Archives For global alignment

Last week we discussed working across boundaries and implementing a systems approach. This week, I am continuing the theme with an expansion of what it means to work across boundaries and some suggestions to help you do so successfully.

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

… working across organizational lines

… working across supervisory or leadership levels

… working across functions

… working across corporate entities (partners, resellers, etc.)

…working across customer lines

… working across physical confines

… working across cultural differences

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As a leader in a global environment, it is essential for you to set the example and create communities where people unite around a common purpose and values.  Working collaboratively to accomplish a shared vision that makes a powerful and positive impact on the global business is absolutely vital to your success!

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Can true collaboration occur in cross-cultural and virtual environments? Absolutely, IF you, as a leader, are intentional about building collaborative environments, modeling collaborative leadership practices, and creating opportunities to bring people together for both organizational and personal benefit.

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The truth is, you have a choice to make. We are all experiencing an extensive lag that will impact each and every one of our careers and will result in very serious consequences to every one of us – this is nothing new.  You are increasingly expected to do far more, with far less, in a much shorter amount of time. The question becomes, what are you going to do about it? How are you going to equip yourself to successfully keep up and accomplish the Herculean tasks that are expected of you?

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The answer – You are going to develop yourself! Leadership Development is not just a catch phrase anymore – It is a necessity if you are to be a productive, effective agent of innovation and growth… if you are to survive and prosper in this ever-changing, autobahn we call the global marketplace. As such, it is time you took it very seriously and, as a leader, moved your own development to the forefront of your priorities. Continue Reading…

While a vision develops a picture of where the team is going and creates a shared sense of going somewhere specific together, your team charter will help you to more effectively collaborate across boundaries and borders, set expectations, design performance management systems and provide a mechanism for evaluating your virtual teams. However, the charter is not the end of the process. The charter is the launch point for creating useful dialogue that will ultimately facilitate the team creating it’s mission statement – the coming together of the virtual team’s vision and charter.

The vision, charter and mission are critical for all teams, however when leading virtual teams they become vital to your success. Because you work with teams that do not work in a shared physical environment with cues acquired through daily interactions, it is critical that your charter provide explicit guidance on overall expectations.

The formation of a charter is the most effective when developed by the team, creating a joint focus and buy-in to the overall contents of the charter.  Work diligently with your virtual teams to develop each area of the charter. Similar to how the vision provides a desired destination in living color for your virtual teams, the charter will provide a clear road map to guide them toward that final destination. In addition, by working through the components of the charter together, the team will be focused on their joint objectives and common path. It provides a significant opportunity for you, as their leader, to help your dispersed teams come to a common purpose, ensuring everyone has a shared understanding of where they are going and how they will get there as a team.

The formation of the charter creates a graphic, detailed picture of the vision – clarifying roles, boundaries and communications processes.  The most important aspects of the charter are:

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Both the ancient Romans and Greeks called all foreigners “Barbarians”. The North Africans call their mountain people “Berbers”, Arabic for Barbar. The Europeans, until the late 19th century, called everything in North Africa “Barbaria”. The word “barbarian” refers to the uncultured, or those with unrefined communication skills – both explicit and implicit. The way we express ourselves is predetermined by our differing cultures (even if we often do speak the same language). How we communicate ultimately determines how we are viewed as global leaders. Damaging miscommunications can (and do) happen frequently when working across cultures, but they can be avoided if we apply some cultural intelligence to our diverse interactions – in particular, understanding the differences between high and low context communications and leveraging both for personal and organizational gain.

High Context cultures communicate meaning not only with words, but with voice, tone, body language, facial expressions, eye contact, speech patterns, and the use of silence. Words play a relatively small part in the overall meaning of the communication, and the context conveys the bulk of the information. People in high-context cultures, such as Asia and South America, tend to take time getting to know one another, providing for an understanding of the broader context of a conversation. This results in knowledge of what to expect, what signals to look for, and how to interpret subtle signs or expressions – fewer words need to be said.

Low Context cultures are expecting explicit communications. People want detailed background information before making a decision, however they are generally unaware of subtle nonverbal signals going on around them. Documents and contracts are not taken seriously unless written or signed – details must be provided. For example, in the United States and Germany (both low-context cultures), contracts with numerous explicit clauses are a normal way to conduct business and the written word is taken quite literally. In low-context cultures, expect detailed documentation – thorough job descriptions, detailed accounting, and lengthy business planning documents. The devil is in the detail.

When communications become challenging, it can be tempting to access your “barbarian-reflex”, especially when messaging becomes unclear. But, as you can imagine, it is completely ineffective to view your colleagues, staff, or even clients as “foreign” or “unrefined” simply because they do not communicate as you do. If you are motivated to communicate effectively on a global, multi-cultural level, you will need to invest in building trust – the more you come to know someone, the less you tend to look upon him or her as a “barbarian”.

If your purpose is to ensure your colleagues and staff reliably implement to your specifications across the globe, the strategy you choose will vary depending on the cultural orientations you are working across. In those high-context cultures, your strategy will need to be relationship and trust based and may not be explicit – more soft-skills based and time intensive.  In low-context cultures the purpose of communication is to transfer information and your strategy will need to be explicit, efficient, and detailed in order to ensure the correct implementation. A sound strategic approach that is rooted in cultural orientation will be imperative to your overall success in the global organization.

As a global leader, everything you do conveys a message. Leveraging high-context and low-context cultures means relying on both implicit and explicit communication – carefully ensuring that what you say (low-context) is always mirrored by what you do (high-context). When there is alignment, you automatically build trust across all cultures  and your strategic approach becomes less diverse by nature – your message becomes stronger, and you can more readily achieve your global organizational goals, exceeding everyone’s expectations.

Please feel free to contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website atwww.LuminosityGlobal.com. Be sure and check in next Thursday as we begin a series on Leadership Lessons From Around The World!

Globalization and rapidly changing technology continue to sweep the world. Organizations working across international and cultural boundaries face significant challenges as they seek to reach and maintain market leadership – however, inherent in those challenges are often unrealized opportunities. One such opportunity, Multicultural teams, offers a wealth of leverage to the discerning global leader. Our research repeatedly identifies the following advantages when multicultural teams are leveraged effectively:

–       Global economies of scale and scope are realized

–       Effective global learning & knowledge transfer takes place

–       Global strategic capabilities are enhanced

–       More innovative products and services are developed

–       Better understanding of customers across multiple geographies is achieved

–       Strong cultural intelligence fostering competitive advantage is accomplished

In today’s complex global marketplace, success depends on a company’s ability to work effectively across different geographical locations and cultures in order to drive innovation and capture market share. Leaders must go beyond motivating people from very different cultural backgrounds, experiences and leadership styles – they must create an environment that facilitates multicultural teams to collaborate effectively across boundaries and borders. There is simply no better better way to understand and strategically exploit the global marketplace.

The truth is that most organizations under-utilize their multicultural teams as strategic assets. When properly developed, such teams contribute significantly to the growth and success of the organization and to its bottom line. In fact, multicultural teams are one of the most consistent sources of competitive advantage for any organization who deploys them – they are effectively the bridge between the workplace and the marketplace.

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