Wendy Hanson 0:24
Welcome everybody. Well, our world is so global now that many organizations that we work with that BetterManager They may be based in the US, but they have people all over the world. And there's so much we have to learn and a lot has changed in the past few years. I'm just delighted today that Melissa Lamson has joined me to share some of her vast experience on global leadership, and what we need to know so that we are really very inclusive, because there are things that we just don't know about how others are going to perceive us and talk about things from different countries. There are there are things that that we take for granted for a US based audience that we might not realize is very, very different in other areas. And I know we have a very global listening audience to the BetterManager podcast. So I hope you're all gonna find this very useful as I did reading Melissa's book. So let me tell you a little bit about Melissa before I bring her in. Melissa Lamson has built and run companies both in Europe and the US. She has partnered with successful leaders and companies across all industries around the world. Her portfolio of clients include Accenture, IKEA, LinkedIn, MTV, Porsche, ripple, SAP, SpaceX, Unity Point health and walk me. She has served as interim head of Global Diversity. So she has been through a lot of things that we can benefit from. Melissa has her master's in intercultural relations, specializing in diversity management, and has authored six books with DNI subject matter. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal's Chicago Tribune, Forbes and Fast Company. So I feel very lucky to be on this podcast with Melissa today. Welcome, Melissa.
Melissa Lawson 2:21
Thank you so much for having me, Wendy? Oh,
Wendy Hanson 2:24
well, this is certainly a topic that we haven't spent enough time on. And so I was glad to get your expertise. And let's just start off by kind of leveling the playing field here. How is global management different from just management when we look at it from that lens?
Melissa Lawson 2:44
That's right, that's a really good question. Um, yeah, I mean, we as managers, we know how important it is to be able to communicate and interact and engage and motivate those that we're managing and leading. And so being able to give good feedback, being able to coach, all of those being able to listen, well, all of those skills that we need, are really important. And when in the global context, it's important to understand how people sort of need to modify, if you will, those those abilities or be able to respond to the different ways that you might coach or the different ways that you might give feedback. So some cultures, for example, might prefer a more direct approach to feedback, others culture, other cultures, like there to be a little bit more fluff or friendliness around the feedback. So have it delivered a little bit more indirectly. So it isn't necessarily that the tools and the frameworks change, but it's how we use them and how we consider the the receiver of the way that we're communicating. That's really important in doing business globally.
Wendy Hanson 3:54
Yes, that is so true, because there are things that we could offend people just because if were direct, well, they're not used to being direct and, and you need to know your audience. So learning what different areas of the world really is important to them, I think is is so important that we don't take that for granted. Yeah, that's right. That's right. How did you first get interested in the topic of working globally? What what? How did that come up for you? Because to write a book that came up big time?
Melissa Lawson 4:27
Yes. Well, I first was interested in it because I grew up in I was lucky enough to grow up in a relatively international environment, multicultural environment. My father was a Spanish, Spanish professor, and so we traveled to Spanish speaking countries. But then also I got to know all of his colleagues in the language department and they were all from all around the world and their kids were the faculty kids like I was and we were we all hung out together. So I have the advantage of being able to hear different languages and be exposed to different customs from a young age. And so it's always been kind of in my DNA. And when I did my masters at Lesley University in intercultural relations and was really curious about, you know, how do how do different cultures or diverse cultures interact and communicate? And then, of course, in a business context, I started to just dig into that more and do more reading and think about what could that look like if I could actually start supporting organizations in that journey. And so I had the opportunity to move to Europe, and I was based there for 10 years and being there, it's a fairly easy jump to a lot of other countries. And, and then also the, because there's such a strong, strong emphasis on global business in in Europe, I was just fortunate enough to be able to do business in over 40 countries. And so I worked on projects and all kinds of places and, and just continue to be an anthropologist in all of those projects, so that I can learn more and more and more. And so it I guess it's been an evolution over time. I mean, that's the best thing about my job is as a consultant, and a coach is to be able to continue to learn from wherever I am, and from those who I serve.
Wendy Hanson 6:18
Yes, but it certainly is one of the things that make coaches like a similar group that they all love to learn, we see that with all of our coaches of BetterManager. It's always like, what's the next thing I can learn because we're responsible to provide great support and, and service to folks that we, that we take care of, and in that realm, that's great. So you've worked on projects in over 40 countries? Wow. And very different, I'm sure. Tell us a little bit like a kind of case study memorable story of one of those that would kind of really illustrate what you're talking about.
