Global management talent is still a rare commodity, despite the fact that international travel, cross-border university studies and population mobility are becoming more common-place. Paradoxically, although companies need those global skills more than ever before, in the past two-three years economic pressures have been such, that they have created fewer opportunities to develop that basic talent pool of young people with an international outlook and experience.
So, what is the solution, other than the slow process of convincing these companies that they are missing a trick?
The solution is to commit personally to developing a global mindset as well as you can. How? By relocating, by seeking out new markets for your services and products, by getting involved in international project teams within your organisation and by travelling extensively and with an open mind. The two books I am reviewing today enable you to embark upon this journey of discovery of other cultures, but, even more importantly, on a journey of self-discovery.
I have recently read and used in training both ‘The Global You’ by Susan Bloch and Philip Whiteley (published by Marshall Cavendish) and the new edition of ‘The Mindful International Manager’ by Jeremy Comfort and Peter Franklin (Kogan Page). They are valuable additions to the books discussing cultural differences and their impact on international business, but, unlike many of those, they specifically address the manager him or herself, rather than the intercultural trainer or global HR specialist.
Both are refreshingly jargon-free, accessible and systematic. Both emphasise personal performance within the global context, so really answer the questions ‘What’s in it for me?’ or ‘Why should I care?’ (Which, as any trainer knows, is the battle half-won). Both books also contain numerous real-life examples from interviews with global managers, reflecting on their mistakes and lessons learnt. The difference between them, I believe, lies in the audience they address.
‘The Mindful International Manager’ addresses a more experienced management population, who has perhaps been managing for a number of years and is now being increasingly exposed to international project teams or working abroad. As such, it has more in-depth (and very realistic) case studies with suggested solutions, and carefully distinguishes between national culture, organisational culture and personality or individual preferences. I really liked the way each chapter was structured: an explanation of cultural differences and similarities , then a description of the key competencies required to handle these differences, followed by a guidance to develop best practice. The focus is much more on making teams work globally and in a virtual environment. I really liked the fact that it was suitable reading for managers in other countries, not just the US and the UK, as many of these book in English often are.
‘The Global You’ addresses perhaps a more English-speaking audience, a business person with international aspirations, regardless of whether they are currently managing people or not. As such, the emphasis is more on the individual than on the team. Of course, that is an excellent place to start and it contains valuable learning strategies, including virtual learning, building a personal network and raising your global profile. It feels very up-to-date, containing all the buzz words and concepts that a younger business audience can relate to (m-learning, personal brand, online profile). And that is my one concern: that it may need a revised and updated version very soon, to keep up with the pace of technological advances.
All in all, two titles worth including in the library of any global manager or global learning specialist.