Category Archives: expat

Is Humility A Universal Leadership Value Across Cultures ?


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Humility in leadership can be defined as the ability to understand yourself and bring the best from other people. You must first know your talents and limitations, then recognize that you have to rely on others and empower them to discover their own strengths and manage their weak points to focus on achieving a common goal.

Global leaders and managers working in multicultural teams must manage conflicts, poor communication and lack of teamwork as a result of misunderstandings and wrong assumptions from people driven by different internal core values and beliefs.

What we know, from the work of Professor Geert Hofstede on dimensions of national culture is that some countries have high power distance such as Russia that scores 93 on a scale of 1-100 and others have a low power distance dimension like United States that scores 40.

What it means, is that in Russia the power is distributed unequally and highly centralized with 80% of the financial potential concentrated in Moscow. It also means that in high distance countries people believe that power and authority are facts of life and inequality is institutionalized. Leaders are therefore expected to have a top-down approach to solve conflicts and take important decisions. Subordinates will simply comply with their leader.

For doing business In Russia, you must understand that hierarchy and status are important and that Russians respect age, rank and position as well as technological expertise. Russians see negotiations as win-lose and compromise as weakness.

On the other hand, in lower power distance countries such as the United States, there is a preference for consultation and collaborative leadership. Subordinates are encouraged to be independent  and contribute to problem solving. In the United States. business communication is informal and based on a win-win negotiation style.

If you are coming from the U.S. or another low power distance country when you have to deal with high power distance countries like Russia, you need to take your time  to understand who has the power of making decisions, otherwise nothing is going to happen especially when dealing with the administration and its very complex bureaucracy. For Americans, “time is money” but trying to force Russians to take quick decisions will only delay the processes and decrease trust.

So in a sense, humility in business negotiation is highly valued by Russians in general as humble business leaders have patience, try to understand first  and at the same time are strong enough to deal with conflicts without showing any sign of arrogance or superiority.

Most of the studies on humility as a value in leadership have been conducted in the United States and therefore it is difficult to separate the empirical and anecdotal from the real science-based evidences.

Leadership is a question of character (integrity, confidence, curiosity), not temperament (biology and genetics), therefore it is possible for global leaders and expatriated managers to learn cultural differences and the benefits of humility, holding judgment and avoiding placing one culture above another.

The role of effective intercultural leaders is to shape the corporate and local cultures of their organization to be understood and embraced by individuals from different race, ethnicity, religion and gender with a minimum of misunderstandings. 

Related Articles:

Conversation Killers : What Do You Do ? Where Do You Come From ?


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Picture: Huffington Post : Want To Kill A Conversation? Ask Someone What They Do

Imagine , you are at a networking event and you are new in town or never met anybody in the group before, you have butterflies in your stomach, when someone comes to you and ask :

What do you do ?  Like most people you might feel embarrassed to answer such a direct question, especially when you don’t have a “job”.

Is what someone does the most important information you need to engage a conversation anyway ?

Same apply to  ‘Where do you come from? ” If you want to avoid being stereotyped, what would you answer?

Tips: Try to answer and give information about you that encourage the other person to share their personal interests .

So here what works for me:

What Do You Do? I love living abroad, meet people from different backgrounds, explore new food, discover natural wonders, learning new stuff like languages. How about you ? What do you love to do when you are not at work?

Where Do You Come From? I am not sure if where I am from defines me anymore as I spent most of my adult life living abroad, I get inspired by my French mom for cooking dishes with a Provencal flavor like “ratatouille” but would die for having authentic “zaru soba”. I really like cosmopolitan urban style of living like I had in New York, or Tokyo and now in Moscow. How about you? What are your favorite places for vacation?

If you are like most people,  you probably have fears and anxiety to engage a conversation with people you don’t know, so:

How do you feel when you get those questions ?

In addition if you are an expat “trailing” spouse like me and freshly arrived in a  city or country you may be even more uncomfortable to answer as nobody is really interested by what you are really doing : unpacking cartons, helping children adjust to their new school or being lost in translation at the supermarket. On top, you might experience the emotional struggles of the “culture Shock”.