Melissa Lawson 6:59
Yes, absolutely. South Africa was really interesting. So when we did a project there, with a car manufacturer, and we at the time, we we found out that because because there's no shame or or difficulty in, in learning this data, and so we found out that 70% of the shop floor was actually HIV positive. And there, sadly, there was quite a few deaths, because of AIDS, as it evolved as the virus evolved to AIDS. And there was just the question of as a global car manufacturer, how do we know if we kind of follow the rules of the of the company internally? And how do we decide what customs and rules if you will? Do we follow within the society or the community? And so it was just really interesting to make decisions? I mean, obviously sad and very tragic, but also fascinating to see, you know, what, how do we accommodate the the needs for funerals, so oftentimes, in this particular community, they would take two weeks for sort of honoring those who's who have passed and, and therefore wouldn't necessarily be working. And then you'd have the whole family being a part of the mourning process and, and in the, in the funeral time. And so it was just trying to trying to just make these really difficult decisions around how do we honor those customers, but also still maintain productivity and, and follow what what the company needed to follow in terms of getting things done. So it was just really interesting to see how how we could balance that. And so it's a lot about finding creative solutions there. And I think, in that case, we ended up kind of finding some temporary workers and accommodating the the needs of of the morning culture, as well as also just attendance of the funerals. And so we were able to do so. But it's just things that I that if you're not from a particular society, or community you don't even think about right. And one other just kind of anecdotal piece that I thought was fascinating is when we launched a big coaching initiative in with colleagues in India, it worked better to use the word mentor than to use the word coach. For some reason, when we were talking about coaching, it was really hard to get the colleagues to engage with the individual coaches. And when we started to use the word mentor, they were like, oh, okay, well, yeah, you're here to, you know, mentor me to advise me to give me support. That word somehow resonated. And so then we were able to open up the conversations a lot more and they got real information that we could then address in terms of Ensuring that they were, you know, getting the promotions they wanted and being a part of teams in the way that they wanted. So it's just fascinating. It can boil down to words, customs, habits, all kinds of things.
Wendy Hanson 10:12
Yeah, wow, two examples on very different ends of the spectrum. But I love both of them, shows that you really were used your curiosity skill as a coach, to be able to really respect the culture, what is it like, it's not like, this is how I think we should do it, it's like, find out how and fit in and then really make some some major shifts in how you would normally run a project over there. I got I so admire that. And I love you know, the other side of just looking at language, you know, it's so true, we can't expect everybody when they hear the word coach around the world, that they're going to have the same thought that we have when we think about a coach that helps you grow and learn and, you know, facilitates deeper conversations within yourself. That's really great. I, it reminds me of an experience I had Melissa, oh, this said to be like, about 18 years ago, now I was, I was facilitating something at a university in New York City, and that the students that were in this class were all part of the United Nations. So they were all different. And the class had been. And it was in before in the old times, when we used to do things in person, I was at the University, and everybody had back to back seats, they were all in those like nice rows. And we asked them to get in a circle. And it was so funny, because some of them never saw the other person's face, because they've been looking at the backs of ads. And they they just were so quiet. And then being able to talk about giving feedback was such a different thing. I remember, there was a, you know, really different outlooks on what feedback was and how you give it through all of these different people that were represented there. And that getting them to have a communication circle together. And I think that's one of the great things we do in, in, in group training. And group coaching is like having people hear each other's ideas. We really all need to learn from that. But I love your examples. Yeah, no important. Yeah,
Melissa Lawson 12:21
I actually have one more I just thought of that might be interesting. But just to your point about just asking. So I was asked to to help integrate a group of team members from Singapore into a German team. So they had come to Germany, and they'd been there for only a couple of days. And I had them and I basically just started the session to your point with. So what have been what's been your experience so far? How do you feel about being here? And it was kind of quiet. And then one person said, well, are the Germans racist? And I said, Oh, gosh, this is the question. I said, Well, racism exists all around the world. So I'm not gonna say that there isn't racism here. Of course, there is like there is everywhere. But what makes you say that as you're asked that as your first question, and they said, Well, these just stare at us, I think, just stare everywhere we go. And I said, Oh, no, no, no, that's pretty normal people just kind of stare at each other is that they may not even necessarily be registering you, they might be curious if they are registering you, but it's just I stronger eye contact is normal here. And so that just brought up a whole conversation around, you know, eye contact and different behaviors and different, you know, nonverbal expression, but then also, what's the perception of that? Right? If, if you have had a negative experience, or have had the experience of being marginalized? What does it mean, to experience a sort of an innocent, if you will, nonverbal behavior, or what's intended to be innocent? And then to, to interpret that so strongly in another way? So that was really fascinating.
