Gift Ideas for the International Jet-Setter

gifts

Secrets of buying for the most difficult gift recipients.

My nephews have every kids’ dream–they’re from a family of mixed religions, so they celebrate both Hanukah and Christmas. Needless to say, they get a lot of presents. So many, in fact, that they often forget to even open them all.

Thus, it’s often hard for me to give gifts that they will find special amongst the plethora of Xbox games, sports equipment, and train sets they receive. Last year, though, I nailed it.

I was in South Africa and saw these handmade drums. They were beautiful, so I knew they wouldn’t be stuffed in a closet by their parents but instead put on display. And, they were functional. I could see the boys having jam sessions for hours. And, (bonus!) the money I spent went back to help a local community in South Africa.

I’m sure we all have those people that are difficult to buy for–including family, friends, colleagues, and clients. Instead of trying to buy the latest gadget or trend, try opting for something with meaning, sends a message, or has a positive impact.

Here are a few international gift-giving hints for the notoriously most challenging people to buy for.

People who have everything.

People who have everything don’t need more stuff, so don’t even try.

Instead, give a gift that gives back. Here are a couple of ideas–give a microloan in that person’s name. You can loan a small amount of money to someone in a developing country to help jumpstart their business.

A hundred dollars can help a woman in Africa, for example, open a store in her community. The recipients have to pay the loan back over time, but the small amount can make a huge difference in helping them self-sustain.

You can also make a donation on someone’s behalf to a cause they care about or to a charity that supports global issues such as Oxfam or Children International.

Gifts for people who care.

Many people are becoming more aware of where their goods are coming from and are careful not to support unfair labor practices or production that negatively impacts the environment. Thankfully, it’s easier now more than ever to consume responsibly.

There are many companies out there that share where their products are sourced and have a mission to not harm the environment, like Uncommon Goods, for example.

Also, most cities have stores that only sell sustainable and organic products. (I love my hometown of Phoenix’s Local Nomad shop which sells jewelry, clothes, and collectibles). Go this route, and you’ll feel good instead of guilt with the things you buy.

Gifts for the people who want unusual things.

Not everyone wants to be part of the latest trend. They want something that’s unique and different.

To get ideas, tap into the experiences of your friends who travel. Ask them what they’re seeing on their trips that may be popular in other cultures or indigenous to other lands. If they’re close enough friends, they may even be able to make some purchases for you that you can reimburse them for later.

Gifts for the globetrotter.

Speaking of people who travel a lot–it seems like they can get anything they want since they seem to go everywhere.

Instead of trying to dazzle them with something unique, make what they do more pleasant.

This holiday, I’m giving essential oil sniffers as stocking stuffers to my fellow global travelers to help revive themselves when crossing many time zones. Other ideas include lightweight travel blankets, compact luggage, and silky soft pillowcases. Check out this past post for more ideas.

Gifts for everyone.

Finally, food is always a crowd pleaser. To add a twist, go international.

Shop at a local foreign restaurant or food market to assemble a basket of interesting treats from around the world. I like to hit a local Mexican restaurant to share with friends the Mexican Christmas tradition of tamales (knowing they can enjoy them during the holidays or freeze for later). Even chains like Trader Joe’s feature special European cookies and chocolates that you can sort and share with colleagues or clients.

When in doubt, go for the stomach. Food is a gift that is universally enjoyed. It can be fun, neutral, and shareable.

Make this holiday season special, fun and unique with gifts that give back or presents with a multicultural flair. Your colleagues, friends, and family will appreciate the extra effort and thought put into your holiday giving.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

10 Tips for Men to Communicate Better with Female Coworkers

Gender Cooperation Workshops

It may surprise you – as it did me –that there are still times when men have difficulty finding common ground with their female colleagues. There’s always work to talk about, right? But many men feel they can’t connect with women like they can with other guys, by inviting them for an after-work beer or talking about last night’s football game.

Often they’re afraid of their approach being misconstrued or that other colleagues might look askance on them for mentoring emerging female leaders. As a result, some professional relationships suffer and the team doesn’t work quite as efficiently as it could. Men and women both miss out on opportunities to build advantageous new connections in their industries.

