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.

The New Global Manager: Tools and Tips For Success!

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So you’ve made it! You’re a new global manager. Congratulations. These are exciting times. Our world is changing, becoming more and more connected–and as a new global manager, you will face challenges your predecessors didn’t. Are you ready for this?

Who is the New Global Manager?

Let’s talk about this. A global manager is defined by the work he or she is doing, frequently within a company with a global presence or operations. A global manager is responsible for managing teams of employees or business operations across diverse cultures and time zones, which calls for new skill sets and capabilities.

And, the new global manager is almost everyone working as a manager today.

Whether you’re working for a local, national or international company, you’re working across cultures, languages, regions or countries. You have to be savvy at quickly assessing needs, reading others and ensuring interactions are successful to meet deliverables and accomplish your goals.

There is a New Global Environment!

Business today is conducted in an almost borderless, boundary-free marketplace, made of multiple countries, cultures, languages, ethnicities and time zones. The number of companies with international offices and plants continues to grow as people from a broad range of countries move and settle in new locations.

Technology connects all of us 24/7 to geographic locations about which we’ve only just begun to learn. In truth, you’ve probably already noticed that the number of people you work with or come in contact with on a daily basis, has changed. Your employees and co-workers may well have backgrounds that are very different from your own.

There are three significant reasons for this.

Let’s start with the most obvious. The first: An increasing number of U.S.-based companies are doing business internationally. For example, more than sixty-eight percent of the top 250 U.S. retailers have foreign operations, according to a report published by Deloitte. And, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO), global trade growth is projected to stay above-trend. This growth in international operations is expected to continue.

The second reason for the new global environment is U.S. Demographics have changed dramatically. According to the Pew Research Center, immigrants are driving overall workforce growth in the U.S. New foreign student enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities doubled between 2008 and 2016, from 179,000 to 364,000, far outpacing growth in overall college enrollment. As the report stated, “Once arrived, rising shares of immigrants have become citizens, and naturalization rates are up among most of the largest immigrant groups.”

Finally, the third reason for the new global environment is that more American managers work for companies that are headquartered outside the United States. Companies like Burger King, Budweiser, Medtronic, Purina, McDermott, Seagate Technology, Good Humor, Frigidaire, and Actavis/Allergan are among the iconic U.S, company names that have moved headquarters from the United States to other countries in the past few years, according to a report by CNBC.

In the new global environment, managers work with teams of people from different cultural backgrounds, locations, and levels of experience. This rapidly changing global environment, with diverse customer demands, new markets, and digitalization means managers need to react quickly in situations of extreme complexity and ambiguity.

Mastering the Art of the New Global Manager: OAR and 4DCulture Tools

As I explain in my new book, The New Global Manager, to be a successful New Global Manager, you’ll need to incorporate a combination of skills and new tools–like the OAR process. Use the three following steps, Observe/Ask/React, to quickly assess any situation more accurately.

The basic rule for OAR is that when someone behaves unexpectedly, instead of responding immediately you stop, and Observe. What did they do or not do that surprised you? When another person’s behavior doesn’t match your expectations, it’s time for the second part of OAR. It’s time to Ask Questions. Once you’ve gathered more information, then React.

Another tool New Global Managers are employing is called 4DCulture. When you know you’re going to be in a situation with someone whose culture is different from your own, you should do some homework. The 4DCulture tool will help you analyze the cultural forces that may be in play. The tool gives you a way to make your first determination about how you’re going to act and then to ask the questions and analyze the situation so that you do better.

The New Global Environment is all around us.

Suffice it to say, immigration and globalization trends will not reverse any time soon. They will drive the environment you work in every day. Advances in technology further stir the pot, making it more likely that you will have frequent contact with people with diverse norms, perceptions, and values. You will, of necessity, need to develop a global mindset and perfect your global management skills. This is an exciting and challenging time for all of us.

Do you need help getting up to speed as a new global manager? Contact me. I have more than 20 years of experience in international leadership development, coaching, and team-building, and have helped countless individuals and organizations to be more equitable, productive, and happy. I can help you too.

