These days if you are joining or leading a new team, cross country project, or global business unit that includes individuals from different countries, you must have a more global perspective.  If you are so lucky to be called upon to go on a short or extended foreign assignment, please be open to taking it. In all cases, you must know how to behave and perform effectively. Here are things you can learn from another global professional’s experience.

I met Kristi Stepp when she was in Singapore on an assignment for Kelly Services. She is a partner with Sigred Solutions, a management recruiting and leadership advisory firm. She has over 30 years of experience in the automotive, healthcare, beverage, and workforce solutions industries, and has broad international and multicultural expertise. Kristi served in various strategic human resource roles at several leading global organizations, including General Motors, Kelly Services, Pepsi-Cola, and Volkswagen.

She shared three insights that are key to having a global perspective when you work in a different country and culture with a diverse team.

Open Up To Listening And Learning

The first thing she said was she realized interestingly that she needed to relax.  The company had made a considerable investment in her, and she (like most of us) wanted to go right in and start hitting goals. She said, “It was hard, but I had to take my own advice and resist the “take action” approach.”  She often uses the book “The First 90 Days” by Michael Watkins, to guide others and now needed it for herself.  She was feeling a strong need to “prove myself” when what she first arrived when what she actually needed to do first was to open herself up to listening and learning. She said all the listening, learning, and relationship building she did early on contributed to her success during her three years in Asia.

What can we learn from this?

Whether you are going on an international assignment or joining or even leading a new team, business unit, or organization, Kristi’s three words ring true: Listen, Learn, Build Relationships first.

Just like when I went on my first global assignment to the Dallas TX, I had to learn to relax, fit in, and resist trying to focus only on my goals immediately. It is hard to resist we are all good at “taking action,” as Kristi stated above. What you will need to do is more listening, learning, and relationship building.  By doing these three things early, it will contribute to your assignment success, especially if it is your first.

Approach The Entire Experience As An Adventure

Her second global perspective insight, she suggested, was focusing on one’s mindset.  She said she decided to approach the entire experience as an adventure.  She modeled this behavior for her children, which is why she believes they reflect on the experience so positively.  When they felt like there was something they were missing from home, like a favorite food, they quickly replaced that with a curiosity for what was available locally.  They started by exploring Singapore like tourists and, in time, made great friends and felt right at home.

What can we learn from this?

Having a global perspective starts with assimilating as fast as you can. The more you can treat it like an adventure will make it much easier for it to become one of the lifelong memories that you will love to keep sharing with others. The trick is not to just see things from your perspective and realize everyone has unique ways to contribute. Instead of a focus on what the team or place does not have that you are familiar with, you have to replace it with what you found or have. Wherever you are these days, you can almost get anything anywhere in the world, and from a team’s perspective you have to learn and be comfortable working with a diverse (probably global) team.

Find A Mentor Or Coach For Yourself

Then I asked her, “If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?” Kristi replied:

“If I did it all over again, I would have set better expectations and have taken some of the pressure off myself.  I wanted to do too much too soon.  Luckily, I had leaders who understood the importance of learning and provided me time to do that. My advice to others is to make sure you have a great coach to help you through the first 90 to 120 days.  This type of change is full of transition traps that you may not foresee.

Using what made you successful in the past may make you fail fast in another culture and country.  Suspend your need to problem solve and actively listen and learn.  You’ll benefit, both personally and professionally.”

What can we learn from this?

Even if you think you can and know what to do in a foreign location or a new global team, you should find a mentor or coach for yourself for your global assignments. Remember going on a business trip for a few days is totally different than living there. The same goes with working with foreign colleges on regular calls is different than working with them day to day.

Always be open to learning new things; it is the only way forward, especially in these times.

Set better expectations for the new normal as things will unlikely be the same ever again. And if you get asked to consider a global assignment, or take over a global team  – take the perspective of, I am good enough and have the right perspective to make this another feather in my cap in my career.


Stephen Krempl
Stephen Krempl is a former F200 leader, International Speaker, Best Selling Author, Facilitator, and Business Communication Coach. His latest book is “The 5% Zone: Visibility Strategies that Get You Noticed and Rewarded in Any Organization.”