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Developing a ‘global mindset’ critical to successful international assignments, upwardly mobile executives

When a company such as Walmart is expecting one of its future CEOs to advance from its overseas operations, it underscores the growing importance of upwardly mobile executives and managers to think and act globally, according to the Thunderbird School of Management’s Global Mindset®Institute. It’s becoming more critical to the career progression of executives and managers to develop a global mindset, especially if they wish to move into senior management. However, many smart, talented executives fail in international assignments due to poor candidate selection, inadequate preparation, and other reasons.

International service is more often becoming a way to climb to the executive suite. More than 7 out of 10 Fortune 100 C-suite executives have held senior-level positions overseas, up from less than 5 in 10 a decade ago, according to a study by Healthy Companies International.

With international experience more frequently becoming a prerequisite to executive succession, it’s imperative for companies to select the right people for them and ensue their success. “Choosing the wrong person for an international assignment is costly for both companies and workers. People come home before their contracted time, or they don’t achieve their goals. Business is lost, and professional and personal relationships can be damaged,” said Mansour Javidan, dean of research at the Global Mindset Institute.

Insufficient preparation of executives and managers for global roles can result in career derailment for those who may have otherwise succeeded, Javidan added. “Most executives and managers are not educated to work with people who are unlike them. They bring their different ways of thinking, understanding, acting, and communicating with them to their international assignments, and are not well versed in how to deal with intense diversity, despite the growing globalization of the business world,” Javidan said.

To increase their success in global assignments, the Global Mindset Institute has worked with more than 1,000 executives and managers across the world on the qualities they feel are required to succeed in a cross-cultural environment, and developed the Global Mindset Inventory (GMI). Currently, almost 10,000 people from multiple cultures have completed the survey. The Global Mindset Inventory is a web-based, integrated, scientifically verified framework of characteristics that assist executives and organizations in building a global mindset.

“A global mindset is a set of individual characteristics that help global leaders better influence individuals, groups, organizations, and systems unlike their own. An organization’s global mindset is the sum total of its individual employees’ global mindsets. Companies with a high global mindset are able to compete most effectively in a global economy,” said Javidan.

Executives who are strong in the following three dimensions of a global mindset have the greatest likelihood of succeeding in international assignments:

  1. Intellectual capital, or knowledge of international business and the capacity to learn;
  2. Psychological capital, or openness to different cultures and the capability to change; and
  3. Social capital, or the ability to form connections, to bring people together, and to influence stakeholders – including colleagues, clients, suppliers, and regulatory agencies – who are unlike the executive in cultural heritage, professional background, or political outlook.

Source: Global Mindset Institute; www.globalmindset.com.