The Three Types of People Shifting Global Mindset in 2014

As we start a new year with personal resolutions to do better and work harder, what are we doing to make the world a more open, communicative place? It would serve our businesses, economies and governments better if more people placed value in cultivating the intellectual, social and psychological capital necessary to have a truly global mindset. That had me thinking: Who is really doing the work to change minds and shift conversations toward a more open perspective?

With these necessary shifts in mind, I’ve compiled a list of the kinds of people who not only cultivate a global mindset for themselves, but are also implementing it in their own spheres of influence.

1. The Female Executive: No single person made a greater impact on the spread of a global mindset in 2013 than Sheryl Sandberg. The internationally bestselling author and Chief Operating Officer of Facebook doesn’t just have an MBA from Harvard and a net worth of a reported $400M. In addition to being a savvy businesswoman, she is also a mother, advocate for women in business and the only woman on the board of Facebook. In her book Lean In, Sandberg has this to say: “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.”

It’s this kind of mindset of true equality, and the spaces into which she brings that mindset, that make Sandberg such an influence in making others globally minded. She works in the male-dominated tech field, at the mostly male executive level. According to San Jose Mercury News, women hold only 10.9 percent of these highest-paid executive positions and board seats in California’s 400 largest companies. Yet Sandberg not only claims a definitive seat for herself: She advocates that more women rise to her level. Sandberg is a global mindset influencer because she is changing people’s minds, globally.

In 2014, there’s another female executive who is poised to change minds in a male-dominated industry. General Motors recently announced its first female CEO in Mary Barra, an electrical engineer and Stanford MBA. With her new position, she has the opportunity to not only shift assumptions about women in management and in the automotive industry, but also how people think about female scientists.

2. The Entertainment-Industry Feminist: In 2013, everyone from Kelly Clarkson to Lady Gaga denounced the feminist label in interviews. Whether because they’d rather identify as humanists or because they think the word is too angry, it has become popular for female celebrities to avoid the label, even as female leaders in society.

Because of this trend, it only makes the entertainment professionals who do embrace the term more influential. In her album released in December, singer Beyonce Knowles championed the term, sampling a TED Talk by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her song “***Flawless.” The second verse of the song, taken from the writer’s TEDxEuston speech entitled “We Should All Be Feminists,” uses the word explicitly and positively: “Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” In addition to being a definition of feminism, it’s also very close to the definition of what it means to have a global mindset.

In addition to Beyonce’s influence as an international entertainment icon and vocal feminist, mother and businesswoman, Adichie herself is poised to make an impact herself. The Nigerian-born writer has been awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, the Orange Prize for Fiction, and the O. Henry Award. In 2013 she was named one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s Leading Global Thinkers. It is these talented women, in an industry that avoids addressing the issue at all, who will continue to influence and change how we think about women, business and feminism.

3. The LGBT Athlete: The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will take place this February. But it hasn’t been smooth skating for this international event: worldwide criticism of Russian’s law against ‘gay propaganda’ has led to threats of boycotting by brands, athletes and international figures including German president Joachim Gauck. Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, which also caused the country’s Ministry of Justice to strike down a proposed LGBT welcome pavilion, are hardly promoting positive change for the athletic community and the world at large. They are also causing thousands of potential attendees around the world to choose against attending the games.

But the world is responding with a more global mindset than Russia has put in place. The official US delegation to the 2014 Olympics includes tennis legend and LGBT advocate Billy Jean King. In May 1981 King was the first professional athlete to be open as a lesbian. The delegation also includes Brian Boitano, a gold-medal figure skater who announced he is gay on December 19 just after it was announced he would be joining the official group. King and Boitano join two-time U.S. ice hockey Olympic medalist Caitlin Cahow, who also is openly gay, in the closing ceremony delegation.

These three athletes, and President Obama who selected the delegation, are putting in the work to change the minds of the people who enact laws like Russia’s anti-gay legislation. Even in 2014, being a gay athlete is a statement, and not an easy one to make. The first openly gay NBA player, Jason Collins, remains unsigned to a team roster following his announcement in April.

As one can tell from the issues each of these influencers is addressing, there is still a lot of work to be done to shift more of the US and the world toward a more open, intellectual consideration. These executives, entertainers and athletes make it clear that having a global mindset isn’t optional, but rather a necessity to be successful in the professional world or their professions today.

 

 

The Legacy of Transformation: Lessons in Leadership from Nelson Mandela

When people are determined, they can overcome anything.” – Nelson Mandela

With Nelson Mandela’s death this month, a global spotlight has been shining on his cultural legacy. Some voices have focused on his role in ending Apartheid in 1994, while others have revisited the ensuing changes of South Africa – the growing economy, the country’s rising profile as a tourist destination and the spread of global investments. Yet while many are celebrating Mandela’s unique and nuanced brand of wisdom, few have applied his lessons toward our ever-evolving business landscape.

If you’ve watched South Africa’s national journey, then you’re no doubt familiar with the country’s values of “reconciliation” and “transformation” – key guideposts lighting South Africa’s path to transformation. Politicians, citizens, academics and business leaders are committed to shaping an environment of forgiveness and cooperation; of becoming a prosperous and peaceful country where differences are resolved in favor of fruitful collaboration and constructive long-term interests.

If you’re asking what that has to do with business dealings, the answer is quite a bit. South Africa today is not only an emerging market but an economic and cultural mirror of Mandela’s legacy. As such, it offers important lessons for businesses all over the globe that want to make a positive impact on the world.

Consider three of Mandela’s lessons in leadership.

