In a globalized world, a manager with an international profile brings much to the table. It is more and more difficult to find companies whose operations, sales and even clients are only local.
This is why companies, and not only multinationals, are increasingly interested in finding employees with international experience. Some do it as a token gesture to reflect the growing ethnic diversity in society, or simply because they need the linguistic skills and intercultural abilities of this sort of employee.
But, beyond these obvious advantages, a multicultural background is becoming the best foundation on which to build effective global leadership and develop a cultural intelligence that brings value to an organization and can make it more competitive.
What can managers with international experience contribute?
Although the study of the impact of cultural diversity is a relatively new field of research, some authors have noted certain discoveries that relate the psychological profile of people with a multicultural background with a greater capacity to develop certain distinctive competencies.
1. A broader business vision
Travelling, sharing and working with people from different nationalities provide a greater understanding of reality. Managers with a multicultural background have a greater capacity to perceive and provide answers to multiple variables, based on their knowledge and previous experiences. This capacity, which psychologists call “cognitive complexity”, makes them more willing to recognize the legitimacy of different points of view of the same question, which in turn broadens their perspective and enriches their range of strategic options.
Having had exposure to a large variety of cultural contexts, people with an international profile tend to develop richer conceptual structures that allow them to come up with different ideas. Since they do not hold to a single cultural framework and are accustomed to combining multiple perspectives in their reasoning, their ability to produce original ideas is often greater. Here you have 5 tips for you and your team to be more creative at work.
3. Greater adaptability to uncertainty
People accustomed to living with other cultures develop an intellectual flexibility which makes them more tolerant of differences and less resistant to change. They are not only accustomed to changes in scenery, but also over time they develop an ability that allows them to adapt more quickly and easily to new contexts and realities. Know how to manage your career in a VUCA world.
4. Capacity for innovation
Their ability to navigate different social, cultural, and geographic contexts, together with the fact of not being under the sway of a single dominant culture, makes international mangers show, in general, less attachment to established policies and practices and a greater willingness to try new things. This has a direct impact on their capacity to initiate change and propose new courses of action.
Managers with international experience know how to manage global and multicultural teams, taking advantage of the diversity and minimizing the risk of cultural conflict. They are more able to mediate and create links that overcome social and organizational boundaries. They are also more able to promote knowledge transfer between heterogeneous groups of people and organizations, and possess social and communicational abilities that make intercultural relationships more fluid and productive. They are, without doubt, the best picks for the sort of internationally-minded leadership that global and multinational companies require. Read here the Keys to being a good leader.
Tips for progressing in your international career. Everything they never told you about expatriation
Javier Cuesta, a coach at IESE Business School and managing partner at Bedford & Bailey, shares with us some basic concepts that are not very well known about international careers to help you gain a better insight into the life of an expatriate:
Some TV shows tend to downplay the difficulty of moving from one country to another. During the first few years there’s quite a steep learning curve in terms of adapting both personally and professionally… which some are unable to do, and these people end up returning to their home country.
When you move to another part of the world, your spouse also has to move. If your partner or family don’t feel at home, you’re in for a rough ride.
We know that expatriation isn’t easy, but neither is repatriation. Being able to return home and showcase your global experience is an art. With that being said, if everything goes to plan, the possibilities are endless.
It’s important to have an open mind when moving to a different country; it’ll do you no good acting like a conquistador. Learn about the culture, try to fit in and allow yourself to adapt to the changes: these are the keys to success.
If an international career is what you want, then you’re going to have to work for it. Sometimes it can be sprung upon you, but usually, if you decide to take the plunge, it’s because you really want to.
Giving your employees the opportunity to move internationally within the same company is an outstanding way to create a more diverse and inclusive culture. By mixing natives with expatriates, you can encourage the transfer of both ideas and good practices.
An expatriate may move some five or six times during their career. This results in a significant personal shift, with material objects being relegated to the background and the spiritual aspect taking on greater significance (home is where the heart is). Home is wherever you are… Being becomes more important than having.
How to develop your international profile?
You don’t need to have a Brazilian mother, an Indian father and an education in Switzerland to be a leader with an international profile. You can educate yourself and develop it.
For that, IESE has an extensive portfolio of programs, with some programs specially designed to strengthen global leadership capacities. These programs take place in different cities around the world and are conceived as forums for exchange in which a global mentality is cultivated.