Many of us pride ourselves on being citizens of the world, adept at having our passports at the ready to travel to a new business environment or culture.

But having a truly global mindset goes beyond a flight to the other side of the world. It’s a genuine desire to better understand other cultural and business norms, and to actively attempt to free ourselves from the innate view that our practices are the best way of doing things.

Challenge your mindset

We are all programmed to make micro-judgements in any situation, and half of the time these are such a deeply embedded part of our psyche we aren’t even aware we are doing it. Taking time to reflect on how our cross-cultural interactions play out can be hugely revealing.

At networking events do you make an effort to connect with others from different cultures? Or do you tend to gravitate towards those from a similar background to your own?

Before a meeting with a colleague or customer from another country, do you take time to understand what the norms and etiquette in that setting may be for the other individual or do you just wing it, trusting that being friendly and polite is the universal way to develop good relations?

Self-awareness about the cultural values and biases you bring to the table is vital to foster an attitude of acceptance regarding others’ ways of working.

The power of curiosity

Establishing common ground

There will always be common ground from which to start building a relationship. Examining likely similarities before your meetings, focusing on these at the start of a conversation and then fleshing them out further will help to build a mutual focus at the beginning.

Having a mutual high-level goal that is agreed on from the start will help ensure you can get past any roadblocks at a more detailed level by elevating the conversation back to the initial objective.

Understanding differences

A good dose of curiosity and empathy is required to best understand differences.

Being curious is not without risk. Opening yourself up to new cultures and perspectives can make you feel vulnerable and pushed outside your comfort zone. Yet this is a necessary stage in developing a global mindset as well as creating a global career. The occasional social or cultural faux pas in the quest of learning should never be a deterrent.

Don’t be afraid to keep asking questions to understand the nuances. Language is a prime example of the importance of perseverance despite mistakes.

Often, there are numerous attempts to clarify and uncover the nuanced meanings of what is said as well as the intent behind it. When both parties are open-minded, patient and possess a genuine curiosity and respect for one another, it ultimately leads to a deeper understanding.

Building a global team

Ensure everyone in the room has a voice

Not every culture believes in speaking up in a group setting. Create the space to ensure that those team members who are known to be quiet or reserved feel comfortable to contribute—whether that’s taking a pause and letting them fill the silence or directly asking for their input.

At our ChapmanCG HR leaders round tables, we always encourage active facilitation to create an inclusive environment and help ensure we hear from everyone in the room.

Giving people a voice might also include inviting feedback in different formats, including email following a meeting or online forums.

Focus on the shared vision or outcome

We all have different ways of doing things. By focusing on a shared vision or outcome, people can work towards a final result/shared goal in the manner that is best for them and their local environment, and still achieve the outcome you both want.

Add a personal touch to virtual working

As a global business, we rely on shared values and a level of respect for colleagues, irrespective of level or background, to help our teams to work effectively together in a virtual environment.

While having the right technology is important, such as Yammer and Skype to improve real-time conversations and reduce email traffic, it is adding a personal touch that can make relationships work online.

This can be as simple as turning on your camera during a team meeting or discussion, since it is always easier to understand the nuances of what someone is saying when you can see their facial expressions or body language. For example, if someone doesn’t understand something you can see the look of confusion on their face, whereas on a call this may just translate as silence.

Technology is the enabler, but having the right culture by setting expectations and allowing people to feel they can speak up is the key to making it work.

Respect time zones

Having constant access to technology means that our working day is continuing to bleed over into our personal day, and being in a global business with different time zones can make this even more of an issue.

If you have a global team, there is always someone at the end of their day and someone at the beginning. Being considerate of others’ time zones and sharing the balance of early morning or evening calls is important. Early morning and late evening calls can create additional pressure not only on our work lives, but our personal lives as well.

Having a standing catch up at a time that works for both people can help, or rotating timing so that there is not always one person or team that has to take the 7am call.

Spend time on the ground

Taking time to visit your colleagues in their local environment can help you to more fully understand their operational challenges and opportunities, as well as how the local market fits into the global picture.

Allow your team members to take the lead in showing you around and introducing you to the business and broader market. This helps to build trust by empowering them in their roles, and strengthens your relationship by demonstrating that you are willing to invest time in them and their market.

Building relationships is more challenging when talent is remote and business leaders are spread across the globe. Truly global HR leaders have to go the extra distance to learn more about cultural expectations, workplace norms and the nuances of all their relevant markets. This is the hallmark of a global mindset, and the foundation for any effective global HR leader.


Global mindset