Sunday, November 9, 2014

What is a Global Mind-Set?

Andrew L. Molinsky, Thomas H. Davenport, Bala Iyer, and Cathy Davidson state that “executives often feel inauthentic when their behaviour conflicts with their ingrained values and beliefs, and doubly uncomfortable when others assume that it is a true reflection of who they are. They may also feel incompetent, anxious and embarrassed about acting in a way so far outside their comfort zone. Deeper down, they may feel frustrated and angry that they had to make changes in the first place. After all, managers don’t usually have to adapt their behaviour to the needs of their subordinates; most often it’s the other way around. Together, these feelings can prevent executives from making a successful code switch, thus imperiling their careers and their companies’ success.”
Some organisations try to develop global leaders within their ‘home’ culture through various forms of training and development initiatives. The unfortunate truth is that there is no substitute for being in the ‘new’ culture and having to deal with a ‘live’ situation on the ground – this is something that can’t be replicated in a classroom. What the classroom can teach is; what to look for, what to research and make them aware of the discussions that need to take place with the stakeholder.
The best way to develop global leaders is firstly to let them hear from experienced global leaders – people who have had experience entering new countries and hearing their key learning points.
The second way, after having talked with global leaders is to give the potential ‘candidate’ exposure and experience through assignments in a different country as global followers – that’s the quickest way for them to experience the culture without any threat to their career and the ‘overseas’ organisation.  
The problem with the classroom is that it can’t substitute for a totally different culture – where often the ‘trainers’ themselves don’t help the situation as they are from the home country and don’t speak and act in the way their international counterparts would act.
A global mind-set is all about research, flexibility and the ability to adapt to new and seemingly ‘strange’ management and leadership techniques that are an integral part of a countries culture.
Where most ‘new’ inexperienced global leaders go wrong is assuming that their style is best – and since they have the ‘leadership’ position, the organisation and its stakeholders must change and adapt to meet their style. This will always lead to complete disaster for everyone involved – where the leader just gets frustrated with, what they see as, the organisations inability to see how effective their leadership style is and adapt accordingly – or at least that’s the internal dialogue that they have with themselves.
And the stakeholders just get ‘annoyed’ with this ‘outside’ coming in without any respect for their traditions, customs, culture and past successes.
There are enough real life case studies of organisations that have failed on the global stage by trying to ‘force’ their leadership culture on the international stage, and at the same time case studies of those organisations that have been successful.
Patience and professionalism are a key component to developing global leaders who can adapt and adopt a global mind-set; where there is no substitute to experiencing differing cultures on the ground. Even the most experienced and adaptable global leaders will still make mistakes, as all leaders do, but it’s how they react in the ‘culture’ of their environment – rather than maybe their natural, instinctive reaction from their home country – that differentiates between the good and poor global leader.  
As Andrew Molinsky et al conclude “being culturally fluent means being able to enter a new context, master the norms, and feel comfortable doing so. In situations where executives perceive a serious threat to their competence and identity, they often show a strong psychological resistance to appropriate behavior. Learning to be effective at cultural code-switching is the key to becoming a truly global leader.”
Molinsky, A.L., Davenport, T.H., Iyer, B. and Davidson, C. (2012). Three Skills Every 21st-Century Manager Needs. Harvard Business Review, January – February.

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