(This article is first published in Japan in the English Journal by my agent ALC Global Leadership and Talent Development Division.)
QUESTION: “My subordinates are younger than me, but they seem much more global-minded. I know I need to change, but I’ve never worked abroad, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to change. How can I become more ‘global’ and continue to be a leader at our company when the world is changing so quickly?”
ANSWER: You’re absolutely right, globalization in today’s business world is rapid and inescapable. Even if you only do business in your home country you still are likely to face growing competition from abroad. You are wise to seek ways to become more ‘global’. Although working in another country is an incredibly valuable experience, you don’t have to be assigned to work abroad to achieve your goal.
What Does It Mean to Be Global-minded? My definition of a global minded person is someone who behaves as if they are a citizen of the world as well as a citizen of their home country. The Thunderbird School of Global Management has a more detailed definition that includes important qualities like exceptional open-mindedness, cultural curiosity, and a willingness to experiment. Start building your ‘global muscles’ today with these experiments:
- Learn About Our World. How many countries are there on Earth? Which are in the top 20 by population? (Most people know the top three are China, India, and the USA, but many people don’t know Indonesia is fourth and Brazil is fifth.) Which have the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP), highest exports, the largest consumer markets? With over 20 million articles in nearly 300 languages, Wikipedia.org is a terrific source of this information.
- Follow Global Business News Daily. If you want to be a global-minded businessperson you need to know what’s going on in the global business world. Find several sources of business news and make it part of your daily routine to review what’s going on globally.
- Study another language. Please note that I didn’t say to master another language. Just learn how to count to 10, say hello and goodbye, and a few other polite phrases, including the most important sentence in any language – how to order a beer! Oh, and please notice I didn’t say to learn ENGLISH! Mandarin and Spanish are commonly spoken languages as well. Learn a variety of languages. But the global business language is currently English, so if you want to be a global businessperson these days you’ve just got to study English. Sorry about that!
- Vacation in Another Country. Don’t take a guided tour! Walk through the cities, hike in the countryside, dine where the local people eat and experience their everyday life. Be sure to learn a few phrases of the language before you go!
- Get to Know People From Other Countries. With over a billion people on Facebook, Mixi Twitter, and other social websites, you can surely find people from other countries who speak your language. Also, there are foreigners in every country. Reach out and make live friends, too!
- Spend Time With Your Subordinates! If they’re much more global-minded than you then you can learn from them. Ask about their experiences and perspectives and then listen with great interest. Not only will you become more global-minded, they’ll admire you more as a leader because of your sincere interest in them.
While there are plenty of differences among countries and cultures, you’ll find many shared human experiences as you explore. Broaden your horizons and perhaps one day you may be a truly global citizen, capable of being at home anywhere in the world.by