Wendy Hanson 13:56
Yeah, yeah. It points out to me, too, that we, we all make assumptions. And we know that's not a good thing. So we make an assumption that they're making a judgement. And it's nice for you to if you know, the culture, you're able to say, No, this is kind of how they do this, you know, it's not it's, you know, this, how they do it in Germany, or this is how they do it in Israel, you know, you don't know that you can't move away from your own, we get stuck in our own head and our own lens of things. So, so knowledge is power. And that's one of the things I really appreciated about your book. The the new global manager is some of the stories that were in there and talking about the differences that that really show up I think it's incredibly important for people to be able to, to understand that a little bit more. Yeah. And what is something that you see managers struggle with, you know, when they're working in global teams, you know, they might have a a hybrid team that some of the teams Remote and they're all global. And they're trying to bring everybody together. What's some of the challenges that you see?
Melissa Lawson 15:07
Yes, in terms of bringing a team together, it's interesting, the research actually shows that time zones is one of the major issues in terms of just getting the team to get together and be productive. Because, you know, do we make it uncomfortable for everyone? Do we make it uncomfortable? For some, you know, what are the expectations? Am I willing to get up in the middle of the night meet with my team? So that's, that's a major thing in terms of time zones and other pieces? What types of, of technology do we use? Do we prefer to use messenger texting? Do we prefer to use video? Do we just want to talk on the phone, what what's going to work? And that's an important consideration too, because just in terms of transportation, right, some, in some places people have to our commutes to work. And they're in a in a in a public situation. So it's not as easy to be on the phone or be in a video meeting when you're surrounded by other people, or you're maybe don't have great Wi Fi connectivity. And so just considering the technology is certainly important. And then I think the the the third piece is really making sure that you agree together on how are we? How are we going to resolve conflict? Or how are we going to have conversations that might be difficult? Or how might we give each other feedback or, you know, when things the content and the productivity and the project? Components are you are sort of the easy part ish, it's really all the communication around around it, it becomes difficult. So if it becomes difficult, what's our plan to solve it?
Wendy Hanson 16:48
Yeah, yeah, we, we have seen this quite a number of times, you know, that our coaches have been working with teams like that. And it really is that, in my experience, something that you just can't ask a team together, you have to do one on ones and say, we actually have a piece of content that we have in our library called how to work with me. So that a manager and a team member would both be able to share, this is how I work, this is the best way to give me feedback. This is when I might not be available. This is so that everybody knows. And then when you bring the whole team together, the manager understands everybody's nuances. And they've got the tech part is easier than the other part of people hiding out sometimes because they they don't feel seen. And so then they don't jump in on a on a zoom call or something and really have their thoughts, you know, known by the rest of the group. So yeah, it's important to look at those pieces, and how we how we uncover? Yeah, cuz I think that's one of the big things that I've been hearing is people that just, they want to keep their camera off, they don't want to be in a situation and, and you can't really know somebody until you really been able to look at them a little bit, you know, if you're talking to this behind the curtain all the time, what is it? How can I make you more comfortable, so that at least as a manager, we can have a conversation. And, and it's a, I think it's the neuroscience of seeing somebody, we've really, and I know, we've coached for years on the phone, you know, you and I've been a long time and, and a lot of it was on the phone before. But then once you begin to, to understand somebody's body language and be able to see how comfortable they are, and being able to connect with them, you know, and, and those facial expressions. To me, that's really important. And yet, just as you're saying, in some countries, they may not like that, and we might end up on phones. So we have to meet the people where they are.
Melissa Lawson 18:51
That's right. That's a great expression.
Wendy Hanson 18:53
Yeah. Some of the challenges that that you see managers having, what can be done? Like, what are some action steps? Because we always like to be pragmatic, what could they do to make things a little bit easier? How do you resolve the struggle that they might be having?
