Archives For Cross-cultural

This past week, I found myself in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park. I went with the idea that I would relax and enjoy the long holiday weekend… and I did. However, as I observed a forest with both old and new growth, I also could not help notice the trees ravaged by sickness and fire. I found myself thinking about what the forest has to teach us about business…

The forest is a global entity made up of individual components with very different characteristics, yet at the same time is very interdependent upon one another.  In business, the term “Think Global/Act Local” was originally based on the idea of customizing standardized products and services for regional consumption in accordance with the local language, currency, culture and regulatory climate. The challenge arose as we lost sight of our interdependence as a global entity. Not surprisingly, localization encourages each country of operation to develop its own customized solutions and operational procedures. This results in data silos around the world and companies operating with huge information blind spots across the spectrum – the forest can not thrive as it should. It can take weeks, even months, to collect, reconcile, translate and analyze regional performance – much less consolidate a global view of the corporate picture. As I looked around and considered this, it occurred to me that if global is seeing the forest, then local is tending the trees. With only a view of the forest as a whole, it is possible to overlook the trees that need attention. Up close, it is easy to focus on the detailed care of each tree, but lose sight of its contribution to the overall forest. Balancing both viewpoints is critical to keeping the trees in the forest healthy. Global corporations are like a forest – a sum of its parts – consistent, meaningful and effective local practices must contribute to the success of the whole. Continue Reading…

Innovation.   Integration.   Motivation.

Once again, three simple words…

However, each of these is extremely complex and rarely executed.

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In order to win the war for global domination, we must engage both our colleagues and our employees on three key battlefields: Innovation, Integration and Motivation. This week, we will address the second of these combat zones: Integration.

The rapid pace of change and the growing number of collaborative technology solutions has enabled virtual work while the demand for skills from around the world has made it a necessity. However, collaborative teamwork is not intuitive. It’s far more than dealing with technology and time zones – it is about people and the value that cross-cultural, cross-functional integration can bring to the organization. Continue Reading…

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A great leader must be a great communicator. However, communication in a global context means communicating successfully across boundaries and borders. Cross-cultural communications are complex – often difficult and easily misinterpreted or misunderstood if not skillfully navigated. The ability to successfully connect across cultures can be facilitated, not by trying to understand the many nuances of every culture, but by understanding that there are basic orientations (or perspectives) that, if understood on a continuum basis, can foster the potential for leaders everywhere to leverage cross-cultural communications for a new energy boost to high performance in an increasingly complex global environment.

The truth is that there are very few leaders or companies on this planet that truly embrace cultural differences and leverage them for global success on a personal and organizational level – yet cross-cultural communications are an invaluable lever to global success. Those of you who are managing across countries and regions and who are willing to get the best out of the rich melting pot of cultures that you navigate, have the ability to build virtual bridges between cultures and geographic locations, creating thriving teams and organizations, that will enable you to become a Game Changer vs. a Game Player through effective global and interpersonal communications.

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As those of you who read my posts frequently know, I travel internationally a lot and I truly love experiencing other cultures and different ways of life! This past spring I had the opportunity to return to Turkey for pleasure instead of business… Here is what I was thinking about:

I returned to a city with an ever-evolving modern character that is still, at its core, bound by tradition. As I was observing the frenzy of activity going on around me in the only city in the world that resides on two continents,  I began to think (once again) about how there are unique leadership lessons in every environment.  It is easy to overlook the reminders that abound and think to yourself, “what can I learn from a country that has been riddled with unrest, struggles with human rights issues and is in a constant state of flux?” Yes, these things are true… but it does not negate the fact that Turkey is a beautiful country with beautiful people and there are some important reminders (lessons) that impact how we interact with people as leaders and how our views, as leaders, affect those around us. I have found that often, a change in scenery offers a valuable change in perspective.  Here are just a few of the things that came to my mind as I experienced, once again, one of the most amazing cities in the world:

  1. Business and personal relationships do not have to be mutually exclusive…

Living and visiting countries all over the world on a regular basis throughout most of my life, I remain very aware of how unique one location is from another. However, it also reminds me that despite the differences, there are some core foundations that we should all observe and deploy. In the western culture, we tend to believe that work and life are separate. However in Istanbul, where East meets West, business and personal relationships are heavily intertwined.  The diversity and complexity of individuals is shaped not only by their culture, but through relationships that are consistently valued and continually evolve throughout a lifetime. As I attend client meetings that are focused solely on getting know one another better, I am always reminded how the Turkish people, in general, only do business with people they know, like and respect.  In Turkey, business will only materialize if effective personal relationships are built. This is not only important in the moment, but throughout a lifetime. Later, as I made a visit to the world famous Spice Bazaar, I was reminded once again how relationships can thread through our lives –  both as people and leaders – as I stopped to chat with a shopkeeper and was invited in… not just for a sale, but to build a relationship. We chatted for twenty minutes, shared some delicious apple tea (a hospitality must in Turkey), and exchanged contact information. On my next visit will I stop in and purchase from Iskandar? Of course, but I will also recommend this particular shopkeeper to anyone I know visiting Istanbul!  As leaders, it seems to me that we could be infinitely more effective if we slowed down (both in our personal and professional lives), borrowed a page from the Turkish playbook, and took the time to get to know our colleagues on a more personal level – facilitating an extensive and priceless network of not only colleagues, but friends, that will benefit us for a lifetime.

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In today’s competitive environment most of us work across borders of one kind or another, but for me it is at the core of what I do… who I am.

The reality is that we live in a global economy – with instantaneous communication, online connectivity, unlimited tools, and the ability to see and interact with people on the other side of the world. You have to pause and ask yourself – how hard can it be to interact successfully with supervisors, subordinates, suppliers, customers, and/or partners from around the world? As it turns out, a whole lot harder than it looks…

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From personal experience, I can tell you that helping people accelerate as effective leaders in a global economy is complex… and critically important. Continue Reading…

What Is Global Anyway?

October 15, 2014 — 1 Comment

I was recently speaking at a conference and I was asked about a term that is near and dear to who I am – Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders. You will see (or hear) it in almost everything I do – you will hear me refer to it when I speak publically… in general conversations… and when I write. You see it on my blog header… on our membership site (The Global LABB or GLABB)… and on our corporate site, as well.  Although I refer to “Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders” frequently, this was the first time I can remember that an audience member stood up and asked about LABB in a public forum. I found this so interesting – it is so much a core part of my being… yet I realized I had never stopped to actually define it for others outside of myself and those closest to me.  I have been unfair. I will try to remedy my faux pas through not only explaining my terminology as a core component of myself, but also by defining each piece of it from my view of the world over the next few weeks.

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So, I will begin by talking a little about history and about the definition, my definition, of Global…

Those of you who have followed me from the early days know I have had a very unique and fortuitous background. My “global career” actually started at a fairly tender age. My father, a Fire Chief, began moving our family around the world – exposing us to language, food and all manner of culture when I was just twelve years old (and I was none too appreciative at the time!). We did not typically live with other Americans – we lived with the locals… as the locals (again, not perceived as a plus as a teenager). In Spain, we played with the local children in the abandoned plaza de toros and ate in the local ventas, while in the Philippines we hiked deep into the jungle with the aborigines, exchanged candy for hand-made weapons and attended indigenous festivals in the local villages… just a few examples. I unknowingly learned what it meant to be a global citizen and what it was to See The Forest Through The Trees… forming my earliest impressions of local innovation, and how, when taken in context, it can be leveraged for global knowledge. I understood and integrated with the local flavor, while realizing the value of global scalability. Funny how things you learn come back into focus again and again throughout your life if you pay attention… Continue Reading…