What are your typical answers ?

What are the most embarrassing questions you ever got at a networking event ?

Related articles:

International Commuters: Understanding the Benefits and Challenges | Expatriatus


See on Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

International assignments  are getting shorter and the number of international commuters is increasing. Do you think it is beneficial on the long run for both the employees and employers ?

Anne Egros‘s insight:

Not living in the same country with your family is detrimental for learning fully about the culture. Local employees may also treat you as an outsider, not really part of the team as you can’t share social events involving partners or children.

Each family situation is different but if you embrace expatriation as a great way to grow then I prefer to do it with the whole family. However I understand that sometimes other considerations such as schooling system or health care or dangerous locations may give no choice but commuting, I think this situation should be exceptional and not exceed 1 year.

I am not surprised that long-distance commuters have 40 percent higher risk of separation compared to other people who already have 50 percent chance to get divorced in most countries nowadays.

And yes the tax filing can become a nightmare and a costly exercise, especially for US residents and citizen

See on blog.iese.edu

How Do You Develop Global Leaders ?


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In the article ‘Global Mindset Secrets of Superstar Expats” published  by Thunderbird School of Global Management, the authors argue that immersing executives in different cultures does not produce effective global leaders as they often fail to learn how to deal with the complexities of their work environment.

To lead is to be able to influence people who are not thinking and behaving like you. In my experience learning to lead across cultures is a mix of formal leadership development training aligned with corporate values and multiple international assignments in places with very different cultural values and dimensions (https://zestnzen.wordpress.com/tag/cultural-dimensions/ )

I challenge the concept of “‘global mindset” as it is often interpreted as an “ethnocentric” way of doing business aka “western”. You can have all the attributes listed in this article and fail to adapt your leadership style to one specific country. Applying participating leadership and asking employees to take initiatives doesn’t work well in Russia for example, while Americans appreciate leaders who grant autonomy and delegate authority to subordinates.

Successful leaders in developed economies are different from successful leaders in emerging economies.

In a Forbes’ article,  How Does Leadership Vary Across the Globe? results of a  study show that it is important to adapt leadership style to a specific culture and not try to apply  “Americanized” management principles. The skills set and competencies of leaders in different countries vary.

The Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Project (GLOBE) is an international group of social scientists and management scholars who study cross-cultural leadership. According to GLOBE researchers, leader effectiveness is contextual, that is, it is embedded in the societal and organizational norms, values, and beliefs of the people being led. In other words, to be seen as effective, the time-tested adage continues to apply: “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”

To gauge leader effectiveness across cultures, GLOBE researchers empirically
established nine cultural dimensions (adapted from work of Hofstede) to capture the similarities
and/or differences in norms, values, beliefs –and practices—among societies. The cultural dimensions can be used in intercultural leadership training.

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The Dangers Of Slang For Non-Native Language Speakers


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I have had interesting discussions with linguists and intercultural coaches after publishing an article,  “You Are What You Speak: How Language Influences Behaviors”,. The debate was mainly around  words and cultural context.

The most recurrent question was:  Is it the cultural context or environment that impacts the way we attribute meaning to words and then produces thoughts that trigger certain behaviors ? or is it actually the language itself that makes us think and react in a certain way ? I would say both based on differences between regional variations of the main language such as English spoken in UK or American English or Spanish from Spain and South America.

Nobody really found a satisfactory answer as there are too many factors involved in a communication process including personal preferences. However some interesting comments highlighted the differences between native speakers and non native speakers.

I just experienced something quite typical for a non-native English speaker. I use a “curating” tool:  “ScoopIt” that helps compile different articles and blogs organized by specific topics. You can use ScoopIt to automatically quote an article in a WordPress blog then make your own comments, edit text, add images or links to additional resources.

