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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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Are you preparing to work with people from another culture? What kind of feelings and thoughts are filling your heart and mind?

Success in new markets certainly depends on a number of things ranging from the strength of your market analysis, the positioning of your offering to customer solutions and management of glocal business complexities.  However, regardless of what business you are in, the ability to work well across cultures will be critical in helping you succeed in your business endeavors.

Today, the intercultural and international/global business fields offer great models and knowledge to navigate the cultural complexities in addition to the economic and administrative complexities of international business.  However, to leverage the usefulness of all these resources my experience as a trainer and coach shows that one needs to switch to a different mindset – a mindset of curiosity.

An experienced professional wanting to work in different markets is typically concerned with the following “how” questions:

  • How do I not offend?
  • How can I get across effectively what I mean?
  • How can I build trust?
  • How can I be a person people enjoy to work with?
  • How can I truly compliment core local values that are of essence to other people while respecting the values I want to stand for because they are so important to me?

To answer the above questions it is useful to continue asking even more detailed questions:

  • What are critical business skills that will help me, my team or organization succeed?
  • How do these get influenced by cultural differences?
  • What specifically can offend?
  • What kind of behavior do people in a specific new market believe is effective?
  • Which values drive the effectiveness behavior in the new market and how do these influence people’s perceptions?
  • Is this the way I would approach situations?
  • Which values influence my behavior?
  • How much do I know about the origins and achievements of the foreign culture and my own culture?
  • How much do I know about what makes people laugh and relax in the other culture?
  • How much flexibility can I demonstrate sincerely when adapting to the other culture?
  • Am I aware of my nonnegotiable values which I may need to communicate effectively to people from the other culture?
  • Do I have a rich repertoire of different ways of communicating thoughts and feelings?

When working across cultures and prior to starting to evaluate any appropriate business or management models it is important to ask if you are starting the entire process with a “mindset of wonder” rather than “judgment” which I want to describe as the “mindset of curiosity”.  This in particular will help you identify and put all resources for success into good use especially because international business resources can come from unconventional places like conversations, some type of collaboration, a lot of times as a lesson from an awkward moment and simulations trainers can create to bring this type of experience into the classroom or coaching situation.  Without the “mindset of curiosity” it is possible to oversee good advice, clues and most importantly goodwill.  In this aspect, I believe that adults actually may have a lot to learn from children who no matter which country a playground is in tend to be able to have a great time with other children.  If we asked them “So how did it feel to play in this new playground?” the answer is most likely to be “Oh, it was so much fun! Tomorrow, can we go to another park please?”.

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Have you ever heard the beautiful, exciting and passionate sounds of the music called “Sanjo”?

If you have, you may know that Sanjo is a form of Korean traditional music that allows the performer to freely express his or her outstanding technique and original interpretation of the piece. It is one of the most representative artistic forms of Korean traditional music.

I experienced Sanjo at a recent event and was taken by Sanjo and enthralled at what I learned about South Korean culture, history and people.  It reminded me that a positive and low-risk experience with a new culture can spark passion for and create a fervent desire to work more with a culture.  In business context, it enhances our Global Mindset levels and increases our global leadership and creative thinking skills.

To that end, a huge thank you to the The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the Korean Tourism Organization for organizing a great learning experience for association executives considering holding events in South Korea and for being such gracious hosts of this event. And to So-yeun Jung and her students who performed the Sanjo and two other magical pieces called “Wind, River” and “Canon for the Gayageum Trio” with their impressive instruments called “Gayageum” – a Korean traditional zither like instrument; your music was beautiful. And as a global mindset trainer I could not help but see and sense some characteristics of the Korean culture rise through the tunes and harmony of the musicians conveying the different kind of formality, relationship orientation, high context communication style, expressiveness and role of silence intercultural trainers like to discuss in business trainings when they train business professionals about Korean business culture.

Not to mention the delicious dessert we enjoyed called “Tteok”, a sweet and a flavorful rice dessert before being served the most colorful and artistically prepared traditional cookies I have ever seen.  I later learned that these traditional Korean cookies are called “Hangwa” and come in many varieties like “yumilgwa, gangjeong, sanja, dasik, jeonggwa, suksilgwa , gwapyeon, yeotgangjeong and yeot”.

Opportunities like this event, museum visits, watching foreign movies/documentaries, reading related books and websites and developing friendships with people from different cultures of interest are great to make observations, ask questions and learn to become effective for further business and personal adventures with these new cultures.

It was also wonderful to learn more about Korea in the wonderful presentations given by Sejoon You, the Executive Director of the Korean Tourism Organization, and Sung Kyung Kim, the Manager of the Organization.  They have every reason to do be proud and confident with South Korea preparing to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and having hosted other major events like the 2002 World Cup and the 1988 Summer Olympics.  Korea Air is an ambitious and growing airline, representative of the excellence the country currently strives.

Seol, with its high energy – stores operating 24/7 – sophisticated and cosmopolitan vibe combined with low crime, makes it very appealing to visitors.  An association executive at my table told us all how he was so pleased with his association’s regional conference experience in Seoul.  The 5000 attendees loved it, with much praise and not one complaint.

Again, kudos to the Korean Tourism Organization and ASAE for making this event happen. The hands-on expertise of the panel was also very helpful.  Click here to review the details of this past event and look out for similar future events. Looking forward to any insights you may have for working well with South Korean business partners and/or getting a chance to enjoy other specifics of the Korean culture.

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