Melissa Lawson 19:09
Yeah, well, I think you absolutely articulated it perfectly, where you do have individual conversations, asking open questions, so that you can really get to the, to the meat of the issue, right. is useful, particularly for those cultures that may be a little less direct. And then ensuring that you're spending some time with with the team also socially, if you can, I mean, I know it's a little more challenging virtually. But that was actually something that was during the pandemic that was really tricky is, as everybody really went virtual for a period of time and still are to a certain extent. Just being able to spend some time just socializing with folks. So Research shows that if you spend, if you can kind of create that spontaneous interaction, and do that maybe three times more often than you would, if you, if you were just sort of in the workplace face to face, then that can help up the level of engagement and also just the personal connection that will that always supports the professional connection, right? So instead of having that once a week, meeting with the team, where you're really focused on business goals and deliverables, you're also having two or three more check ins during that week, even if it's just a quick text, just saying, Hey, I thought this was funny, and I'd send it to you, or hope you're doing well or, Hey, do you have time for a five minute chat, or you want to jump on for a 15 minute coffee? That's all really helpful. And I know people feel like, it might be a waste of time, or it's just, it takes some time away from getting things done. And we're all very busy, but it's really going to, if you spend that time up front, you really save the time on the back end from having conflict or people just leaving because they don't feel appreciated or not being engaged. Because they don't think that anybody cares about them. Also, from a personal standpoint. So I think that's really, really important. And then the other pieces is now that we we have opened up a bit more and we are able to get together face to face, the statistic is that if a team meets together, even once through the course of a project face to face, that that can improve the their ability to be productive by 50%. So that's something to consider if it can be done for sure.
Wendy Hanson 21:39
Yeah, no, that's, I love those statistics. That's great. And, and it is we always talk about the the world, we can teach leadership on virtually, you know, and we can coach virtually, but I totally agree like that teams need to come together physically. And a lot of the companies that are starting more hybrid like you can, you only have to come back to the office, you know, when you're needed, but you can be remote, but we do need to see each other, there's, there's something that is just so important about that. So as we go forward, I think we're going to be able to see more happening in that realm. And, and it may not be for, you know, we might figure out, we can do other things remotely, but we have to connect, you know, that connection. And I love your point about fun and engagement. Because that's really, you know, that's how we're going to get to know each other. You know, we bring all our coaches together sometimes. And it's like a love fest, you know, everybody like they've never met each other because they're all over the world. But when you can do something fun and have somebody share things. I, in the beginning of the pandemic, one of the companies that we were working with that was a global company, we're trying to keep people connected. And it was some of the most innovative things that I had heard, like they had a baking contest. And then they would take a half an hour for everybody to show their baked goods and recipes, or they'd have another thing. So they invested time into making people feel like, yeah, we're all in this together. And we'll get we'll use some of this extra time to get to know each other. And I think that was just so wonderful. We just can't be on this productivity trail all the time, we've got to become the connection Trail, which is going to build everybody's engagement and their belief and other people and their comfort at reaching out to their manager and other team members. So thank you for bringing the fun up, because we need the fun in there. Yes, that's really important. Yeah. So if you are training a manager to work globally, you know, what are one or two things that you might share with them to be able to say, here's things that you need to know, because I'm curious, too, about? How do people know if all of a sudden now you have a client who's based in Dubai? How am I going to know what the practices are there? Like how do you? How do you kind of get yourself ready for that? Yeah,
Melissa Lawson 24:05
that's a great question. So there's lots of resources that are out there to really access, you know, how is this is conducted in for a place like Dubai? What to what could you know, I mean, if you Googled doing business in Dubai, you'd get a lot of customs and etiquette and I think that's really useful. And you should absolutely take advantage of that. And I would also just caution managers and leaders to, to, to, to practice taking, taking that all with a grain of salt because everybody now has had so many global influences. You really don't know 100% What this particular individual where they're going to fall on the scale in terms of, you know, sort of pure, if you will, cultural behavior from Dubai or whether they're going to have influences from other places. So, I like to present a tool called or which is called, which is observed Ask questions and then react. So if you can practice your observation or observational skills, you know, watch how they react, how they what, what they write, how they participate in a team meeting. And then, you know, at maybe ask a few questions for clarification, in terms of, you know, what is what do they like to have Do they like to be communicated with what kind of feedback do they like to receive things like that, that we've already discussed, and then make a decision about how you might react and then interact with them in the team, that will be helpful for you. Because, again, you may find out that they've studied in London, or that they have worked for go only global companies. And so maybe those global companies are headquartered in the US, for example. And so they have a lot of us influence in the way that they do business. And then therefore, it would sort of be different from what you might have just read about how to do business in Dubai. And then I always talk about the cultural dimensions and the 4d culture tool, which I talk about in the book, but the those sort of four key cultural dimensions. And there's many more, obviously, but I is looking at it from that from the dimension of the of the culture, instead of saying, Oh, well, people from Dubai are like this, or people from Germany are like this. It's okay, here's the cultural dimension. Now, where do they fall on the spectrum, in terms of directness in terms of the way that they look at time in terms of their the their ability to their thought patterns, whether they're going to be more process oriented, or more results oriented,
Wendy Hanson 26:39
etc? Yeah, I love how you break that down. Because what what flows through my head, again, is assumptions, you know, if we go and study a country via Google, and we think, Well, now I got this, you know, that's not necessarily going to be true. There are other factors. So letting someone else open up their own self to be able to answer some questions. And don't assume you understand the culture. Yeah. Be be curious. God curious respect. And, and assumptions keep coming up in this conversation? Yes, they do. That's really the key. And in the book, you also talk about a global mindset, you know, how could somebody an individual develop their global mindset, you know, either as a manager and a company or a coach?
