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How to Build Strategic International Relationships

Just learning how to shake hands doesn’t make you culturally aware. A few learned copy-cat mannerisms and a couple opening lines will not put the global executive into the good graces of their regional leaders. It used to be fine, considering the small amount of time that leaders spent abroad. But more and more, as we see top-level local management strategies that have transparent relationships with each other for alignment and success, building relationships that are strong and solid are absolutely essential in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

In Japan, during the 1980’s boom years, foreigners were falling over each other to grab some of the success that Japanese businesses had created. Many managers learned a little bit of the language, how to eat soup, etc., but they missed a great opportunity to build real bonds. Unfortunately, those bonds could have also helped the Japanese businesses during the ‘90’s.

Today, we are in the midst of a series of dynamics such as, rising new economies, immediate access to customers and speed decision making, so creating and nurturing long lasting connections is a must. Maya Hu-Chan of the Global Leadership Development Center so correctly states, ‘In my work with multinational corporations, my global clients have often pointed out that building partnerships is one of the most important competencies for global leaders of the future’.

To develop powerful partnerships and prevent problematic situations, integrate these five pieces of advice.

· Have a real interest in other cultures and learn about them through food, the arts and music, literature and the areas that give uniqueness to their place the human experience.

· Build partnerships wherever you go with ease. You never force a friendship. You develop it. Become an open access point of assistance to your host reports, superiors and especially those horizontally. Encourage others to do the same.

· Listen, Listen, Listen! This may be one of the great challenges for human beings, but it is an essential skill for trust. Don’t just listen with your ears, but apprehend the individual with all of your faculties. Go beyond their special behaviors and reach for what they are trying to communicate.

· Never be patronizing. This may be very difficult for some cultures that have been taught they are the best. Be careful not to appear paternal or on a higher level than other people. Also pay close attention to how you phrase comments about their culture. This is also true for spouses of expatriates.

· Get out of your shell. The higher you go up in an organization, the more insulated you become. Mingle with different people with different interests and you will be well prepared to meet the exciting challenges of interacting with all types of personalities from all over the world.

By putting these five points into action will give you a basis for working in all environments and with all cultures. Of course, each culture has unique aspects that give them their own perspectives on business and life, and we are all unique individuals with unique behaviors, but having a real sense of how we can make deeper connections profoundly helps us move forward together.

by John Astor

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