By now, it’s no secret that global companies with above-average levels of diversity outperform their counterparts. But what, exactly, are these businesses doing differently? For one, their leaders embed inclusive practices within their company culture. But effective global leadership requires more than diverse teams and inclusive practices. In fact, a 2018 report conducted by Ernst & Young, The Conference Board, and DDI found that effective global leaders also “operate with different mindsets, not skillsets.”

According to the report, this mindset includes a strong focus on personal development. Specifically, “This development mindset is enabled by organizational practices that emphasize high-quality development planning and more regular conversations on personal development.”

What is a “development mindset?” I think of it as a way of approaching the world with an attitude of curiosity, self-awareness, and eagerness to learn—all of which are perfectly consistent with RW3 CultureWizard’s concept of a global mindset. Here’s how:

A global mindset is defined as the ability to recognize, read, and adapt to cultural signals, both overt and subtle, so that your effectiveness isn’t compromised when you’re dealing with people from different backgrounds. This requires you to know yourself, your work style, and your leadership style, and then learn to recognize behaviors in others and what those might mean in the workplace. If you have enough self-understanding and cultural awareness, you’re then able to adapt your styles for greater success when working in a diverse environment. Put simply, personal development is at the core of a global mindset.

To show you how this works in practice, here are the six key steps to successfully lead with a global mindset:

Recognize Your Own Cultural Biases and Preferences
Many factors influence work-style preferences. From national culture to organizational culture and everything in between, everyone is a product of their environment. In other words, recognizing your own cultural biases can take some serious self-reflection. The good news is that assessment tools—like the CultureWizard Culture Calculator—can really help.

The Culture Calculator is a 40-question assessment that provides a detailed report highlighting your personal cultural preferences. Based on your individual results, you’ll receive personalized tips to successfully interact with individuals and team members who don’t share your same natural preferences.

Appreciate that Other Cultures Have Values and Behaviors Different from Your Own
People value different things. For example, some cultures value clear, concise communication, while others value tactful, nuanced language. Neither is right or wrong; they’re just different. Approaching differences with curiosity rather than judgment is fundamental to leading with a global mindset.

Learn to Recognize Culturally-Based Behaviors
It would be impossible to memorize everything about any given culture. Instead, a global mindset means you learn to recognize that certain behaviors reflect deeply held values. That way, when you walk into a room, pick up the phone, or join a video meeting, you can use cues to determine where someone falls on the spectrum of cultural dimensions and then adapt your behavior.

For example, imagine you arrive at a meeting with people from different cultures. Everyone introduces themselves with their full names and titles. As conversation continues, you notice that everyone continues to refer to each other by their titles and surnames. With that as a cue, it’s safe to assume the people at the meeting are more formal and, perhaps more hierarchical. As such, you can adapt your behavior to act accordingly.

Learn About the Cultures of the People You’re Working With

Whether it’s the culture of your colleagues or a potential new business partner, it’s a good idea to approach new situations with curiosity so you can learn as much as possible about the people and situations you’re going into. Leaders with a global mindset research the history, geography, and other factors that influence their business. This helps to make a good first impression when working across cultures, and it also gives you more background so you can adapt while remaining authentic.

In addition to having curiosity conversations with people from other cultures, our Country Profiles, one-page Pocket Guides, and other resources are great starting points for learning the basics of other cultures.

Develop Personal Strategies to Adjust to Different Cultural Styles
Once you understand your cultural preferences, know how to read cultural cues, and have learned about the cultures you’ll be working with, you can plan for how you might need to adjust your own styles. Here’s an example:

If you prefer to be more transactional when it comes to business relationships, don’t be taken aback if a new client from Botswana or Brazil starts to ask about you, your expertise, and your experience at your company. This just means they tend to value interpersonal relationships. If you’re able to pick up on this cue, you’ll likely adapt and your meeting will be more successful. For more information, here is a case study that reflects why a global mindset and the ability to flex your style to adapt to other cultures is important for cross-cultural business success.

Be Open to Continuous Learning and Diversity Appreciation
It’s come up several times in this post, but I’ll say it again: Leaders with a global mindset are curious. They seek to understand themselves and the world around them, and strive to use their experiences to continually develop their leadership abilities. The leaders that will be most successful in today’s global business environment are lifelong learners with an appreciation for diversity and a drive towards conclusion.

And all of that requires constant personal development in the context of a global mindset.

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