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Do you and your members see value in your association’s international growth?  Below are a few things you need to do to prepare for global thinking and action.  Why global thinking?  This is critical because markets are interdependent due to their relationships with other markets as well as the growing influence of technology every single day.

Develop a global mindset first. Familiarize yourself with the Global Mindset® leadership concept of Thunderbird School of Global Management.  The definition of the Global Mindset is influence across organizations, systems and cultures unlike the leaders.  The Global Mindset helps leaders become not only culturally aware but knowledgeable, strategic, confident and diplomatic. Hence this is a very comprehensive and scientifically researched leadership concept for the executives of internationally growing organizations.

Work with a human centered business model. Association executives need to know how to analyze the decision making rationale of customers, members, key stakeholders and their staff as well as board members.  A good level of alignment needs to be achieved among all these human aspects of the organization to be able to articulate the comparative advantage of the association and help achieve highest potential engagement in its activities from its customers, members and stakeholders.  The importance of strategic thinking has multiplied in our interconnected world as has the importance of creative thinking and agility that support strategic thinking.  However, good research will help identify different growth and communication scenarios preparing the association for the very dynamic and complex world of global business.

Cultural awareness is important and becomes most functional when it results in curiosity.  Firstly, cultural awareness is important because associations are not viewed in the same way in different countries.  The American association concept for instance is very much rooted in the U.S. American culture and experience.  Secondly, to be able to connect well emotionally which is the path to long term collaborative potential as well an open mind, association executives need to become self-aware, curious about the other and diplomatic to be able to integrate different perspectives in pleasant and productive ways.  Cultural awareness training needs to be experiential to be able to fully debrief experiences in relation to learners and prepare them well for the real world.

Be prepared for international ventures and partnerships. Associations may grow in various different ways in new markets including partnerships and even mergers.  To be prepared for negotiations executives need to familiarize themselves with the Global Mindset and become culture-aware ahead of negotiations.  This will require only a minimum investment compared with what can go wrong or undermine performance during and after negotiations.  Once decisions are made about partnerships it is critical to engage in global team building processes that help all sides become culturally aware and also agree on the key elements of high performance global teams like agreeing on vision and values, goals, communications, meeting management and conflict management processes.  Coaching and even peer-to-peer coaching should be engaged to maximize return on organizational and professional development efforts.

Associations need to educate themselves on the importance and elements of global trust building to guide their members. As the world globalizes companies are quick to jump into opportunities.  However, for these ventures to be successful in the long-term the leaders of these businesses need to understand the anatomy of global trust building.  Being able to demonstrate guidance in this to their members is a great opportunity for associations and will add to the long term success of the associations’ efforts locally, internationally and globally.

With globalization offering so many opportunities as well as challenges or pitfalls I see many opportunities for transparent and global minded association management, and believe that these efforts will lead to globalization efforts that contribute to local wealth, social engagement, environmental health and stability enhancing the value of associations in return.

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Ironically, during the first week of the largest competitive global sports event I spent much of my time at the leadership conference of an inspiring nonprofit organization which has affiliates in 37 countries. The theme of the conference was “collaboration”.  There could be no better organization to talk about collaboration.  There were representatives from 37 countries but united by the vision they shared together and the belief that they could make a difference in the lives of people – providing them with hope and meaning.

The timing of this conference made it inevitable to talk about Herb Brooks, the legendary coach of the young U.S. Hockey Team that beat the experienced and all time champion Soviet Hockey team during the Lake Placid Winter Olympics in 1980.  We discussed history as told through the movie “Miracle” about this “miracle” team and Herb Brooks.  The inspiring head coach Herb Brooks had the conviction that a group of players who thinks, plays and feels like a team would be able to succeed.  He picked the players according to their ability to play in the team and also put them through rigorous training that emphasized the importance of this goal.  When he asked the players “Who do you play for?” at the beginning of their journey to the championship each player answered with the college or university he played for prior to getting picked for the Olympic Team.  It took Mike Eruzione, the captain of the team to call out “I’m Mike Eruzione.  I play for the United States of America.”  for Herb to end a never-ending conditioning exercise. It was Herb Brooks again who rewarded the team with the following words in the changing room right before the final game against the Soviet team: “Tonight, WE are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players. Every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Now go out there and take it.”

There are many factors that contribute to the success of collaboration such as connecting via a shared vision, agreeing on how decision making and problem solving will take place in the organization, how communication will change, how the organization will work across cultures to engage different perspectives and what kind of values need to be in place to make this happen.  However, a lot of responsibility lies with the leader.  Research shows that multicultural teams underperform single-culture teams when the leader is not able to lead across cultures but they surpass in performance and creativity if the leader is effective. Leaders need to be able to help set strategic goals towards the vision. Global leaders need to engage people and stakeholders from different backgrounds to help create a good foundation for the success factors. The success factors for collaboration need to be endorsed by the leaders of the organization.

One attendee at the conference said that the entire organization was inspired when one of their board members said “I believe in fairies.”  After meeting the attendees of this conference I believed in fairies, too.  Not only was the vision they shared noble but there was something about the attendees’ ability to intently listen and be present in the moment despite their unique backgrounds and circumstances they work in.  It takes a leader with an ability to connect differences, a leader with conviction and self-assurance and a leader with a dream even if it sounds adventurous if not a little out there to inspire people.  But this is how miracle teams are made and this is how collaboration becomes real and succeeds.

And I should stop writing as I have now articulated my perspective on the success of collaboration.  I will do so after offering a resource for developing this often times naturally occurring leadership capability.

If we wanted to examine what capabilities would be needed to put our heart out there as a global leader and to have the ability to say “I believe in fairies” the practical global leadership concept called the Global Mindset® concept offers a learning platform especially via its “psychological capital” component. This is the hardest component to develop within the leadership concept.  But the concept breaks down the component into attributes that are so specific that they offer attainable learning goals. Research at Thunderbird School of Global Management and my own experience show that we can learn to inspire not only by building trust across cultures but also by our ability to connect diverse perspectives, diving into a new adventure and doing so in a confident manner.

Click here to learn more about the Global Mindset® concept.

And enjoy the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics which despite their competitive nature are the result of immense global collaboration and offer us new leaders who will continue to inspire us for many years to come.  Thank you Russia for a fantastic Opening Ceremony!

 

 

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