Ten Never Fail Strategies for The New Global Manager:

  1. Check your assumptions at the door
  2. Slow down, speak clearly, and use slang sparingly and carefully
  3. Add ‘in country X’ to indicate you are thinking globally
  4. Memorize five facts about another country or culture
  5. Act like an anthropologist: Observe and listen
  6. Seek out global news sources
  7. Travel adventurously, but take precautions
  8. Ensure everyone contributes in meetings
  9. Give constructive feedback but consider the receiver
  10. Alternate meeting times to accommodate time zones

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo: 123rf.com

Global Mindset Provides Competitive Advantage

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Research proves the rapidly-rising importance of the Global Mindset.

A Global Mindset is critical for success in business and success as a leader and is the one skill you must master for competitive advantage today. One skill that applies across every industry and every marketplace. How do you, as a leader, and your organization rank in mastery of the Global Mindset? Do you know?

Mastery of the Global Mindset.

I’ve talked about this before. Data from the GMI Index study, research published by CultureWizard in December 2017 shows mastery of a Global Mindset drives competitive advantage in business. Among the most important findings from the GMI Index Study, are three, which underscore the rapidly-rising importance of intercultural skills:

  • More than 82 percent of respondents rated the international component of their companies’ business as “extremely significant.”
  • Nearly half (45 percent) spend more than half their time on international business activity.
  • Almost one-quarter (24 percent) spend more than 75 percent of their work time on global endeavors.

“The Global Mindset Index (GMI) demonstrates that companies which actively support their employees gaining a Global Mindset are far more likely to achieve their business objectives than those that don’t. With almost 1,400 participants representing global enterprises from every region of the world, the respondents indicated that their work involved significant interaction with others in the global arena,” writes Charlene Solomon, of CultureWizard.

What is Global Mindset?

According to the GMI Index Study, Global Mindset is defined as  “the ability to recognize and reflexively adjust to cultural signals so that your effectiveness is not compromised when dealing with people from different backgrounds.” According to Dr. Mansour Javidan, Garvin Distinguished Professor at Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, essential elements of a Global Mindset include:

•   Intellectual capital: Global business savvy, cognitive complexity, cosmopolitan outlook

•   Psychological capital: Passion for diversity, a quest for adventure, self-assurance

•   Social capital: Intercultural empathy, interpersonal impact, diplomacy

“Leaders who have a high level of Global Mindset are more likely to succeed in working with people from other cultures, he writes, in an article for the Harvard Business Review. “Leaders with a strong stock of Global Mindset know about cultures and political and economic systems in other countries and understand how their global industry works,” he continues.

Of course, it’s important to point out that mindsets can apply to both individuals and organizations. Leaders who possess a Global Mindset can, and do, encourage their teams to adopt a Global Mindset. Companies that embrace Global Mindset tend to promote those employees who demonstrate mastery.

As the GMI Index Study points out, the same organizations are twice as likely to have highly motivated multicultural teams and tend to experience fewer of the cultural missteps, which can damage productivity and business relationships. In these instances, the company, and its stakeholders benefit from the adoption of the Global Mindset.

Globally-minded businesses have a competitive advantage over companies with a more narrow focus. These firms can develop products and services that meet the needs of customers and prospects located across the world. But competing in a global marketplace is only one of the reasons adopting the Global Mindset is so crucial today.

An organization that embraces Global Mindset can identify emerging opportunities earlier than its competitors. It benefits from having a more sophisticated understanding of the tradeoffs between global standardization and local adaption, faster and more effective new product introductions, and facilitates sharing best practices and activities across cultural boundaries.

The Global Mindset Inventory (GMI)

At this point, you may be wondering how to move forward in mastering the Global Mindset–for yourself as the leader, and for your team or organization. I work with clients located in countries across the globe. I recommend, and use, the Global Mindset Inventory, which is a psychometric assessment tool that measures and predicts performance in global leadership. Developed by the Thunderbird School of Global Management, the Global Mindset Inventory is a web-based survey consisting of seventy-six questions that measure your Global Mindset in three capitals and nine competencies.

