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3 Reasons Why International Experience Makes You a Better Manager

Declan Mulkeen

23 Jan 2017

The corporate world is always on the lookout for good international managers. Although some people seem to be a ‘natural’ when it comes to people skills, others learn to lead through training, experience and hard work.  With the shortage of good managers and the additional demand placed on organisations as they grow internationally, there has never been a greater demand for managerial talent with international experience and a global mindset.

With the shortage of good managers and the additional demand placed on organisations as they grow internationally, there has never been a greater demand for managerial talent with international experience and a global mindset.

Global Cosmopolitans benefit from their international experience 

Global Cosmopolitans also have a genuine curiosity of the world around them as well as the ability to observe their world from multiple points of view.

In an INSEAD article, many of these issues were explored. Global Cosmopolitans are people who are able to adapt to a wide range of situations seemingly effortlessly, drawing on their international experience.

Often, Global Cosmopolitans come from a diverse background as well, perhaps with blended heritage and the ability to speak multiple languages.

Regardless of background or linguistic skills, Global Cosmopolitans also have a genuine curiosity of the world around them as well as the ability to observe their world from multiple points of view.  Their ability to understand people gains them trust and respect. Exactly what good managers need and often struggle to gain.

Learning Points

International experience can give a future good manager a wider range of tools that can be applied to their leadership role in their organisation.

These soft skills are often gained as much from real world experience as they are on a training course, although such courses are good for raising awareness.

What are the most important soft skills that can make managers better in their leadership role?

1. Adaptability

The world is not black and white – nor are behavioural rules

The world is not black and white – nor are behavioural rules. What works well in one culture could send the opposite, undesirable message in another.

In the blog, an excellent example was provided where a Global Cosmopolitan knew how to adapt her behaviour toward managers from two different cultures. She was very deferential to her Japanese manager as that culture generally expects.

She also knew that the same deference would probably be interpreted differently with her American manager, who might think deference equates to a lack of confidence or perhaps indicates an unwanted problem.

Learning to read the grey rules and to switch behavioural styles to compliment these grey rules and expectations are skills Global Cosmopolitans – and good managers – have.

Learning to read the grey rules and to switch behavioural styles to compliment these grey rules and expectations are skills Global Cosmopolitans – and good managers – have

2. Opportunity

Many people are creatures of habit. They strive for routine and consistency. However, in a globalised world, the only constant is change. Global Cosmopolitans understand this and look at change as an opportunity.

Instead of regarding new opportunities with suspicion or as disruptive to routine, they can be looked upon as new opportunities to learn

Good managers would do well to learn from this attitude. Instead of regarding new opportunities with suspicion or as disruptive to routine, they can be looked upon as new opportunities to learn.

A good manager is now adding to their overall development, benefiting themselves, their team and their organisation.

People who are resistant to change may also struggle to accept change that has occurred or is inevitable. Good managers work with their teams to provide supporting in accepting change as a positive opportunity.

3. Knowing What is Not Known

Good managers use their international experience to make sense of their environment. When they encounter something they don’t know, good managers use their curiosity and apply the mindset of being presented with a learning opportunity.

Good managers also avoid making premature judgements or applying stereotypes to the unknown.  Instead, they draw on cultural knowledge and their ability to see things from another point of view.

Good managers also avoid making premature judgements or applying stereotypes to the unknown

They also take each situation as a separate event, understanding that an uncertain event needs specific attention to understand it correctly.  This is a fundamental business skill that good managers understand.

Cultural Lenses and Kaleidoscope Thinking

Becoming a better manager means adjusting your perceptions.

Becoming a better manager means adjusting your perceptions. By drawing on international experience, managers become better as they increase their ability to process information differently.

Global Cosmopolitans have learnt a lot from their background and experiences. Adaptive capacity, relational awareness, different ways of ‘knowing’, using multiple lenses as tools to understand, recognise and integrate new knowledge are the hallmarks of the Global Cosmopolitan.