Category Archives: workplace culture

Becoming a Global Manager

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.

The Global You

So, what is the solution, other than the slow process of convincing these companies that they are missing a trick?

The Mindful International Manager

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.

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Creating A New Workplace Paradigm

I really like John Philpott!   Who is he?  The Chief Economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK.  I had found myself nodding in agreement as I read his blogs on the CIPD website, but I definitely came to this conclusion listening to the talk he gave last night at the CIPD Chiltern branch meeting.  http://www.cipd.co.uk/branch/chiltern

Dr. Philpott was talking about the challenges of HR in the current economic climate.  Unusually for an economist, he refrained from making predictions about the duration and type of recovery we are facing, but he suggested that the difficult times ahead could be an opportunity for rethinking the whole workplace culture and concept of employee engagement.  ‘Creating a new paradigm’ has become a bit of a  cliché lately, but as you will know if you have ready some of my previous blog entries, I really agree with him on this subject.  This is not only an opportunity, but a necessity!

Particularly in the private sector, employers have taken away security in the form of lifelong employment, solid pensions, training and career development opportunities from their employees.  This has been accepted virtually without protest for fear that the alternative would be severe job losses.  And in many respects I admire employers’ creativity in this recession, that they haven’t automatically reached out for the hacksaw to reduce costs.  But in many ways this has profoundly damaged the trust between employers and their employees, so going back to the old patterns and relationships does not seem to me a viable option.

The good news is that it’s not only up to employers to design and implement the newly enlightened, highly productive organisation.  It is up to all of us.  Let’s communicate in all directions, not just top-down.  Let’s put employees at the heart of the organisation for real, not just for lip service.  Employees need to show how they can be engaged rather than bought, management practices need to be reviewed, the gap between the ostensible organisational culture and the way-we-really-do-things-round-here needs to be closed.  As Tom Peters (another person I really like!) says, ‘I love the idea that the employee is a client!’

What do you think the productive workplace of the future will look like?  Can you think of any existing models for it?  What actions or words would help most to rebuild the employer/employee trust?

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