How Gaining International Experience Can Make You A Better Manager
Thanks to increased globalization, as well as powerful enterprise and collaboration software, an increasing number of companies are participating in cross-border projects and sending their people on international assignments. For management professionals, this means that their teams—both in brick-and-mortar and virtual workplaces—can be made up of workers from a variety of different cultures and backgrounds.
If you want to successfully lead multicultural teams, it’s important to know that gaining international work experience can help you become a better manager for a number of reasons:
- You’ll learn cultural sensitivity. Living and working in a different culture makes you more aware of cultural differences and biases, as well as the impact they have on people and workplaces. As a good manager, it will also inspire you to learn how to bridge these types of cultural divides in the workplace.
- You’ll be more attuned to verbal and nonverbal communication. Language barriers can severely compromise a team’s ability to function. You’ll learn the importance of patience when it comes to communicating with people who aren’t as proficient in English as you are. You’ll also understand how non-verbal cues can be essential to good communication. For example, in the U.S., making eye contact during a conversation establishes rapport and indicates reliability. In China, however, people avoid prolonged eye contact. Appreciating these nonverbal nuances will help you improve your ability to facilitate communication and collaboration between workers from a range of different backgrounds.
- You’ll be better able to help international team members who might feel uncomfortable in a new setting. If you’ve spent time overseas, you’ll have had to learn how to fit into a new culture—and you’ll probably have developed an understanding of how assimilation is easier for some people than for others. This empathy can be invaluable when helping team members from other countries acclimatize to a new setting.
Cultural awareness is increasingly important in our multi-cultural, global workplace. By spending time living and working overseas, you can acquire some of the skills top companies are looking for in high-potential management talent.