After you take the GMI assessment, you will receive a scored report, documentation with feedback, and recommendations and suggestions to improve your Global Mindset. You can use the GMI tool for yourself as an individual and for your staff. You can also bring in a consultant to conduct a workshop to help you and your colleagues identify ways to master the Global Mindset.

As I have said in the past, the Global Mindset isn’t just about cross-cultural communication. It’s about understanding not only who, but also what and how to do business successfully across all borders, regions, and perspectives. And given the state of our world today and its burgeoning global marketplace, mastering the Global Mindset is not only vital–it is the one skill you must master for competitive advantage today and in the days to come.

Contact me for more information about mastering the Global Mindset. And join my online global leadership community for valuable tips and training on conducting business internationally.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo credit: Simone Busatto on Unsplash

5 Ways to Become a Leader–Fast…And Get People to Follow You

Ways to Become a Leader

Have you ever imagined yourself becoming a leader? Think about it. You’d be great. But if what’s holding you back is not knowing where to start or how to chart your path to leadership, I can help you.

Leadership is vital, and good leaders can be hard to find. A new global survey, published on February 1, 2018, revealed that only 14 percent of CEOs believe they have the leadership talent they need to execute their strategy. According to the Global Leadership Forecast 2018, what’s keeping C-level executives up at night is the need to develop “next gen” leaders and failure to attract and retain top talent, which presents an opportunity for anyone who has ever dreamed about assuming a leadership position in their organization.

Here are five ways to become a leader-;fast. Each of these recommendations is an essential element of building your path to a leadership position.

1. Develop a Global Mindset. Companies like Ernst & Young and McKinsey have polled and found that leaders today are lacking in global awareness and knowledge, otherwise called “global mindset.” The research states that these skills are crucial to the success of a business.

The Globe Project first put its stamp on this term when the extensive research was done in 2010 on what, how and why a leader can be successful in an international context. Today, no leader works in just one place or with only one culture. If you have employees, you work with people from all over the world, and in different geographic locations. Whether your team is local or global, you need to become savvy at working across diversity.

The Globe Project produced an assessment called The Global Mindset Inventory to “test” a leader’s ability to work across cultures and countries. The categories evaluated include:

  • Intellectual Capital: The hard knowledge and skills in social, governmental, and legal aspects of a particular environment
  • Psychological Capital: The interest and desire to work across ambiguity and willingness to explore the unknown
  • Social Capital: The experience and “soft” skills in diplomacy and intercultural communication

2. Become a Thought Leader. The trend is for internal leaders to create thought leadership around a particular topic. Sheryl Sandberg became known for women in the workplace, Jack Welch is known for management, Richard Branson is the expert entrepreneur, and Elon Musk’s brand is innovation. If you want job security, more visibility, a better brand, leadership notoriety, and more meaning at work, you should consider initiating a topic or theme that you can become known for, establish a legacy around, or be the expert in.

3. Create and State “Mantras.” I’m not sure if it’s truly politically correct to use the term “mantras” as I think it has religious meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism. However, it’s meaning is crucial: “Phrases that are repeated again and again.”

Have you ever noticed how top leaders have catchphrases they say regularly? It might only be for a quarter or a year, it can vary, but they use them to establish ideas and make them memorable. Repeated use of words gets others to use them, and then eventually, according to social psychology, people start to believe those words and act on them.

If you want to make an impact on your manager, company culture, your team, or even externally, you’ll want to craft such mantras or catchphrases for yourself. Make sure they align with your values, principles, and actions for them to be authentic.

4. Be a Great People Manager. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, the truth is, only about 45 percent of those who become managers actually receive management training. The trend is that those who are really good at their job, or experts in a product or process, get promoted to management. And those promotions don’t necessarily mean they can manage individuals or teams well.

Learning how to balance individual contributor work with management responsibilities is essential. Being able to give critical feedback, teach employees a particular skill, or help them figure out their career path takes practice.

Seeking out management courses both internally and externally will help you speed up that learning curve of not only ensuring productivity and engagement from your team but assist in charting your leadership trajectory.

