Today, more than ever, differences in culture and a lack of empathy and understanding among populations around the world have contributed to war, the global COVID-19 pandemic response, hatred, poverty, misunderstanding, and so much more. By becoming more globally aware and empathetic, different groups of people would perpetuate a climate of tolerance and greater understanding.
As a business executive working in markets around the world, it is critical for you to continuously develop and nurture your global mindset to successfully communicate across borders and cultures, adapt quickly to the changing needs of your customers and other key stakeholders, and fully leverage your human capital around the world more effectively and empathetically.
A true global mindset allows business professionals to improve workflows, increase efficiency and productivity among your global teams, and tap into the creativity and ingenuity of your people around the world. It is crucial to view business through this lens when entering new markets or expanding your international presence.
Do you have a global mindset? How about your team?
Here are 5 steps to ensure you’re on the right path:
Recognize your own cultural biases and preferences to avoid ethnocentrism.
To develop your global mindset, it is crucial to be cognizant of your own reference criterion and unconscious attitudes towards your own cultural values, experiences, and knowledge as a basis for decision-making. You must also avoid ethnocentrism, which is the idea that your way of life, culture, group, race, country, etc. is superior to others. This inhibits your own objectivity.
Instead, do your best to maintain an open mind, appreciate the views of others, and show empathy towards the people and their cultural norms and beliefs when communicating with them. Showing respect and appreciation will always pay off in the long run.
Understand the elements of culture.
Culture is comprised of language, norms, beliefs, symbols, values, and cognitive elements, which are passed from one generation to the next. It is a symbolic continuous, cumulative, and progressive process that occurs over time. Culture is shared, learned, social, transmitted, integrated, and changing.
For example, UAE and its Emirati inhabitants practice cultural traditions using historical Arab and Islamic values, which can be observed in everyday life in their architecture, cuisine, attire, religion, and government. Most notably, UAE is governed by Sharia Law, which serves as a legal guide and as a moral and ethical guide.
No one culture is the same. No one culture is objectively “better” than another, but different. A global mindset helps you objectively understand and appreciate the differences, which professionally may contribute to an increased likelihood of a successful working relationship.
Of note, multi-cultural organizations boast greater diversity, resulting in increased and improved creativity, productivity, innovation, and problem-solving.
Do your research.
Arguably the most important step in developing a global mindset is to conduct proper market research to identify cultural similarities and differences. Prior to entering a new market, your organization should perform economic, political, and cultural assessments. Extensive research helps mitigate risks regarding improper behavior, etiquette, expectations, and norms.
It is vital to understand communication norms, workplace etiquette, organizational hierarchy, and social expectations to successfully enter international markets. An open mind is necessary to avoid having your judgment be clouded by preconceived notions and stereotypes.
A global mindset is based upon individual abilities to leverage knowledge, skills, and qualities to adapt to the ever-changing global landscape. (Read more about international workplace etiquette).
You must recognize that distinct cultural elements across your organization will very likely both help global operations and lead to lasting professional and personal relationships with individuals around the world. These relationships are vital for continuous expansion and success because your local team members will always understand their culture better than you ever will.
Know how to approach different cultures.
Cultural differences can provide a competitive edge in the global marketplace. Once extensive research is compiled, it is important to value the differences and respect the researched cultures’ norms. Part of the process is to understand different personality traits.
For example, Japan and South Korea are high-context cultures, a type of culture where individuals use contextual cues to understand people and their communications. The Japanese and South Koreans generally value trust and personal relationships. Whereas in the U.S. and Germany, low-context cultures focus on individuals relying on direct questioning to understand people and their communications, where individuals value efficiency and performance.
A global mindset allows you to gain the confidence and trust of international colleagues because of your dedication to practicing cultural norms, signaling respect for their culture. Not all organizations are prepared to work internationally, in which case transformation and change management exercises may be considered. (Read more on change management).
Understanding Globally-Accepted Personality Traits for Success.
The Big Five Personality Traits are generally viewed as the most accepted theory of personality, reflected in one’s behavioral tendencies across a variety of situations.
- Extroversion: whether someone is outgoing and derives energy from being around other people.
- Conscientiousness: the degree to which someone focuses on goals and works towards them in a disciplined way.
- Agreeableness: how an individual easily handles stressful situations and heavy demands.
- Openness to experience: how an individual seeks new experiences and thinks creatively about the future.
- Neuroticism: an individual’s tendencies towards anxiety and depression.
Regardless of the culture, you must have an appreciation for the Big Five Personality Traits. An understanding leads to greater success in your international communications because they help you better understand yourself and others. They also improve relationships and increase future positive interactions in business and otherwise.
Assess your organization’s current and long-term desire for international exposure.
A global mindset entails assessing global management strategies and adapting best practices to meet the needs of your own organization, your customers, and other key stakeholders.
What type of international company are you? Where do you want to be?
International companies focus on exporting their goods or services from their home market abroad. While some elements may change in other markets, the core business stays the same.
Take global delivery company UPS. Its delivery model stays the same regardless of where you are in the world, even though they have a variety of international connections and audiences.
When a company employs a multidomestic strategy, it tailors its products and services to different countries or regions. This strategy tends to be used when preferences vary substantially across local markets.
The multidomestic strategy sacrifices efficiency in favor of emphasizing responsiveness to local requirements within each of its markets. Little international interaction will be required by your team.
One example of a multidomestic company is Ford Motor Company. Ford produces the same vehicles and adjusts them for different markets. Take the best-selling F-150 truck in the U.S. In Mexico, it’s called Ford Lobo.
A global strategy includes having standardized products and services for world markets, often followed when the company needs high efficiency rates. This strategy offers your team members greater opportunities for international collaboration than the multidomestic approach.
A global strategy stresses the desire to achieve economies of scale by offering essentially the same products or services in each market, regardless of the continent or region. The global pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, follows a global strategy.
A transnational strategy involves balancing the needs for local responsiveness and global efficiency through a complex network of highly interdependent local units, thus allowing your team for plenty of opportunities for international involvement.
Think Ikea, the Sweden-founded ready-to-assemble furniture (and other things) company. Ikea has characteristics of both a global and multidomestic company. Its aim is to maximize local responsiveness but also gain benefits from global integration.
EXTRA TIP… #6
LEADING with a Global Mindset.
After reading these tips, think if you have what it takes to take your organization to the next level. Change can only be implemented with the help of a dedicated leader that is committed to the transformation.
As an executive, you must be driven, self-aware, a good listener, and empowering. Your management must be highly involved at an international level to account for cultural differences across your organization.
Successful international operations are the result of adapting to the unique cultural norms and expectations of each country or region in which you operate, while maintaining efficiency and your eye on the expected outcomes. You must also learn about and appreciate cultural differences and behavioral norms to avoid conflict among employees of different nationalities.
There are many ways to develop and strengthen your global mindset. While the basics are included in this list, the best way to strengthen your global mindset comes from direct international exposure and experience.
This doesn’t necessarily require traveling, although it is highly recommended that you visit the countries you wish to do business in. Have a conversation with someone who’s worked internationally or people with different cultural backgrounds from your own and try to identify what similarities exist and what makes the other culture different.
Always remember to be respectful and have an open mind. The world is becoming increasingly interconnected, and a global mindset ensures you and your organization stay ahead of changing trends.