ATD Blog

Do You Have a Global Mindset?

Monday, May 22, 2017

A session in The Global HRD Community Theater at ATD 2017 highlighted trends influencing talent development professionals from all over the world. If you missed the event, here are some insights I shared during the event. 

The world is getting more similar it seems. Starbucks and McDonald's are in every corner of the globe. It is easy to forget, with KFC in 125 countries, whether you are ordering food in Beijing, Bangalore, or Buenos Aires. But while people may enjoy the same fast food, that does not mean the same facilitation techniques, language, humor, and training styles work everywhere. As a designer or facilitator, it is important to have a global mindset.

The Thunderbird School of Global Management defines global mindset as, “A set of attributes that helps people work better with individuals and organizations unlike themselves. It is the ability to understand the similarities and differences among cultures and not be paralyzed by the differences. It is about being comfortable with being uncomfortable in different environments.”

A global mindset is more than knowing a list of protocols to follow and the taboos to sidestep for each country. Knowledge of different cultures is not sufficient information to create a positive learning environment. It is also necessary to be open to feedback when working internationally to notice the “awkwardness” of a situation and make adjustments.

David Livermore is an expert on the topic of global mindset, or cultural intelligence, as he refers to it. David is the president of the Cultural Intelligence Center, and he says cultural intelligence consists of four interdependent competencies:

  • Drive:

    The ambition and energy needed to persevere throughout the challenges and conflicts that come with intercultural work.

  • Knowledge:

    Having a familiarity and awareness of how cultures are similar or diverse to communicate with someone from a different culture.

  • Strategy:

    Being able to use our drive and awareness to manage expected and unexpected situations adeptly.

  • Action: Selecting the proper behaviors in a culturally diverse situation. A person with a global mindset learns which actions will, and will not, improve effectiveness through being self-aware, and is able to adjust behavior quickly when the cultural contexts change.

Bahaa from Egypt taught a program in Pakistan; during the needs assessment conversation, he learned that English proficiency was adequate even though Pakistanis speak the Urdu language. On day two the second group of participants were quiet. Shortly into the presentation, Bahaa realized that the learners could not understand him. He called for a break and invited an attendee from day one, who spoke both languages, to be his translator and co-facilitator. Instantly, the engagement peaked. Bahaa had selected the correct new actions to improve the effectiveness of his training.

Dan, a trainer from Canada, had a similar situation but chose different actions. He went to China, and during the needs assessment, he learned that participants were fluent in English. During class, Dan learned otherwise. He called for a break and quickly simplified language on slides, thought of analogies for more complex concepts, slowed down his speech, and incorporated table group discussions.

Both facilitators utilized a global mindset. They had the drive and desire to work cross-culturally, and they gained knowledge through completing a thorough needs analysis. They designed a strategic training plan. However, once on the ground, their plan met with reality. They were able to read their audience’s subtle uncomfortable reactions and flex their behaviors to adjust content and body language to achieve learning transfer.


What would you have done? Do you have a global mindset? Here are some thought-provoking questions. There are no right or wrong answers. The four global mindset competencies mentioned earlier serve as a foundation to create introspection about your global mindset capabilities.

Drive: The interest, confidence, and perseverance to adapt to cross-cultural situations

  • Which cultures are you uncomfortable with? A global mindset includes admitting biases we have toward groups of people and working to overcome those biases.
  • What level of confidence do you have in your ability to function well in cross-cultural situations? Provide examples.

Knowledge: Understanding culture and how it shapes behaviors

  • Can you compare the values, norms, social etiquette, and religious perspectives of other cultures with your culture?
  • Considering the cultures you work with, can you demonstrate some of the business etiquette rules for acceptable verbal and nonverbal communication?

Strategy: Using self-awareness and knowledge to manage cross-cultural experiences

  • Would you know how to plan an effective, dynamic cross-cultural meeting or training?
  • Are you self-aware about how you come across to people? Can you adjust behaviors if the situation is not going as planned? Provide examples.

Action: Behaving appropriately in a culturally diverse situation

  • How flexible are you with adapting communication styles in stressful situations, like providing feedback, reaching an agreement during needs assessment discussions, or managing classroom challenges with cross-cultural participation?
  • Can you list your nonverbal behaviors you might need to adjust to be more successful in a cross-cultural situation? 

The key to further developing our global mindset is to seek opportunities to travel or to collaborate with a diverse team at home or online. We need to be intentional with these experiences to anticipate and strategize for the unexpected, then reflect-in-action to choose appropriate behaviors. 

About the Author

Donna Steffey is an international trainer, author, adjunct faculty at both Lake Forest Graduate School and DeVry University, and sought-after speaker who helps organizations achieve their desired business results. Donna incorporates her 20 years of management experience to educate, inspire, and coach. It takes the right blend of information, introspection and humor to cause people to look at themselves and change. Global organizations such as Marriott International, Barclaycard-UK, XIBI-China, Tumine Center-Africa, and the Royal Australian Air Force, have found that after Donna's workshops people were more self directed, customer service driven and mindful of their team participation. Donna combines learning with fun and applies her master's degree and life experiences to professional and real world situations. Your participants will be motivated to hit their performance improvement targets and your training will be a success!

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.