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An International Mindset Preps Executives for Success

March 1, 2018

An International Mindset Preps Executives for Success

Socrates’ ancient advice, “Know thyself,” has endless modern applications, and that includes global business. Relevant, accurate self-assessment can provide a roadmap for success.

Such assessment is built into the entire experience at Thunderbird. Whether online, in class or in applied learning labs, you’ll hear a lot about something called “global mindset” – but what exactly is it, and what does it look like in action?

Global mindset refers to the set of qualities and attributes that help a manager influence individuals, groups, and organizations from other parts of the world – it’s part personality, part know-how, like the ability to overcome cross-cultural differences in negotiations or avoid gift-giving gaffes and other cultural missteps.

Thunderbird Professor Mansour Javidan and his team have spent years researching, identifying, and teaching these concepts. They built a tool – the Global Mindset Inventory (GMI) – that measures three primary dimensions: global intellectual capital, global psychological capital, and global social capital.  (To read more about the three types of capital, download the Global Mindset flipbook.)

Javidan says global mindset is the difference between failure and success. Fortunately, it’s not static – so yes, you can grow your global mindset! All Thunderbird graduate students take the GMI before starting their programs and then again after they graduate. Across the board, their scores improve significantly. Executive education participants have the chance to assess and improve their global mindsets at Thunderbird in the same manner. It's one of Thunderbird's most intriguing differentiators.

“In international business, global mindset is the difference between failure and success.” Click to tweet

So what does global mindset look like in action? Read on:

Leadership in a complex environment

When Johnson & Johnson faced a crisis in Brazil, a new leader with a global mindset made all the difference. The company had thrived there during decades of military rule, but in the 1990s when the Brazilian government opened up the economy, the company’s fortunes turned. “Our competitors were moving faster than us,” explained one executive at the time.

In 2000, Johnson & Johnson tapped Jose Antonio Justino as its new managing director. Justino understood his native Brazilian culture, but he also brought international experience and a global mindset to the job. Justino skillfully assessed the situation and led the company through change in a complex environment. By 2005, costs had come down while sales, profits, and employee satisfaction had increased.

So, how are leaders with global mindset like Justino developed? Thunderbird Professor Mary Teagarden offers these four best practices:

  1. Organizations need strategic clarity about what kinds of skills a global leader needs.
  2. Prospective global leaders need relevant development opportunities.
  3. Leaders need feedback, resources, and support to help them learn from the experiences they have.
  4. Global leaders need international perspectives and exposure starting early in their careers. 

“Global leaders need international perspectives and exposure starting early in their careers.” Click to tweet

Cross-cultural negotiations

The warriors, philosophers, and politicians of history believed a negotiation hinged on which party had all the power. But times have changed, and so must negotiations, says Thunderbird Professor Karen Walch, whose expertise is in international negotiation, cultural competencies, and global mindset.

Rather than crushing opponents, 21st century negotiators in a global economy “often find themselves in situations where they must build lasting relationships of trust,” Walch says. “They understand the miracle of trade and the value of shared mutual outcomes.”

Using a “power of understanding” approach instead of the historical “coercive power” approach can help negotiators achieve outcomes that don’t come at the at the expense of others, Walch says. In other words: win-win. (Learn more in “Nine Secrets of Negotiation Power.")

“Successful negotiators today rely on the power of understanding – not coercive power.” Click to tweet

Of course, it’s a big world out there, so you might have to negotiate with someone who sticks to hardball tactics and shuns transparency and civility. Still, you don’t have to play that way. With a global mindset and good preparation, it’s possible to lower the tension and build mutual trust and respect. (If you find yourself in that kind of a situation, here are 6 ways to respond.)

Programs to grow your global mindset

With more than 42,000 alumni in 48 nations, Thunderbird’s alumni network is the envy of business schools everywhere, not just because of those numbers but because of our graduates’ abilities and achievements.

So whether you need to build leadership, negotiating, or soft skills, Thunderbird has executive education programs and graduate programs to help you “know thyself” and grow your global mindset.

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