Tag Archives: leadership

Successful Intl Groups Adapt Now

Six Secrets to Leading International Groups

Almost 15 years ago global teams were rare. Today, they are an important part of our business models. Further, successful leaders with experience in more than one country are increasingly considered as valuable as their specialties. Looking closer at trends and the global DDI study, CEO’s have named cultural competence as one of the top critical skills they want leadership teams to have. The surprising reality gap DDI uncovered: only 34% of leaders in the study ranked working with people from different cultures as a true strength.

If these statistics leave you wondering what’s new when it comes to leading international groups, follow along as today’s experts (already in the 34%) share how they are working in wildly different cultures and getting things done.

Words That Work

In his HBR article “Communication Tips for Global Virtual Teams,” Paul Berry, Founder & CEO of RebelMouse shares what he has learned in his 15 years of managing remote teams. Here are four tips that I have personally adopted:

Live and breathe your email and make sure the team does too

The only way I’ve found that works is when everyone on the team keeps their inboxes open and checks emails as their absolute highest priority. Without that we operate blindly to each other since there is no tapping someone on the shoulder as there would be in an office.

Give the benefit of the doubt

My team has huge cultural and language differences (although everyone does have a working knowledge of English as the basic way we communicate). We all were raised with different ways of approaching projects, handling conflict resolution etc. It’s essential we forgive each other constantly for odd grammar, odd behavior and instead try to make the beauty of building something together lift us above any confusion.

Over communicate

Especially as part of a startup, it’s sometimes hard to understand where we are going and what we are building. Asking questions all the time helps. I want people to always be inquisitive while also working on the little pieces of concrete stuff that we definitely know. If a question doesn’t get answered because of email overload, I like people to ask again or bump up the thread so that we make sure everyone is on the same page.

Be intentionally positive

It’s way too easy for things to sound negative in an email. Without tone, body language or anything else, it’s extra important to make sure emails don’t turn into hurt feelings. Sarcasm and deadpan humor can come across the wrong way (especially because humor doesn’t always translate across cultures). But being friendly and approachable – even if it means using lots of emoticons – is always welcome. I try to encourage my team to be overtly friendly in their emails, even if it means they sound less “businesslike.”

Are You Too Blunt?

INSEAD Professor Erin Meyer reminds us we need to be aware of culture differences early on and certainly when giving feedback to global team members. In Professor Meyer’s book, The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business, she guides business leaders through this often treacherous terrain.

If you are preparing to give feedback to a multicultural group consider Professor Meyer’s advice shared with Roy Maurer at the Society For Human Resources Management:

What is constructive feedback in one culture may be quite destructive in another. In countries like Russia and France, people give positive feedback more implicitly and negative feedback more directly than in the U.S., while Americans tend to tell others what they’re doing well before bringing up something negative. To many Europeans, this American style of wrapping negative messages in positives seems false and confusing. On the other hand, in cultures that value indirect negative feedback—including many emerging markets such as Brazil, Southeast Asia and many Middle Eastern cultures—Americans come off as way too blunt. So we have to recognize the importance of giving frank feedback in the Netherlands and gentle comments in Thailand.

Enjoy A Happy Holiday

Because different cultures perceive vacation time very differently, it is wise to consider these three tips adapted from “Managing Vacations When Your Team Is Global,” by Melissa Hahn and Andy Molinksy:

Make a master team schedule. Include the major holidays in your team’s countries and any other dates when people will probably be out.

Create a work coverage plan. Ask your team to suggest ways they can cover for each other when you’re short-staffed. Have simple processes for helping people catch up quickly after they’re out.

Adjust as necessary. If you find yourself with too much work and too few people, tweak vacation dates or project timelines as needed.

By creating a global vacation strategy, you and your team members can take holidays and days off without letting work slip through the cracks.

Next Steps

Do you have tips or resources that have helped you work in different cultures and get things done? One final resource worth mentioning is the global holiday calendar from Time & Date. It’s a handy link for anyone getting ready to create a master team schedule.

