps one learn about their way of life, community, and how they do business.

3. Stay Updated on Global News: Global leaders typically are up to date and aware of what is going on in the world so it’s important to read and watch international news. Knowing about what is going on in other countries is impressive and builds your credibility.

4. Have Friends in Different Places: A great excuse to travel and learn is to visit a friend you have in another country. Developing personal relationships abroad also helps with networking if you want to do business in that country or make important connections.

5. Understand your Company’s Global Potential: Global expansion may make or break your business, you will want/need to know if your company should target a specific country or area in terms of products and services.

Becoming a global leader is hard work but it is also fulfilling and a way for someone to keep learning about different cultures. Successful global leaders are willing to learn and understand and always ask what they don’t know instead of solely relying on what they do know.

Women in Leadership, Women in Business: What Glass Ceiling?

Women in Leadership, Women in Business
Interview by Melissa Lamson
Interviewer: Hana Al-Abadi

Q: Why are women in business such a hot topic right now?

A: I think that we have thought – at least in the US and Europe – that we fought the battle for equality in the past but when we looked around a couple of years ago and saw that positions, money, and treatment still wasn’t always equal, the subject came up again. Women finally see ourselves as equal business partners and we want careers equally to men. Because of that there’s a lot of pressure on individuals to find flexible solutions to create that equality in the workplace as well as at home. The topic of women in the workplace is big because of that pressure and that evolution. Women tend to be really spectacular working globally because they are good at developing relationships. I don’t think it is a coincidence that we are going global successfully because we are good at it.

Q: Do you believe women still bump into the glass ceiling?

A: Yes I do. I would say there are two challenges. The first challenge is that women are trained to not focus much on self-promotion because we will be seen as a threat, an opportunist, or simply not a “nice girl”. Different from men who are admired for self-promotion; its expected from men. So we’ll sabotage ourselves and not promote our accomplishments enough to be seen for that promotion or next project. The other challenge is that as women we are very focused on performance, mostly because we are socialized to be perfectionists. So we have a perfectionism issue, we need to be more conscious of not being too much of a perfectionist but to pull ourselves out of the weeds, look up, and develop those key relationships, particularly with men.

Q: What are the top 3 keys to women being successful in the workforce? Anything special they need to consider when working globally?

A: 1. Don’t be a perfectionist. 2. Self Promote. 3. Build targeted relationships. (Don’t just socialize with those people you like.)

Q: As a successful business woman, author, and consultant who travels all over the world, would you say women are more or less successful in business outside of the US/in other countries?

A: I wouldn’t say more or less successful. In the US, women have been at a disadvantage in the last 20 years because many believed the whole issue of equality in business was fixed and no longer an issue. But there is still inequality we need to think about consciously, proactively and collaboratively with men. Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most well-known people who recently came out and said “it’s still not equal and we need to be conscious of this”. She also was the first women to admit publicly that a major success factor in a woman’s career is determined by the support of their partner.

Globally, it’s interesting to see the gender roles in parts of Asia and the Middle-east. They are very distinct between women and men. Men don’t try to do what women do and vice versa. It becomes an advantage because when we see the male and female roles, people just tend to leave each other alone in their roles. It doesn’t get messy because men get a little nervous when you’re in their territory and it’s in their nature to be more competitive. So if you don’t have people stepping on each other’s toes then it’s easier to get things done so I think women have more opportunities in some other countries because of that. Having said that, women all over the world are speaking up, getting an education, and want to use that education to launch their careers. It’s economically driven, in many cases, young couples or families need or want more money and material possessions and a more luxurious lifestyle than their parents had. Its also emotionally-driven, where women want to use their brain, invent, create and shape the world.

Q: What is your advice to women wanting to start their own business?

A: Find  people who have done something similar and who are successful at it and either go meet them, work for them, and/or model yourself after them. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel. Also, it’s helpful if those role models are women so you know how to overcome specific challenges. Further, I would find men who are successful and ask them to be formal mentors to you because they will always give the male perspective. When you’re interacting with clients who are male, they will be able to help you. Particularly when negotiating money or asking for the sale, men tend to do that differently from women and its good to learn both styles.

For more information about women in business, contact info@lamsonconsulting.com