If that sounds familiar, here are ten tips to help men connect with female colleagues:

  1. Be authentic in every interaction. Nothing creates “awkward” like a coworker who thinks you’re trying to be something you’re not.
  2. Listen. Ask more questions in conversations, and comment to show you’re engaged and interested.
  3. Identify topics to talk about – like world news, culture and industry trends – rather than relying on typical small talk about work and sports.
  4. Family is always a safe area. Parents love to talk about their kids and this can provide you with common ground to bond over.
  5. Don’t view attractive female colleagues as something to be avoided. Think of them as sisters or girls you grew up with and treat them like anyone else.
  6. Don’t worry about how you’re being perceived by others. Focus on learning from your coworkers and collaborating to create the best possible results.
  7. Come up with networking goals before conferences and events. For instance, decide you’re going to meet three new professionals in your industry and learn three specific facts about their background and current position.
  8. Praise coworkers on their professional abilities or share a technique that’s brought you success. Remember tip 2 – listen more than talk.
  9. Don’t stick to your clique at work. Attend some of the social team-building events to meet new coworkers at all levels and build genuine connections.
  10. Don’t assume your new female contact is less accomplished or educated, or needs your assistance. What you might view as “help” might be perceived as condescension. Get to know her background and treat her as a peer, not a subordinate.

Remember, most of your coworkers want to minimize awkward moments, too. Authentic and positive work relationships benefit everyone – and if you reach out to women in your workplace and industry in a respectful way, that’s exactly what you’ll build.

We’re Not in High School Anymore: Moving From the “In Crowd” to Inclusive

Inclusive

The workplace can feel exactly like high school. You have the class brain that has the right answer in every meeting. The bored employee who likes to sit in the back, play with their phone and hope they don’t get called on. The social butterflies who are on every committee, organizing baby showers and charity events.  And of course, you also have the jocks.

Ah yes, the jocks. Let’s think about their role in high school. Usually they’re the most visible of all the students, eclipsing even the valedictorian and the troublemakers. They attract a lot of attention from fellow students, teachers and even people around town who come to their games. As such, they usually have the confidence to express themselves openly and they tend to launch trends or set cultural norms, like how to dress, act, or even how to greet each other. (e.g. “Hey man, how’d it go last night?”) While some students resent the jock’s popularity, others admire and emulate their behavior.

And of course, many jocks – accidentally or on purpose — intimidate or exclude those who don’t conform. The outsiders who don’t comply with the code of popularity often feel marginalized or even bullied.

That about sums up the jock archetype, right? I think we can admit that we’ve all seen these dynamics play out in the workplace as well.

Here’s the thing, though. In some ways, those high school jocks are as invisible as the class wallflowers. No, really. The jock archetype is so defined and well known, the spotlight so intense, that all the other traits are often lost in the shadows. This doesn’t always become visible until after graduation. I realized this when I thought about the athletes I knew in school; one went on to be a famous animation designer, while another followed a spiritual calling and became a pastor. And another jock started a hair salon.

These classmates went off the prescribed jock trajectory  – and it makes me wonder if they too felt limited or silenced in high school by the one-dimensional stereotypes assigned to them. It’s quite possible they didn’t feel able to express their true interests. Which makes me wonder if the workplace is just as limiting. Would our “jock-like” colleagues (or any colleagues for that matter) appreciate the ability to expand and exhibit other qualities? Are we too quick to assign roles to our coworkers and exclude or interpret accordingly?

For instance, if we view our project manager as the humorless “class brain” who never stops working, we may exclude that person from team-building happy hours. Or if we think of the sales team as a bunch of gregarious socializers, we might dismiss a complex product idea that comes out of that corner. It’s all too easy to quickly label an employee’s strengths and cast them into an eternal role, instead of encouraging growth and allowing for multi-dimensional interests. Let’s take the case for gender in the workplace, women may not always fit into the male-dominated jock culture (even if they were jocks themselves) and that can foster misperception, create a culture that makes women feel excluded, and ultimately lead to a lack of diverse leadership within an organization.

And it doesn’t only apply to gender. When one strong culture prevails in a workplace, everyone may feel obligated to play the same role, instead of exhibiting his or her own unique gifts and contributions. This article by Jim Dougherty explores how one office came to be dominated by “jock culture” and performed poorly. It wasn’t because workplace jocks are inherently bad; it was because the one-note focus on a certain interest (in this case, sports) created a damaging insularity that drove outsiders to disengage or leave the company. Eventually, the team performance withered without diverse points of view.

Groupthink is the opposite of innovation. Don’t get me wrong, cliques spring up in every big workplace. But when a good portion of your team feels disregarded because they don’t fit in with the prevailing vibe – or when they feel they must stifle parts of themselves to be accepted — productivity suffers. That wonderful synergy that comes from professionals of different backgrounds and interests blending their efforts never gets the chance to happen.

Take a look at your workplace and the roles your colleagues are playing. Maybe some of them would like to expand those roles, make surprising contributions or explore new development areas. So often when we think about talent, we think about finding the right people – but all too often there’s an untapped goldmine waiting right in our own office.