Purposeful Work

When I visited Nelson Mandela’s former prison, one part that made a deep impact on me was the rock quarry. He and other prisoners worked here all day in the heat, breaking rocks with their bare hands – even though the rocks were later thrown out. It was brutal, senseless work, and stood in direct opposition to the passion and purpose that Mandela embodied.

It’s worth asking today, regardless of occupation, country or background: what are we accomplishing? How can we ensure our work has purpose and creates value in the world? Meaningful work is not just for the idealistic; all over the world, companies and leaders are infusing their corporate missions with lasting and practical value. Leading the charge are Millenials, who have been vocal in their interest in working for companies that are making a difference.

Moving Forward

One of Mandela’s most admired traits was his ability to forgive. Rather than holding onto anger and the divisions caused therein, he actively sought to embrace the future and foster the opportunities possible with reconciliation. This generous resolve is one of South Africa’s most defining features – and a reason the country has become such a rapid growth market. While severe poverty still exists, the economic outlook has improved dramatically for both townships and cities. Africans from all over the continent come to South Africa for employment, while the nation has become a magnet for foreign investment.

Why has the country experienced such a swift upswing? There’s less competition there when it comes to multinationals, which means higher ROI for many investors. There’s also a high demand for new products and services; South African telecom companies have added over 300 million subscribers over the last years. It’s no surprise that companies like Volkswagen, SAP, Cisco, General Electric and BMW have all found success there. In fact, nearly 50 percent of the American Chamber of Commerce in South Africa members are Fortune 500 companies. By looking to the future, South Africa has catalyzed its own radical economic growth.

Social Responsibility

Sometimes buzz words become so popular that people fail to consider their deeper meaning. This is certainly true of social responsibility, and the ways we must honor the communities we invest in.

South Africa is a country like no other. With eleven official languages, multiple ethnic groups and rapid social change, the nation’s labor force and market conditions present a rich and rare opportunity. Africa as a continent is transforming itself to be a serious economic player, with many countries newly interested in entering that playing field. Yet to establish successful business connections, these international corporations must be committed to Africa as societal whole.

That means understanding the interrelationship between politics, business initiatives and social justice; it also means building relationships that show support and consideration of how a company’s investment impacts a community. Cultural awareness and diversity training, mentorship programs and initiatives that celebrate and honor the local culture are all vital elements in thriving global businesses. One example: SAP, the German software giant, created technology labs to help local children learn to use computers and prepare them for success in an increasingly digital world.

Nelson Mandela has left us, but his legacy of peaceful transformation lives on. Whether your business is seeking global expansion or simply to make a positive impact on its customers’ and employees’ lives, his lessons are worth remembering.

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.

Developing Global Mindset Will Produce A Successful Global Leader

With Melissa Lamson, Interviewed by Hana Al-Abadi

Q: How would you define ‘global mind-set’?

A: Global mind-set means how does one understand the way the world works today. That is; the values, behaviors, and attitudes in business and how does that impact the interactions one has with others in a professional situation. Global mind-set is the next evolution of intercultural communication and diversity because it not only emphasizes those cultural or individual behaviors but goes beyond to investigate how it logistically and tactically works in other countries. For example how are vendors selected, what are hiring practices across countries, and what are other’s expectations in making presentations.

Q: How is a global leader different from a leader?

A: Today, I don’t think there are many leaders that don’t work internationally. And I believe that all leaders need to have the perspective of being able to work and negotiate out of the country context they’re in. But what’s different from a “local leader” is that global leaders are savvy when it comes to understanding how business works around the world and they truly empathize and understand how it works across multiple country locations.

Q: What are the top 3 skills a global leader needs to acquire? Can they do this on the job or is it something that needs to be intentionally trained?

A: Global mind-set can definitely be trained but it does start with a basic premise of will. Such as do I want to understand? Do I accept the fact that I don’t know what I don’t know. So I would say the first skill would be a good global leader asks the question “what don’t I know?” The second skill would be the ability to truly listen and to empathize and ask probing questions. I sometimes say to leaders “act like an anthropologist, observe, ask questions, probe, listen, and reflect back.” The third skill would be to be able to make decisions clearly and quickly in different types of contexts because if someone is too concerned about being sensitive to other cultures, then they are too afraid to make a decision. It’s critical to get to the point, get to the result, make a decision and move on and people respect that around in the world.

Q: You have traveled to numerous countries all over the world, out of all the countries you have visited (if you can choose one) which country do you think has the best way of doing business?

A: I can’t really evaluate “best” but I do like the business practices in the Nordic countries such as Sweden. They have a very strong emphasis on equality between men and women. They really emphasize life balance.  Denmark, for example, consistently gets #1 on the list for the “most content people in the world”. What I also found fascinating was when I was in India, the people have a combination of brain power, technical competence and are also amazingly good at social interaction. The combination of IQ and EQ is truly amazing to see. They are so people oriented and at the same time so incredibly smart.

Q: What about communication best practices? Is there a country or culture that excels in business communication?

A: It sounds a bit biased, but I do like the speed and convenience in the way  the U.S. communicates in business. I think it’s a strength that they take risks, quickly make decisions and move on. I also very much respect the fact that Germany will look at a problem from several different angles so that they understand something thoroughly before they take action.

Q: What is one tip that you don’t  hear about doing business globally that would help executives improve their global business interaction?

A: Leaders generally have a team that work for them – handlers, if you will – and it’s very important that that team is globally savvy. If leaders surround themselves with people like that, then they will look more competent in their messaging, scheduling, way of interacting. The first thing I would do as a leader is assess my entire team – the inner circle working for me – and ensure they know how the world works.

Find out more on Global Mindset and Global Leadership and what leaders need to do to develop both: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXyRadt4Pg8