About two years ago I was mentoring a young Russian graduate, helping him with the process of applying for graduate trainees programmes at international companies. Here is the question that he struggled with the most:
Success at Company X requires our employees to have global mindset. What makes you internationally aware and culturally sensitive?
A month ago I started talking to a rapidly growing IT business in Eastern Europe about possible leadership development interventions. Developing Global Mindset in its leaders was the ultimate goal of the company executives.
How do young people develop it, so that they can prove the graduate recruiter that they have it?
Can senior leaders develop it? Should they? How?
With my young graduate client we spent about an hour “looking for traces” of global mindset and building his confidence that he actually had it (for those who read in Russian I have a case study post on this here). In a nutshell we talked about how important it is to be aware of the consequences of decisions he makes to himself, to his immediate surrounding, to his local environment, the wider community, the country, and the world. And even though he was not making major business decisions at that point, we started examining with him which qualities, capabilities and experiences will enable him for such considerate decision making.
Participating in school or university exchange programmes is a good start, but not everyone can do this.
We looked further. We talked about existing ways he was already developing cultural sensitivity and he did not see much until I asked him about his family, his geographical history. It turned out it all played a role. He grew up in a multicultural family, celebrating two Christmases a year; he was exposed to very free-minded ideas home at times of total oppression, so he learned to navigate between the ‘school’ and ‘dinner table’ conversations; he moved regions, went to a new school, they all spoke Russian there and he did not have any accent, but he was still a minority from a different neighbouring country. All of this taught him to consider options and impact his decisions have on others around him and in wider community.
All he had left to do for his essay was to describe his experience with cultural sensitivities and show how this is a transferrable skill.
If only this was as easy for senior managers.
They are often being asked to be something they do not know. Or they might have an idea of what it is, but have no idea how they do it.
An easy answer in international companies is an international assignment programme — this should do it, the company thinks. (Be warned, this comes with a number of caveats, I wrote about some in one of my previous posts).
But what if the company has an international ambition, great local growth, not enough international entities for a rotation programmes? Then what?
How do we as international leadership development professionals help such companies develop global mindset in its senior managers?
What if we had all the budgets we could ask for? (chuckle) What will be our ideal world scenario?
I have some ideas, I will post them in a weeks time to see what we can gather from the professional community first — please use comments box to brainstorm. And please, by all means, feel free to use any or all the ideas in your work.