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People around the world share more similarities than differences. That's the bottom line. And this is the key lesson I have learned from working internationally, because most just want to be recognised for their efforts, deliver a result, and do a good job.
People around the world share more similarities than differences.
It makes the world a smaller place when you are speaking to a client in USA one minute, and India the next. And over the last 20 years I have intentionally grown my business to include clients in countries such as USA, Belgium, Italy, France, Mozambique, Kenya, and India. I have taken many opportunities to meet people from other countries at business events, conferences, through social media and by networking. By nurturing these contacts over time, it has yielded results and I have been invited to speak at events; and deliver coaching and leadership programmes in these places.
However, if you are not taking time to be organised before you travel to another country, it can be the small details that cause problems. If you have the wrong power adapter, or have not realised that electricity may be intermittent, it can mean that your well-planned Powerpoint presentation turns to be a quick adaption on a flip-chart. Despite the challenges, I really enjoy learning about the way people operate their businesses in other countries, and that I am able to add value to their lives and jobs through the work we do together.
The 3 things that I have found that make working internationally easier (whether that's face to face or using virtual communication) are:
Coping with time zone differences
It's so easy to get the time zones wrong! Especially during the times of the year when some countries introduce daylight saving, and not always at the same time. I always try to accommodate my clients to ensure that they are working in their ‘daytime' where possible, which may mean I am taking a call at what we might call inhospitable hours in the UK. Use a tool such as Time Zone Converter and do your homework to make sure you know whether its ‘morning' or ‘evening' when you are speaking to contacts in other countries. Take a few moments at the start of your conversation to engage with them in their own time zone so you don't make assumptions.
Understanding the cultural nuances
A few moments spent reading or learning about a different culture is time well invested. How do people typically behave in business meetings? What are the do's and dont's? I always try to learn a few words of the local language if possible, if only to be able to engage in a short conversation, or ask a question. I believe this is good practice even if you are not leaving your own country, because there can often be cultural nuances in different industries, or regions in your own country. I was recently in Mozambique, and whilst in a restaurant that had both Portuguese and English explanations of the food, and the waiter knew I spoke English, I tried to order by saying out loud the choice from the Portuguese version. It made the waiter smile and we immediately created a connection, because I tried to communicate in the local language. Making an effort I find is always appreciated.
Taking time for pleasure as well as work
If you are visiting another country, take time to see more than just the inside of a meeting or hotel room. If possible, I always try to add on a bit of extra time to be able to get a sense of the environment. I often find interesting tours by looking on Trip Advisor at the Things to Do, and have done cooking with locals in Lima, Peru, a Walking Tour in downtown Los Angeles and a foodie tour in Quebec. Even if you have limited time, I try to fit in a run or a walk from my hotel and the concierge is always a good person to ask about runs in the local area. That way you get to see more of the neighbourhood. It just requires a little planning ahead.
Sue Stockdale is a motivational speaker, executive coach and author. Clients include Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 companies, small businesses and not for profit organisations. She was the First UK woman to ski to the Magnetic North Pole in 1996, has represented Scotland in athletics, and was runner-up in Channel 4s Superhuman series.
Come along to hear Sue Stockdale speak about how peer support can help you and your business achieve challenging goals at Scottish International Week September 17th-21st 2018. Register here https://siw18.corsizio.com/” #SIW18