Many thanks for joining the conversation and sharing insight with the audience via the comment section below.

leaving late 500px

How To Leave The Office Before Dark

I’m a fan of Kathryn Dill‘s work at Forbes, and she reported on an interesting piece, How To Leave Work By 5 P.M. And Still Get Everything Done.
Here are seven key tips she outlines, along with two of my own that can help you escape the office by the time it gets dark and still get things done:

No. 1 Qualify Your Time. Figuring out how you actually spend your time versus how you plan to allocate your time during the workday is a great place to begin. Get started by keeping a simple log for two days, review at the end of day two and streamline where possible.

No. 2 Shorten Your To-Do List. List 3 – 5 must do’s and ditch the rest. There are no bonus points for having a long list – when you don’t get to everything. Remember to delegate smaller tasks when possible and team with co-workers or peers where appropriate.

No. 3 Set An Alarm. Alarms can help you take control of personal issues, keep you from becoming easily distracted, and help you firm up personal deadlines. Interestingly, alarms are not just for waking up and a simple phone alarm can help you escape a meeting that is running long while increasing your productivity throughout the day

No. 4 Cut Down On Email. Experts recommend eliminating it from your first waking hour and your first working hour each day. Adjust by starting your day proactively attacking tasks rather than reacting to messages.

No. 5 Plan Your Work Three Days In Advance. By taking time to plan your work three days in advance, you will not only stay on track during the day, it will also give you a better understanding of your work load. This can give you a better big picture view, to see if you are in a position to step up and take on additional tasks.

No. 6 Triage Tasks On Arrival. Scenario: If you are committed to leaving work at a certain time and a late afternoon task arrives that requires your attention (that isn’t a matter of corporate life or death). Option: you need to access and act in the time remaining – not simply commit to an evening in the office.  

No. 7 Build A Dynamic Life Beyond The Office. The reality is that work expands to fill the space you give it. So be sure to prioritize the end of your day. For most people, the best way to be more efficient during the workday is to build a dynamic life beyond the office.

Before signing off, two personal tips that I find valuable:

No. 8 Organize Priorities For 5 Minutes – The Night Before. This can be as simple figuring out your wardrobe for the next day and placing critical items (e.g., brief case, computer, et al.,) by the door you will exit from the next morning. Another tactic, create a smart phone note with a short list of tasks to tackle the first 20 minutes after arriving in the office.

No. 9 Get Moving And Recharge. Research shows that in workplaces where regular breaks are encouraged, productivity increases and rates of sickness decrease. A healthy approach I have adopted includes conducting a walking meeting at least once a day.

Did you find one of the tips helpful? Let us know. In the meantime, here’s to productive days and more office departures before dark.

asian business team

Five Ways To Build Business With Current Clients

asian business team

The personal touch combined with excellent client service has built today’s most successful businesses and can do the same for your company. Here are 5 ways to develop a lasting relationship that will add value to your business on many levels as 2015 gets underway:

Spread the word. Let your clients know what you’re doing for them. This can be through an e-newsletter, select press releases, a traditional newsletter, or it could be more informal by picking up the phone and calling to touch base. Regardless of the method you use, remember to point out to clients the excellent service you are providing them.

Share information. Have you read anew book, spotted an article, or
heard about an association a client might be interested in? Send them a quick note or give them a call to let them know.

Recognize special occasions. Remember to send regular client birthday
cards, anniversary cards, holiday cards, etc. Thoughtful gifts can also be excellent
follow-up options. It is not necessary to spend a fortune to show you care;
use your creativity and if time is tight, test the waters with something as simple as an electronic greeting from Hallmark.

Follow up on client service issues.Voice mail, e-mail, and even Twitter make it easy to communicate, but the personal touch can be lost. If you’re having trouble getting through to a client whose issue requires that personal contact, leave a voice-mail message that you want to talk to the client directly or will stop by his or her office at a specific time.