5. Enlist a Coach or Mentor.  Everyone needs help. Why should you go at it alone? Seek out a professional or find someone who will agree to mentor you. You can ask them anything you want to – how to navigate the organization, who to network with, how to solve a conflict, where to discover new interests, how to plan your career path, etc. Both coaches and mentors can give external and internal perspectives, depending on who you choose and what you need.

Becoming a leader takes work. Becoming a good leader and positioning yourself as a candidate for leadership in your organization requires focus, passion, and dedication. And, if you employ those things as well as the five essential steps I have listed above, you will attract the attention of the people who promote leaders in your organization-;and become a leader yourself.

Do you have questions or need more information about how to chart your path to leadership? Contact me.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Lamson is the CEO of Lamson Consulting, Founder of the highly popular leadership program for women, Advancement Strategies for Women, and creator of award-winning management programs for SpaceX, LinkedIn, and SAP. As an author, consultant, and speaker, Melissa accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by growing leaders, bridging cultures, and empowering teams.  More About Melissa Lamson

Cultivate a Global Mindset For a Better Bottom Line

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The face of business has changed. You may have employees working globally, doing business with people from other regions or countries, or you might be relocating executives across cultures. The fact is, the global industry is the new norm. And your team needs to cultivate a “global mindset.” In today’s global marketplace it is critical for people to efficiently work together across borders and time zones to achieve business success.

Even more, we have a moral and ethical business obligation to be savvy about how the world works. By this I mean we need to be aware of the nuances of political systems, cultural norms, and the psychological mindsets of those whom we do business with and for. Without this savviness, we can’t truly understand the world and what it needs to run successfully.

Still, studies show many leadership programs fail at preparing future leaders with the skills needed to excel in today’s global business world.

What are these programs lacking?

The tools necessary for employees and organizations to cultivate a global mindset. A global mindset describes one that has a genuine desire, knowledge, and the skills to operate effectively in business today. One needs to know how to negotiate with vendors, sell to customers, and lead productive teamwork across regions – often in multiple countries at the same time.

This is just as important as legal counsel, marketing, sales, or a business strategy. Cultivating a global mindset shouldn’t be optional, as it fills a strategic, tactical need of operating in today’s global business. It is just as important as other business operations.

The number one agenda item

The number one agenda item for today’s corporate leaders looking to sustain business success should be finding talent with a global mindset. The team that cultivates a global mindset will be able to:

• Assess new markets

• Understand customer behavior

• Negotiate with vendors

• Secure contracts and commitment

• Navigate cultural nuances

• Build long-term business relationships

• Run complex projects

• Manage high-performing teams

Start cultivating a global mindset with these four tips

1. Get off your computer and get on a plane. As much as we might like to believe that the internet makes experiences like “study abroad” unnecessary, this kind of enriching experience is invaluable for understanding how cultural differences shape business and purchasing decisions. Opening your own mind to the differences among cultures will help you comprehend the kinds of perspectives you might encounter in global expansion, international sales negotiations, or hiring discussions for a new regional vice president.

2. Cultivate a global mindset at every level of the business. While making it a priority starts with upper management, executive staff aren’t the only people involved in implementing a global mindset across a company. Personnel in human resources, public relations, and corporate communications support those executive leaders. Making global mindset a priority for the entire staff, not just those who often travel internationally, will ensure both every day and long-term business actions are sensitive to the needs of other cultures.

3. Play memory. If you’re working in a new region of the world, do some research online and memorize five facts about the 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 credible. And by making an effort to learn about their culture, you’ll gain respect by showing genuine interest in your new associates.

4. Share your experiences. When you travel, read global news and books, or watch international films, and share your experiences. By sharing your experience with friends, families, and co-workers, you plant the seeds of a global mindset within them. Create excitement about learning about the world.

Ready to go global?

Are you—and your employees—ready to go global? You can find out by taking the Global Mindset Inventory (GMI) assessment. The GMI measures Intellectual, Psychological, and Social Capital to reveal both strengths and areas to develop. GMI also coaches individual assessment-takers to interpret their results and create a plan of action. Learn more about the GMI assessment here.

Cultivating 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. But if your team needs help with global business skills, contact me. I can help.

A version of this post was first published on Lead Change Group 

Image: Antonio Quagliata from Pexels

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

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

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.