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.

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.