 

 

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

Setting Global Management Priorities in a Shifting Business World

Working globally in business today means more than travelling to an executive meeting in another country. It’s a broad-ranging pursuit that requires a deeper understanding of the contexts in which we work. International business trips not only foster exposure to other cultures and perspectives in your own dealings, but also assist in creating a more worldly approach to every level of a company. For leaders seeking a more global perspective, and wanting to develop global mindset in their teams, here are three ways to set global management priorities:

Look for quality over cost:

In my work with management teams of large international brands, I’m seeing a trend away from seeking labor that is most notable for its low cost. Companies now are more interested in the quality of the work. They’re looking for a more sophisticated ROI, which means skill level, language aptitude and time zone accessibility all rank higher on the list now, too. Cost, which was once the only question asked when looking to outsource or expand, has been pushed farther down. This trend has caused an increase in near-shoring, or companies looking to countries in their same (or closer to their same) time zone, for labor. It has also allowed high-skill workforce areas such as China and India to remain in the conversation, even as the cost of labor in those countries increases. Work ethic, cultural values and timeliness are now of greater importance to global managers than simply selecting the cheapest possible option.

Think beyond the BRIC countries:

In countries with a strong reputation for skilled labor and an ascending economy it’s now more competitive to recruit than it was when these countries were less developed. It’s also the case that BRIC countries come with their own set of challenges that foreign investors have a difficult time overcoming. Brazil’s government stronghold makes business dealings complex, China and the Chinese culture is still a mystery for many American and European firms, India’s infrastructure is difficult to navigate and the political relationship Russia has with other countries is mucking up potentially successful joint venture negotiations.

This isn’t to say BRIC countries aren’t still important markets for foreign business development, there is lots of opportunity.  But it does mean that BRIC countries are no longer as easy to penetrate as we once thought they were. Managers and companies who are looking for the next frontier of a strong labor market might look a bit farther off the traditional map: Indonesia, Chile and Ghana are all labor markets poised to take very well to outside investment. Just this week, a Chinese business group announced it is investing $2B into building an industrial park in the town of Shama on Ghana’s coast. In a few years, business investors will be looking at a whole new acronym for key international investment. Smart managers can take advantage of the upcoming shift by investing now in South East Asia, West Africa, South America and other burgeoning economies.

Renew your investment in management training:

With the rise of virtual workplaces, there was a shift away from formal management training. But company leaders have found that there has been a management and leadership deficit. In John Kotter’s recent blog, Management is (Still) Not Leadership, he points out that managers are less skilled today and individuals don’t necessarily know how and when to lead.  Today, companies are reprioritizing training teams to work more effectively, especially in virtual environments. Companies are now investing more time, money and importance in training global teams and managers are seeing the need to invest in programs so employees are well equipped to lead in global context.

The productivity and retention of employees, especially in a global team that doesn’t work in the same office, can be greatly increased by investing in training on how to effectively manage global projects and dispersed teams. Along with management training, performance management is becoming a critical issue as companies have more employees in more places. How companies assess and develop managers is becoming a critical point of investment and attention, as there is a focus on business growth and demonstrating ROI. This rapid growth makes training vital, both for internal employees moving up in the business and new employees coming in. Formal learning programs in both team and personal management skills will deliver a huge return on investment, especially in global company that is growing rapidly.

By focusing on these three management priorities, companies will set a globally-minded intention at the top and business will see efficient, more productive work from existing employees. In a growing business it’s better to make one smart, considered decision than to make two quick, wrong choices. That’s why I encourage managers to look beyond bottom line in outsourcing labor, to think beyond the common and increasingly popular BRIC countries, and to maintain a commitment to training employees in a continued, deliberate way.

How Managers Can Cultivate a Global Mindset

No manager in a growing business would say he or she isn’t willing to do what is necessary to help the company succeed. Yet many of them consider investment in global mindset training to be an add-on rather than a necessity. Global mindset training isn’t an optional area of casual interest for employees. It fills a strategic tactical need of operating in today’s business setting. By implementing the following changes regarding what it means to have a global mindset, leaders will grow their bottom line, improve communication and open new markets to their companies.

Prioritize personal exposure to differing perspectives. In an ideal world, every manager would do a six-month “study abroad” in a country other than his or her home nation. As much as we might like to believe that the Internet makes these kinds of experiences unnecessary, this kind of enriching experience is invaluable in understanding how cultural differences shapes business and purchasing decisions. Anyone who thinks the Internet has made the world completely homogenous has probably not spent six months in a country other than the one he or she was born in. Opening your own mind to the differences in cultures will help you understand what kind of perspectives you might encounter in global expansion, international sales negotiations or hiring discussions for a new regional vice president.

