Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Working Across Borders

Have you worked overseas? Have you considered how you would enhance your conversations with your colleagues, customers and consumers?

With the advent of the Internet, borders have shifted from physical ones to digital to psychological ones. We talk about ‘border-less’ connections, which means we are closer to somebody than we think we are. With the Six Degrees of Separation, we may be more inter-connected than we think and apply.

Having worked in about 19 countries, I continue to learn about what makes people tick differently and similarly. Differences make for uniqueness, whereas similarity builds familiarity. Finding out what matters to people can be integrated into each conversation you engage in.

Which would be useful skills and competencies when working across borders?

1)    Build courage and confidence with each face-to-face interaction.
2)    Speak to internationals and be inquisitive about their culture.
3)    When you are next onboard a plane, engage in mild conversation with the persons next to you (where appropriate).
4)    Observe how proxemics (distance), touching, and seating arrangements matter at meetings and dining.
5)    Apply values that build rapport and trust such as respect, recognition and reassurance.
6)    Asking questions when you are unsure, and especially when you think you are sure. Calibrate your understanding of people, processes and culture.

Enlist a coach to guide you: in-house, external, business, or career. These facilitated sessions can yield many new perspectives so that you can ‘venture boldly where you have not gone before!’ These coaches are sounding pads, sparring partners and platforms to launch ideas from.

Leadership Lessons: How open are you to travel? How quickly do you build rapport with strangers? How do you dissolve your self-imposed barriers to unfamiliar territories? Which are the unspoken rules when you operate across borders? Does the quality of a handshake, smile and nod make a difference?

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