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Thinking globally: why seeing the international picture matters for your career

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As you conduct your daily business, your thinking is likely limited to the boundaries of your current workspace - the immediate priorities on your boss’s workload, the emails at the top of your inbox, the goals and deadlines needing attention right here, right now. Even when you log into LinkedIn, a network of 500 million worldwide members, your timeline is a walled matrix populated by connections you already know.

 

This focus on ‘local’ is a major problem for business leaders, finds a report by DDI. Its 2014/15 Global Leadership Forecast suggest that executives are woefully unprepared for the challenges posed by a globalised working world: only 34% say they are efficient leaders across countries and cultures; only 39% recognise themselves as having intercultural communication skills; and just 45% are confident of their abilities to integrate into foreign environments. 

Secondary school teachers who apply the principles of ‘global learning’ to their lesson plans, report more engaged classrooms full of students whose increased understanding of the world enables more proactive and lateral thinking.

Source: Global Thinking

 

 

Thinking globally “exposes us to new perspectives and things we have never known, and it takes us out of our comfort zones,” writes business leader Aaron McDaniel in a feature for personalbrandingblog.com. Both factors that could impact your future success “in ways you have no idea it would”.

We can become very wedded in the ways we've always worked and communicated with people.

Niki Dow
Senior Director, Technical Communications, ARM

Speaking at the everywoman Forum: Advancing Women in Technology 2017

New York-based management communication lecturer Dr Susan Mach agrees. “Focus that’s too narrow is dangerous to our personal happiness, in terms of missed opportunities or wrong turns. And it’s a career killer. Not seeing the big picture can lull us into staying in a dead-end job, getting hired by a company that's unethical, or land us in a dying industry,” she tells The Financial Professionals’ Post.

So how do you employ international thinking from your local viewpoint? 

 

TRAVEL WIDELY – FROM YOUR DESKTOP

If overseas business trips aren’t on the agenda, find alternative ways to take a detour from your Internet history. Instead of letting your lunchtime browsing be dictated by who you’re following on LinkedIn, go off in search of short lectures on topics you wouldn’t normally explore, TED talks from diverse speakers or news stories from lesser known publications. 

In his reflections on creativity, Renaissance man Leonardo Da Vinci observed that everything in the world is connected and that the more you consciously practice making connections between the seemingly unconnected, the better you hardwire your brain to problem solve on a higher level. By taking the time to delve beyond the headlines and explore the significance of worldwide events and issues, you might just hit upon solutions for problems in your immediate environment.

 

SCAN THE HORIZON FOR DIVERSITY

A diverse organisation is a rich source of information on cultures, backgrounds and alternative thinking. Take a holistic view of the faces in your eye line, and ask yourself what you could learn by taking an active listening approach in a conversation with someone outside your immediate circle. 

Social networks have the power to connect the world, and yet most of your social media contributions probably only reach the screens of past and current colleagues. As you read about and explore the world from you desktop, take the time to ‘reach out’ to interesting individuals far and wide, and give your network the power to grow exponentially.

“This global perspective garners diversity,” writes McDaniel. “Diversity of not only what you see, but diversity in the experiences you have. I have worked in very diverse industries from technology to consumer goods and in business functions from sales to operations to marketing. This diversity of perspectives and experiences has been extremely valuable as I have progressed in my career.”

This focus on ‘local’ is a major problem for business leaders, finds a report by DDI. Its 2014/15 Global Leadership Forecast suggest that executives are woefully unprepared for the challenges posed by a globalised working world: only 34% say they are efficient leaders across countries and cultures; only 39% recognise themselves as having intercultural communication skills; and just 45% are confident of their abilities to integrate into foreign environments. 

 

For Zaid Al-Hadhrami, Associate HR Director and Diversity & Inclusiveness Leader at EY, taking every opportunity to gain insight into different cultures can have huge knock-on effects in business.

He tells everywoman: “An EY employee from the UK received a promising initiation to pitch for new business from a major industry player in the United Arab Emirates. He spent weeks crafting a three-hour pitch, researching the company, brainstorming answers for every question he might be asked. He arrived [in Dubai], chatted with them over coffee and fruit, waiting for his opportunity to begin his pitch. Before he could get started, a member of the client team welcomed him on board, said that after all the great things they’d heard about his work, they were really looking forward to working with him.

The executive returned to the UK in utter confusion. He’d spent weeks building a business case, and it turned out all he’d needed was a personal recommendation and an informal conversation. For all his research, he’d failed to understand that in Middle East and North Africa, relationships comes first.

Being aware, open-minded and mindful of differences are traits that can drive success even if you’re not working on an overseas pitch. As you grow your career, managing diverse individuals and encountering differing points of view, an ability to put yourself in others’ shoes is the mark of an emotionally intelligent, people-focussed leader. 

 

THE JUNGLE GYM ANALOGY

Manny a high profile businesswoman – think Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and everywoman expert Pippa Isbell - has attempted to debunk the myth of the career ladder. A career is not always, they say, a serious of increasingly senior roles played out over many years in one discipline. As portfolio careers, spare bedroom businesses, mumpreneurs, agile working and the freelance boom become as commonplace buzzwords as ‘globalisation’, it’s wise to think beyond the confines of your role, even sector or industry. 

 

With sideways moves, you are growing a golf bag of experiences.

everywoman Associate Nicky Moffat CBE

To future proof your career in an international business landscape, you need to consider the breadth in your skillset. Are you agile enough to face the inevitable curveballs that the ever-changing marketplace will throw at you? If your role were being advertised tomorrow, how might the job description differ from when you first applied? However successful you are in your position, thinking beyond the boundaries and borders of what you do today can unlock powerful thinking about what you’ll do differently in the world tomorrow.

 

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NOTE TO MY YOUNGER SELF: 7 GLOBAL BUSINESSWOMEN REFLECT

LANGUAGE BARRIERS: DEALING WITH DIFFERENT CULTURES IN THE WORKPLACE

UNCONSCIOUS BIAS QUIZ: DO YOU KNOW THE FACTS?

MAKING BETTER DECISIONS: THE ‘12 WAYS OF THINKING' TO STAMP OUT IN YOUR TEAM
 

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