For my previous post I found an article from “Fast Company” about networking and I kept the original title without feeling that something was wrong. One word I did not know sounded “soft” slang to me. The initial title was Yes, It’s Possible To “Network” Without Being A Scumbag … Yes, I know now, that is a really, really BAD wordProbably you were shocked to read that in my blog ! Hopefully I have an American friend who is also a regular reader of my articles who suggested that it was maybe a word I would never use in my language, especially in writing  (Thanks Barbara !). So I look at the translation for this word in French and I felt it was disgusting, obscene and vulgar. Yet when I read the title again in English I do not feel that bad, the word doesn’t trigger any emotional reaction that probably native speakers learned when they were little boys and girls watching the faces of their parents and other adults with a horrified look after they said it.

So English might be the most common language in the business world but I guess few people learn slang and profanity in their English as Second Language (ESL) classes. In every cases I would recommend to learn some slang and other swearing words to understand fully a conversation between natives but would not use them especially in writing.

Back to language and behaviors, many expats report that they behave differently when they think with words from their mother tongue or think and speak using their second language, unlike true bilingual people who learned two language simultaneously. It is clear that emotions and feelings linked to a sound or a word are learned very early in the development stage of babies and young children. It is also true that people who are exposed to technical and international  business English feel much at ease in a professional environment than some native language speakers who do not know specific jargon and didn’t learned leadership skills in English for example

How about You ?

Can you share examples of foreign words you used that were inappropriate ?

What was the reaction of people around you ?

Finding Happiness as an Expat Wife


See on Scoop.itInternational Career

Are you struggling with life as an expat wife? InterNations shows you how to avert an identity crisis and how to find happiness as an expat wife.

Anne Egros‘s insight:

Maybe you took a break to raise your children or manage an expatriation or both, but now you feel it is time to find a job.

It is always better to know in advance what are the job market and regulation to get the right visa but if you got noticed of your new destination at the last-minute it is not always possible.

You can take this transition time as an opportunity to explore in-depth your skills and talent and find out what you really want to do.

Not all expat wives are happy with a “demotion” and want to have same or better career while living abroad and acquire intercultural competencies that international employees and global managers need nowadays.

Using a career and transition coach who lives in your place has numerous advantages especially for building your brand, helping you design resumes, supporting your networking efforts with local professionals and elaborating job search strategy that matches local job market.

See on www.internations.org

 

The Truth About Green Card and American Citizenship


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The New York Times Just published this article : Making Choice to Halt at Door of Citizenship

I think the article is misleading giving the wrong message that green card holders are taking all the “good things” America has to offer: jobs, education, big houses, quality of life or else but they don’t want to become American citizen for ideology, trivial reasons or because they can’t speak proper English. Really ?

I don’t need a passport for feeling “home”, I am a global citizen, and “home” is where I live with my family but I have spent enough time in the US to understand that after reading this article most Americans would be enraged to read that some legal aliens are saying they do not feel proud of becoming US citizen! A passport makes you free to live in a country as long as you want and to vote, that is the difference with a green card or a temporary work permit.

I have been a serial expat for more than 20 years, moving every 3 years across three continents. I have lived 7 years in the US but not in a row so I am not allowed to apply for citizenship yet as I am living abroad. I am a European and French citizen so I can apply for US citizenship and keep my current passport. As US permanent residents (other name for green card holders)  we pay ALL our taxes on every dollars we earn anywhere like US citizens even if we live abroad. So we don’t take anything from our American friends by being green card holders, quite the opposite.

In order to keep my green card while I am living abroad, I will have to renew my re-entry permit EVERY YEAR I live outside the US more than 180 days. That means spending enough time in the US somewhere, for one month or two every summer vacations in order to make tons of paperwork until I spend again more than 6 months in America. Even doing this does not even guarantee I can keep my green card before its expiration date. Fair enough some people might think but the U.S. Tax Department might not agree with their immigration colleagues.

We want to keep the green card because our son has dual citizenship as he was born in the US. He is bilingual English/French but only 12. He has always attended American or English schools and in Grade 6 it is too late to switch him to the French system so there is a good probability that I will choose to live in the US for the last 3 years of High School and College years unless we stay abroad too long then we will lose our green cards and we will have paid a fortune in US taxes without getting anything in return not even the freedom to one day call America “home”.

If You have been a serial expat and green card holder did you make the choice to give it up or tried everything to keep it ?

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