Reconnect with old clients. Take out the pen and write your clients from the past a personal,  handwritten note. Carve out time when you find yourself on a flight, train ride, or waiting for a business meeting to begin and spend a few minutes reaching out. Another opportunity might include running into an old client at an event. This is a chance to follow up with a simple note: “It was wonderful seeing you at the holiday party. I’ll call you early in the New Year to schedule a lunch.”

In the end, staying connected with your clients is one of most strategic investments of time that can be made.


Identify how you or your leaders will connect with your business’ top 5 clients this week.  Make sure a connection is made with each of them in the next 10 days.


Defining The Cost Of An Unhappy Work Force And How To Fix It

Today we see alarming reports that lost productivity, from actively disengaged employees, is costing the U.S. economy $370 billion annually. If you are a leader wondering how widespread this ‘disengaging’ crisis is and what steps you can take to win this battle in your own company, follow along as I interview Pamela Jett, MS, CSP, global business communications expert, and author of an important new book on the subject.


Q: The new book ‘When The Economy Changes… I’m Outta’ Here’, seems to have struck a good balance of business acumen, storytelling, and science. How did the book develop and why did you release it this fall?

Ms. Jett: The book was written because we have entered a world-wide disengagement crisis. How big is the challenge we are facing? Research tells us that barely 1 in 5 employees in the U.S. are engaged on the job and the rest fall into some category of disengagement. Looking through a global lens, unsettling estimates indicate that only 11% of employees are actively engaged in their jobs today. Case in point, during recent business meetings in Asia, I met leaders who expressed concerns regarding their countries disengaged workforces along with how the trend has impacted business growth.

Next, and based on the large economic impact, it is a relevant book for companies that want to move their work force from “disengaged” to “engaged”. The engaged and productive employees – that can spur business growth.

Q: You mentioned previewing the new book in Asia, was it well received?

Ms. Jett: Absolutely. In Singapore the Human Resources professionals appreciated the focus on practical application, language patterns (that can help bilingual employees), and specific “words to choose” and “words to lose,” which has helped them discover communication tools that they have put to work immediately.

Q: Can you share three tips that readers can use right away?

Ms. Jett: Of course. Here is Tip No. 1: Eliminate the word “should”. Why? If you stop ‘should-ing” on people (e.g., “you should do this…” or “you shouldn’t do it that way; you should do it like this…”) you will stop using a disengaging form of communication. First and foremost, professionals do not appreciate it when others try to “tell them what to do” and deny them their freedom to choose.
So, instead of using “you should” consider the power of replacing it with one of these options:
– It would be better if you did it this way…
– The _______ (project, employee handbook, contract) requires you to do it this way…
– Our _______ (customer, bottom-line) benefits when you do it this way…

Next, Tip No. 2: Ditch the word “Don’t” and focus on what you would like them to do instead. Here are two classic examples – replace “Don’t be late” with “Please be on time” or replace “Don’t forget…” with “Please remember….” These are both good examples of sharing what the desired behavior is as opposed to the undesired behavior.

Lastly, I want to share one of my favorites in Tip No. 3: Which is – Ask open-ended questions. Why is this important? Because using open-ended questions is one of the easiest tools, anyone at any level of the organization can use them, and they are also one of the most effective forms of engaging communication. Here are a few of my top open-ended questions:

– What are your thoughts on this?
– How do you think this will benefit ____ (the team, our customer, the bottom-line)?
– How can this be done ____ (better, smarter, faster, more efficiently)?
I have found that by integrating these and other open-ended questions into my global client’s regular communication, they are viewed as more open, approachable, and respectful individuals.

Q: Excellent tips. Now, from your perspective, who can benefit from this new book?
Ms. Jett: Job titles and positions aside, every one of us can benefit from the new book. Why? Because each of us can make a positive impact on employee engagement using the most important skill set we have: our communication skills. We can each choose to make changes that positively affect ourselves, those we lead, and our peers – changes that can result in happier, more productive companies.

What open-ended questions will you ask today? Identify a set of three open-ended questions to ask this week and evaluate responses to see how they have positively impacted your communication