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.

Five Friday Highlights: Mindfulness and Happiness

Gender Parity

I just returned from a great trip to Buenos Aires, working with women at SAP on advancement strategies. The group was energetic, positive, and receptive to learning. We enjoyed each other’s company and I feel positive these women will apply what they learned!

This week, I’m stepping back from the cultural observation to focus on selections that are more universal in nature. We are always wise to be continuous learners, about work and life in general.

Who doesn’t want to be happy and successful? In Want to Be Happy and Successful? Brene Brown Says Do This, I loved the seven recommendations shared by Dr. Brown. I was especially struck by “It is so important to feel who we are without needing material goods or hobbies to validate ourselves.” So true!

Sometimes, when I read articles like the one referenced above, I am grateful to have had enough life experience to know why advice like “it is important to feel who we are” is so applicable. Although I don’t think it makes sense to assume millennials “don’t get it” regarding many pieces of life advice, I do agree there are some lessons you can only  learn by living them. Maybe 8 Habits That Make Millennials Stressed, Anxious and Unproductive can at least help a millennial or two bypass the worst of it. One of the best pieces of advice is to avoid “hanging out with anxious people.” It has certainly been true for  me. We absorb the vibes we surround ourselves with.

We absorb the vibes we surround ourselves with. {TWEET THIS}

When I read Workplace Stress:  Do You Know Where it Comes From?, I was intrigued by a few of the suggestions. I especially keep turning this proposed strategy for managing workplace stress over in my mind: “Look for opportunities to learn skills or take on more responsibility.” While it seems counterintuitive to take on MORE when you’re already feeling stressed, perhaps for some people, additional responsibility that is more aligned with their skill set may actually reduce stress.

Speaking of taking on responsibility, none of the entrepreneurs featured in 20 Successful Entrepreneurs Share the Most Important Lesson They Learned in Their 20s avoided taking on massive amounts of it. Each of them learned valuable lessons along the way. This one is still kicking around in my mind: “You can never fire anyone too soon.” While the reference is to being decisive, I suspect part of that lesson is “you have to hire the right people in the first place.”

No matter what your generation or geography, I am a strong believer in the power of mindfulness. In Musts for Being Mindfully Present, Scott Mautz reminds readers that mindfulness “reduces aggression because the ego doesn’t come into play as you’re focusing on what’s in front of you, not what it says.” We could all do with less aggression in the world, right?


On a closing note, I am thrilled to announce that I have been accepted by Inc. as a regular contributor! I will be writing on topics related to cultural awareness and global business. It’s all extremely exciting and I’ll be looking forward to sharing my articles with you!

inc logo melissa

 

Traits of Global Leader Part 2: Be Mindful

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

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

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

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

Listen to People

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

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

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

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

Broaden Your Reach

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

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

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

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

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

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