“Mom, do I ship to Croatia?”
My teen daughter asked me that last year when she started selling items on Etsy.
She launched a small business from her room in Southern California. All she needed was her laptop, a broadband connection and some starter items to sell.
Questions began. Did she know how to research shipping rates and timelines to Croatia? Did she price her items with enough margin to cover the shipping costs? What about insurance?
Talk about a great learning experience. And it got me thinking about what it means to be a global citizen of the world. And how to work effectively with people across countries and cultures.
We’ve been fortunate to have Karie speak at DIRECTV’s annual leadership meeting, global HR conference and our Young Professionals Network.
As the world becomes more global, social, digital and diverse, Karie and Jeanne define global citizenship as:
- Understanding how to conduct business in another country
- Developing increased cultural intelligence and a deeper appreciation of the relationship between business and society
- Being able to understand complex policy environments, and
- Knowing how to work in virtual teams with people from all over the world.
The best way to do that is to live and work in another country or region. The next-best alternative is to travel globally for your work or on your vacations.
And there are several other ways you can become a citizen of the world. I’ve been reminded of this recently by some of my colleagues in our DIRECTV Latin America business – Ana Diaz, Pamela Gidi and Sandro Mesquita to name a few.
Observe. Watch how people do things. Take your cues from how people communicate with you. Give as much weight to what is unsaid as to what is said. Pay attention to how people react to things – their words, actions and body language.
Early in my career I bought hardware for satellites. While most of my suppliers were U.S.-based, I also worked with companies in Japan, France and Germany. I learned how to observe people’s behaviors as much greater cultural indicators than only their words. I even wrote a magazine article about international subcontracting, a precursor to my corporate communications career.
Ask. In a respectful and thoughtful way, ask people for their ideas. Their perspectives. Their preferences. Ask why and how. As Stephen Covey said, seek first to understand.
Read. Libraries are a window on the world. So is the internet. Harvard Business Review has great pieces on global business. Nicholas Kristof and Thomas Friedman at the New York Times have fascinating global perspectives. Financial Times and The Economist are other favorites.
To fit in this reading, I follow my usual news scanning framework – scan the headlines for a quick sense of the news, and read at least one article.
How does what you’re observing, learning and reading all fit together? What development in one part of the world will likely to affect another? What business opportunities could result? How does that change how you prepare for the future?
Empathize. Put yourself in other people’s shoes. Ask how they’re likely to think about a new development. Ask how they are used to working. Ask what would be most convenient for them.
It can be as simple as scheduling meetings at a time that is convenient in their time zone to trying to write or speak at least a few words in their language.
Are your colleagues, friends and acquaintances of different ages, perspectives and backgrounds? How great is your capacity to develop relationships with people who are very different from you? It’s this diversity, Torres says, that gives you broader ability to see patterns and solutions.
At DIRECTV our seven employee resource groups are a great source of connections and insights. And in keeping with my work/life blend where everything is interconnected, I’ve enjoyed insights into a variety of cultures by getting to know the parents of my son’s soccer team members.
Learn. As in, learn a new language. For me, it’s Spanish. Because I live in Southern California and half DIRECTV’s employees are in Latin America, this makes the most sense.
I’m trying to use my commute time for learning and practicing. In part this is because no one is around to laugh at my pronunciation in the sanctuary of my car.
And if I can scale the significant hurdles of learning a language after the age of 10, there are multiple mental benefits according to a recent New York Times article by William Alexander.
How are you becoming a global citizen of the world?