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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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Welcome to The Amazing Race Series!

As those who have been reading this blog for awhile know, my passion is global business and I love to travel and interact with different people from different places.  Everywhere I go (and I have lived, worked or traveled to over 60 countries), I truly enjoy observing distinct cultures and taking away lessons learned from every place and every culture I interact with.  In fact, a good deal of my life’s work is based on this very concept.

I look forward to taking you on my Amazing Race, where I will share with you what I have learned from various cities and countries from around the world – I hope you can use this information to travel well on your journey through global business.

First, we will visit Japan – Bon Voyage!

I have frequently done business in Japan throughout my career. It is interesting how the country and the culture have changed over time, but beneath its surface lies an extremely productive and effective society.

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To the outsider – or gaijin, as we are known to the locals – Japanese business customs appear to be so deeply entrenched in culture and tradition that they couldn’t possibly be applicable to the rest of the world. But don’t be too quick to write off the value that Japanese business practices offer the rest of the world…

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GLABB: I have been (slowly) working my through an attempt to help you understand how I see the world through my acronym GLABB. Last week we discussed working across boundaries and the implications of doing so. But there was more… so I am continuing this week with an expansion of what it means to me to work across boundaries and some suggestions to help you do so successfully.

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Working across boundaries means many things to many people… It can mean:  Continue Reading…

We all know, without a shadow of a doubt, that without customers there simply is no business – you will cease to exist (from an organizational perspective, of course!). The customer is King, but believe it or not, clients aren’t as hard to win over as you might think… if you put customer service in context.

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What most companies don’t realize (or acknowledge) is that Customer Service is the best, most economical marketing they will ever get. Despite this fact, it is a consistently under-recognized, underutilized asset for 99% of the organizations out there. Much to most organizations’ dismay, they consistently lose revenue due to poor customer encounters and never understand why.

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Gifts

December 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

Knowledge and experience are invaluable gifts .

Have you ever stopped to ponder what you have been given and how you can leverage it for the greatest good?  We acquire knowledge and experience on a daily basis as we go through life, but I have met very few people (and I do have a very large global network) that actually use what they know to maximize their potential. Whether it’s a natural talent or acquired knowledge, very few of us actually take the time to stop and consider how we can best utilize the “Gifts” we have been given.

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Organizations realize how important it is to “know what they know” and consistently try to maximize their collective intelligence – shouldn’t you? In a world where the only certainty is uncertainty, your only real source of sustainable competitive advantage is your own knowledge and experience – and how you leverage them. Your success in this increasingly competitive world depends wholly on how you qualitatively and effectively manage those gifts. Continue Reading…

Recently I was at the World Business Forum. As I listened to what some of the world’s top business leaders considered our most significant leadership challenges, one sentiment stood out for me above all others – Jack Welch made the statement that, “the rhythm of business hasn’t changed in 40 years.” That’s profound… and true.

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Ladies and gentlemen, that was not a compliment! Worse, it was not the first (or second) time I’ve heard that commentary from a top business leader… What is actually so depressing about that statement is the fact that little is actually ever done about it. People love to tell us what our problems are… and even share high-level academic theories and pointless observations – but where is the down and dirty “how” to make things better?

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