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The Global Boardroom

As you look forward, it is always helpful to look back and gain perspective. Today’s organizations are more global, aligned and proactive than even just five years ago. The rapid pace of globalization and the growing number of collaborative technology solutions has enabled virtual work practices to accelerate – while recent current events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, demand that organizations worldwide change the way they engage customers. No longer is it viable for global customer teams to work in a microcosm and expect global customer objectives to be met. The demand for cross-functional, cross-cultural skills from around the world has made working across boundaries and borders a necessity when partnering with global customers. However, collaborative teamwork in global environments typically is not intuitive. It’s far more than dealing with technology and time zones – it is about people and the value that integrated intelligence can bring to the organization.

Post COVID, we see increasing customer challenges as people are getting back to work in hybrid and virtual environments – however, from challenge comes opportunity. As developing strategies for mitigating the risk of customer destabilization overtakes economizing, organizations will increasingly need to leverage strong value chains while stringently considering the bottom line. That balance will drive the success (or failure) of global companies moving forward. Although technology and the digital value chain are on the rise, without the comprehensive knowledge and collaboration of people interacting with global customers, we will continue to struggle to find that critical balance…and global customer opportunities will suffer.

Often, even though organizations may be consolidating for cost management and scalability purposes, the walls of the individual functions, channels and regions have become even thicker. As a direct result, it is harder for you, as a leader, to build end-to-end value chain functionality in an ever-changing global marketplace. It has become increasingly difficult to gain agreement on specific, customer focused initiatives or broader organizational change.

This is not a technology, process or policy problem – it is a people problem:

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Past.Present. Future.

October 26, 2021 — Leave a comment

Given the worlds extensive history and diverse variety, it is interesting how many common concepts, such as time, are rooted so firmly in a similar manner in very different societies. What is commonly not recognized is that each culture has its own notion of these concepts that are present across all cultures.   The general concept of time is very clear, however context and value vary widely. Because a person’s perception of time influences the way s/he understands time and behaves in respect to it, we ultimately have diverse views of time that are reflected in culture.

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As a global leader, time is not only invaluable, it is an essential concept to understand and leverage as you work across boundaries & borders. Worldviews, or orientations, held across a geographically diverse workforce varies widely. While time is an essentially universal concept, the nature and essence of time can be strikingly different across cultures.  If observed and leveraged, each orientation offers pearls of wisdom worth considering and leveraging in your multi-cultural communications.

In cultures where time is considered scarce, it is similar to a valuable commodity – it is carefully saved and allocated judiciously.  From a scarcity perspective, it is viewed as critical to plan, delegate, learn to say no and set strict priorities. As a global leader, you may communicate with cultures that view time as scarce and it is critical that you value time and maintain an efficient and practical pace within all interactions. Be clear on goals and priorities, apply timelines, clarify ownership, and always communicate effectively and efficiently.

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Shifting Paradigms

October 5, 2021 — 2 Comments

A great leader must be a great communicator… and more. Communication in a global context may mean communicating differently 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.

It is well known that in order to accomplish career and organizational goals, a global leader must be able to influence in ways that are not only clearly understood, but resonate across many channels and geographies… in multiple ways.  This equates to not only having the capacity to communicate effectively, but also encompasses less obvious capabilities such as: 1) seeing and understanding alternative perspectives 2) comprehending culturally diverse values, beliefs and assumptions 3) integrating different cultural perspectives to create new solutions and 4) resolving conflicts in culturally appropriate, productive ways. In it’s entirety, this equates to cross-cultural competency.

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.

Integrating cultural orientations into your communications will allow you to unleash exponentially more human potential to achieve meaningful objectives – you will be better equipped to extend personal and organizational worldviews, bridge cultural gaps, and make communications relevant to a geographically dispersed workforce that will enable impossible futures across boundaries and borders.

There is no viable way around it – your cultural orientations impact the way you communicate. As you begin to have the ability to understand your own cultural orientations and communicate effectively across alternative orientations, you will begin to have the ability to leverage cultural differences constructively and for the benefit of all, communicating efficiently and effectively across your global organization. This capacity is of the highest importance for success in an interconnected and increasingly global marketplace.

In the highly competitive global markets in which we all reside, the aim is to achieve concrete impact and tangible results that are enabled through maximum performance across all regions. Challenging cultural assumptions and looking at yourself and your entire extended network (including customers) through a different cultural lens, and communicating back through that lens, will propel you beyond your previous limitations to discover creative solutions that are outside of your proverbial box – leveraging cross-cultural differences to achieve business results well beyond anyone’s expectations.

Are you prepared to shift your paradigm for global success?

For the next several weeks, I will be discussing specific cultural orientations that will facilitate successful communications and business results.

Please contribute to the conversation and feel free to contact me at sherilmackey@gmail.com. Check back soon for the next installation on Global Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders.

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 each component is dependent upon the other.  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.

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A Happy New Year

December 30, 2020 — Leave a comment
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As the New Year approaches, I find myself reflecting on both the remarkable challenges and inherent opportunities that have presented themselves over this past year. It would be an outright untruth to say that 2020 hasn’t seriously tested us. However, while it has been extremely demanding of our hearts and our minds, that doesn’t mean we should overlook the truly good things that this year has brought us.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Winston Churchill

As I look back, 2020 was an incredibly difficult year for the entire world, but there were small blessings along the way that we should all appreciate:

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