Working Across Borders
Have you worked overseas before?
What as that like? Have you considered how you would enhance your conversations
with your colleagues, customers and consumers? What would it be like to engage
in conversation with somebody who leads with a different life, culture, mindset
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. Like neurons (brain cells), it not the number of cells we have, but rather the number of connections we make with each nerve cell. In other words, how well connected are you to others and how interconnected and intertwined are you with them. How much do you appreciate differences and leverage on the uniqueness?
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. Discuss various scenarios you have difficulty with, and conduct customized role-play practice that you can rehearse with. This is the training you need before you face others in a new geography.
Business Leadership Lessons: How open are you to travel? How quickly do you build rapport with strangers? How do you dissolve your self-imposed barriers in unfamiliar territories? Which are the unspoken rules you practise when you operate across borders? Does the quality of your handshake, smile and nod make a difference?