It’s very obvious that the way we work today is very different from 50, or even 30 years ago. Honestly, it feels like we can even narrow that down to 10 or 15 years ago, as well. Technology has changed the way we work, and in many ways, it’s for the better. Where you work, and with whom, has now expanded beyond what we could have imagined. If you’re sitting in an office, only working with individuals who have the same background as yourself, and who came from the same university programme, well, it’s safe to say you can no longer call your company a contender in the larger global market.
Today, in order to compete on a global scale, you have to have a global workforce. There’s just no getting around the benefits a diverse employee base can provide, including critical thinking and problem solving skills that are produced from a variety of environments, leading to more solid, hybridized solutions.
It’s very obvious that a willingness to communicate, a lot of patience, and being open minded go a long way in fostering a healthy cross cultural work environment, but what does it take to actually lead a global workforce?
You have to do a lot more than just provide a global written and face to face communication platform to allow workers to collaborate. Essentially, that just makes a manager, which is great, but it requires a different set of skills to become a leader.
The good news is, anyone can be a leader. This isn’t just something that is limited to certain titles and roles. A customer support representative can be just as much a leader as a VP, in the sense that a leader is someone who shines, who takes charge and is willing to stand out from the rest of the crowd. And when it comes to being a leader for a global workforce, there are a few things someone can do to obtain that hands-on experience and the skills necessary to blaze a trail.
One of the best things someone can do if they’re interested in leading a global workforce is to get global experience early on in their career.
Ideally, this would be as early as possible, such as a college internship, but it’s never too late to expose oneself to other cultures in a professional environment. This could be taking classes abroad for a semester or a “continuing education” course if you’re out of university.
It can also be joining social groups that focus on a culture different from your own, to gain exposure to other languages and cultural norms. Another great way for global experience is volunteer work abroad. This could be a short stint in humanitarian aid work, or a nationally recognized program.
There are even non-profit organizations that offer “vacation” packages where you can spend a week or two on the premises, fully immersed in the food, language, and culture, all while contributing towards a good cause. While the latter examples may not be categorized as much as “professional”, they can still provide valuable experiences that can translate well in a professional environment.
A leader in the global workforce also takes strides to understand their audience. Let’s face it – there are some things that just don’t translate well. For example, a strong, fully independent sales representative may be celebrated in the United States, but not so much in other cultures, where a more collaborative environment promotes winning together.
Taking time to learn, not just the social cultural norms, but also the working culture in the environment you hope to lead, plays a big part in whether or not your efforts will be successful.
Focusing, as well, on the communication skills that work best for that particular culture, is another way to help ensure you are more accepted, and not just viewed as someone who’s rude, careless, and out of touch.
Working with a mentor isn’t a bad idea, either. It can be an individual who has a solid position as someone you would consider to be a great global leader, or a person who has extensive life or professional experience and would be thought of as an expert in that culture.
A mentor that has already made mistakes and learned from them can share their wisdom to help you skip over in making those same mistakes. They can also offer critical feedback in areas like communication, and can guide you through the “do’s and don’ts” of how to effectively execute new ideas.
Make sure your mentor aligns with your goals, and can help push you at times to reach them. You will need to make sure you mesh well, and it’s important to not just consider a mentor for how well they look on paper. This person has the ability to help guide your career, and you want someone whom you can trust, and who will take the role seriously in pushing you outside of your comfort zone.
It’s crucial to remember that being a leader in a global workforce goes beyond a title and manager/employee hierarchy.
It’s about how you set yourself apart in promoting healthy relationships for your company and striving to carry those around you forward in being well rounded, and stronger together.
© Human Resources Global