Employ anthropology tactics inside the company. While a six-month “study abroad” may be too much of a commitment in today’s world, employers should encourage managers to travel and visit with employees in their local office(s) on a regular basis. There is no substitute for meeting in person and seeing where employees spend their working days. If leaders approach their business meetings with the perspective of an anthropologist, they will more quickly get to the root of global business challenges. When observing staff in their home office, or even listening to how they interact over the phone, consider how their concerns might differ from your own. By learning to ask the right questions and listen with more precision, an anthropological approach will help you meet business colleagues with an understanding of their own unique perspective and motivations.

Pursue global mindset at every level of the business. While making global mindset a priority starts with upper management, executive staff aren’t the only people involved in implementing it across a company. Personnel in human resources, public relations, and corporate communications support those executive leaders. It’s just as important that staff in those areas have a global mindset as well, because they’ll be doing much of the practical work involved. Messaging for the company’s internal and external copy, meeting and training scheduling, presentation layout and tone are all tasks that need to be handled in a way that is culturally and globally sensitive. Making global mindset a priority for the entire staff, not just those who often travel internationally, will ensure that both everyday and long-term actions of the business are sensitive to the needs of other cultures.

Make face-to-face meetings a priority.  It’s true that technology has allowed businesses to complete entire large-scale projects without ever meeting in person. Sometimes they are completed without ever talking on the phone. But while this kind of work is now possible, that doesn’t mean it’s the most effective way to get things done. Research shows that if a project team meets in person even once during the course of a project, their productivity increases by nearly 50 percent. It might seem cheaper to complete a project in a completely virtual environment. But in reality, investing in travel budgets for the people on a team with members in different areas means better work done faster.

Devote serious resources to global mindset training. Competing in a global world is only one reason to devote resources to continuing training in how to communicate and interact with different types of people. A company with a continuing and well-designed program in these areas will raise retention rates for employees, be able to compete for talent, and be better equipped to access new markets and expand. A globally-minded business is also in a better position to develop products that meet the needs of more groups of people than a company with a narrow idea of its consumer. Learning how to communicate across cultures and perspectives should not be a half-hour slideshow during employee orientation. It needs to be a continuing partnership between managers and outside trainers with the same priority as training on customer management, product changes or selling techniques. By offering a program around skills in global mindset, behaviors and perspectives can be trained and changed to be more understanding and respectful of different types of people.

Global mindset is not just about understanding cross-cultural communication, it’s about understanding not only who, but also what and how to do businesses successfully across borders, regions and perspectives. By taking the topic of global mindset seriously for their teams, managers can leverage their resources more successfully and support company growth worldwide.

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.

Global Leadership – Skills Global Leaders Need

The McKinsey Quarterly sited a study where 76 percent of senior executives said they believe their organizations need to develop global-leadership capabilities, but only 7 percent think they are currently doing so very effectively. However those companies who are getting it right in terms of global leadership development and acting as true global players are coincidentally taking three key actions: 1)Diversifying their boards culturally and linguistically, 2)Hiring and promoting from other country locations into top leadership positions (not just from the home country where headquarters is located), and 3)Decentralizing procedures and processes to a variety of locations around the world. For example, Bayer, the German pharmaceutical giant, housed their global IT system at the US subsidiary, not at headquarters in Germany. A seemingly radical move by most traditional expansion strategies.

Skills global leaders need to be successful:
  • Experience living abroad.
  • Cultural sensitivity, collaborative skills and a greater focus on emotional competencies.
  • The ability to accept that a particular situation my not be like anything they are familiar with.
  • The capacity to motivate, influence and enable individuals across cultures to uphold corporate culture and accomplish company goals.
How can leaders develop global skills?
  • Travel often and participate face-to-face in meetings with colleagues from the location.
  • Practice getting comfortable with ambiguity.
  • Be open to new ways of doing things, spend more time listening and less time speaking.
  • Commit to Global Leadership Development programs or participate in seminars.
  • Understand what’s going on-line and use all forms of technology to communicate with team members located globally.

Many say that we are at a leadership deficit in the business world and not only do we need existing leaders to improve their global skills, we need 1000s more truly developed leaders who can think, act and lead globally. Leadership is becoming more and more important in terms of motivating employees, facilitating new innovations, and driving projects forward. Are your leaders and is your organization prepared?

We’ll talk more in detail next month on how to assess and find the right global leaders.

For more information on how to work globally, contact us info@lamsonconsulting.com