Melissa Lawson 27:28
Yeah. Well, this is particularly important if you're based in the US too, because, you know, in other parts of the world, as you know, well, Wendy, you, you know, that even just watching the news, if you watch the nightly news, it's sort of 80% International News, rather than maybe den percent, national news and four or 15% of their 5% local news. And it's really the opposite in the US. So most of our news is local, right, we don't get a lot of international news unless it's something really significant. And so we just don't even get exposure to what's happening around the world. And, and I don't really blame us, I mean, we're a big country, there's a lot going on here, we do have a play a significant role in the world. So I'm not saying anything necessarily negative about that. But we, we just might need to seek out that international information a bit more. And so being able to use different sources, obviously, with the internet or being able to listen to the different news channels, radio channels, reading different publications, it's it was always fascinating to me, when I traveled a lot globally, just even reading the Wall Street Journal, you know, in Asia versus in Europe versus here, it's you get completely different stories and different perspectives on what's happening in the world. And even just understanding that those perspectives are different. And that news isn't just going to be presented in a standard way around the world because of those perspectives. It's important for us to know that and to realize that so that we don't walk into situations assuming we all we all have the same understanding of something. So that international movies and foreign films, I guess, would be the proper proper term, but being able to just watch that listen to getting comfortable with different languages and hearing other languages. It's always so interesting to me when when some executives just even feel uncomfortable when when they don't understand what's being said in a room. And for them, for people to just start to at least be comfortable with hearing something that they might not understand another language and other conversation and just accept that as being the way it is. And then also asking gently, hey, if there's anything I need to be included in or need to understand, I would appreciate if we could have a sidebar conversation there. Instead of you know, feeling excluded or or nervous about that at all. So it's kind of sounds sort of simple, but I think you know, seeking out more international knowledge and global Knowledge will really help contribute to developing a global mindset.
Wendy Hanson 30:04
Oh, I love that suggestion because I, I see that through a small lens, I have family in Sweden. And my cousin will say something that she saw on the news about something or something very big that happened in Sweden. And I'm like, didn't get to our news at all, even though it was a very big thing. So you realize that each country, you know, is they are listening to different news. I always loved listening to BBC when I was over there. And then, you know, what are those other sources? It's I think it's a great idea that just keep exposing yourself to things and don't make judgments or assumptions. But open up your world and say, Ah, I learned from this and, you know, Friday night watch a foreign film. Yes. When he's right. Here, we'll go watch a foreign film instead of an American film. Yeah. So I think your book would be a great thing for people to be able to read and tell, tell our audience, what's the best way for them to reach out to you for questions or get a copy of the book?
Melissa Lawson 31:09
Sure, folks can reach out to me and Melissa at lead with dei.com. Or you can certainly also connect with me on LinkedIn. The book is there's an audio version and that as well as a paperback and I think Kindle version that's all on Amazon. So if you type in the new global manager, or even Melissa Lamson, you'll be able to get access to the book pretty quickly and easily.
Wendy Hanson 31:33
Great. Great. Well, thank you for sharing your global perspective today. You know, it's really helpful as I don't think there are any companies that aren't going to end up being global in some way, you know, as we go down the line. So it's something we need to prepare for, we need to prepare for companies that are all hybrid people that are remote global perspectives. So the more that we can help give people a little bit of knowledge on how to do that efficiently, effectively. And respectfully, is a really good thing. So thank you, Melissa, for for sharing your wisdom.
Melissa Lawson 32:08
Thank you, Andy. It's been a pleasure.
Wendy Hanson 32:10
Yes. Take care, everybody. Have a great day. Start learning more about the global life wherever you are, you know, whatever side of the universe you're on. So take care have a great day.