Stepping Outside Cultural Norms

Some friends were concerned with my international choices. They told me that this was not the right career track for a bright, goal-oriented person. Some people told me I was a fool for choosing international division work. They argued that I should just travel on vacation to Europe because it’s exotic and interesting, but it is not a place to work. They told me I would be doing myself a disservice. Some people even said I was un-American to choose to live in other places, as if there was something more valuable there. The prevailing attitude was that America was where the action was. In some ways that was true, but I was drawn to a more global life, and I wanted to understand people from other cultures. As I envisioned my future, I was hopeful of becoming a manager in a global company.

At that time in the 1960’s,  many major corporations were based in the U.S. and operated an international division. Many times the Americans who worked abroad were given the CEO or top management position in a foreign branch of the company as a reward at the end of their careers, not because they had a desire to understand and work in a foreign location. The same was happening in the U.K. for British executives, and in France for French executives. All developed nations had successful large companies with international operations.

Because these foreign locations were considered a hardship for the American executives working there, Americans expected to be compensated at a high level to afford them the same lifestyle abroad as they had enjoyed in the U.S.. This added significant expense to the international division. There were indices for calculating the cost of living differential, using New York as a base. For instance, if London was 130% of the cost of living in New York, the executive would receive an additional 30% cost of living differential. In addition, there were major moving costs associated with working in foreign locations, and payment of extra benefits, such as private schooling for the executive’s children. Such expatriate benefit packages continue to exist in many companies. However, there are fewer companies today that compensate expatriates in this way.

On a humorous note, I recall that one executive in the mid 1960’s shipped dozens of cartons of toilet paper to his new home in Switzerland, fearing that he could not obtain toilet paper there. We had little knowledge of how many people lived, what they thought, and what they valued; and sadly, many Americans did not care.

I had a wonderful experience working in the Swiss insurance company. The German they spoke in the office was quite different from traditional German, so I picked up fluency in another German dialect. By this time I had lived in Austria, two locations in Germany, and now was living in Zurich, learning three different dialects of the German language, and somewhat different cultures. I also travelled to many other European countries, so I started to understand that people from different countries, even in Western Europe, had different ideas about what’s important in life.

The position I had with the Swiss insurance company was office manager for an international division. My boss was an American man from Pasadena, California, who had lived in Switzerland for several years. His division of the company arranged and sold employee benefit plans, mostly to international companies based in Europe. Since my boss did not speak German, I was able to work between him and key Swiss executives. Since the operations spanned across Europe, I began to see how other international companies operated. I could also see that my future would be in international business.

Stepping Outside Cultural Norms2019-07-09T20:43:51+00:00

How We Arrived at the Age of Globalization

We first saw attempts at globalization when the explorers began to leave their home countriesVikings from Scandinavia, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch (the Dutch West India Company used New Amsterdamnow New Yorkas headquarters for their fur trade). These explorers were economically motivated. It wasn’t scientificit was trade. The Silk Route between China and Europe is another example of early global trade.

These early explorers were expanding empires and seeking economic opportunity. That’s why Columbus got funding for the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria ships in 1492. In the 19th century we saw British, Dutch and others in Africa and India. In the mid-20th century we witnessed a serious advance of the American economic empire, paving the way by the 1960’s for selling american brands like Coca-Cola to Europeans and others. Then came more sophisticated distribution, local manufacturing and finally acknowledged the importance of local taste. Eventually unique brands were created only for local non-U.S. markets.

We also saw the emergence of global brands that are globally managed and have little or nothing to do with their original local taste. This dawning of globalization has to be managed differently. This goes beyond adapting a brand from an original national market for a local market. Opportunities now are based on starting from scratch with a new breed of global understanding. This is not about a reworked national brand, nor is it possible for a domestically oriented person to have the necessary skills to succeed in today’s world. This is all new.

How We Arrived at the Age of Globalization2019-07-09T21:16:45+00:00

Communicating in a Connected World

When I think about my days, decades ago, as an executive in a foreign country where I was managing as a CEO, I laugh at how we communicated. In those days, things moved much slower, perhaps because there were fewer challenges, but mostly because we could not communicate as we do now.

I remember dictating to a secretary some type of communication that was important to me. The secretary would draft the letter and bring it to me for review. I’d make some comments and changes, sometimes dictating these using a recording device that the secretary typed from. After an hour, a finished copy of a typed letter was produced, brought to me for signature, and sent out in the mail. Of course, it took a couple of days for the letter to be delivered, perhaps a week in some foreign locations. A reply came back in a similar manner, and actions were then taken. This process now seems absurd to me because of the glacial pace when key decisions needed to be made.

In contrast, now I can be in Jakarta and receive a text message at 3 a.m. saying that a client in London needs to talk immediately because of something crucial that’s come up and he requests a video call. So I get my phone turned to FaceTime, call a client halfway around the world, and seconds later the client is on the phone. I can see and hear him or her, and we start having an important conversation. Sometimes I communicate outwards to one or more other persons, and they do the same. The situation is completed in a few minutes. we are in different parts of the world, different time zones, and yet this is the new normal, the new expectation and the new necessity. If we were not so hyper-connected, my client could not discuss with me their urgent and important issues and decisions.

Before global enterprises evolved, more communication went out from central headquarters. Now management and personnel are matrixed, and information flows not just back and forth between the center and outlying areas or operations, but rather in a matrix throughout the organization. That has many advantages–the biggest to me being that people can communicate directly with each other, not just through the center of the organization.

Communicating in a Connected World2019-07-09T21:18:20+00:00

Skills for Managers with Global Responsibilities and how to develop them.

Leadership is the most critical component of any successful CEO, yet many successful leaders find themselves in trouble because they pay little attention to how others are perceiving them.  CEO’s and top leaders are always, savvy, extremely intelligent, highly experienced with incredible track records.  As a coach for Global Leaders worldwide,  I have found that many of the CEO failures had to do with obvious mistakes in form and style.  Yes, mistakes in form and style that usually results from the of lack of awareness.  Many newly appointed leaders have the intellect, skills, and experience, yet it is form and style that gets in their way.

In his book “Global Mindset Coaching,” Dr. Gary Ranker identified the most critical skills for Managers with Global Responsibilities.

Coaching Global Leaders

In Dr. Ranker’s experience coaching is the most effective way to prepare Global leaders, and in his practice, he starts with awareness.   When writing his Global Mindset Coaching book, he interviewed many Global ladders and coaches in regards to what a coach should emphasize in order to develop into a global leader? Experience with other cultures, comfort with change and flexibility and working with colleagues in other countries, ranked as the top 3 traits to emphasize.

The umbrella to make these skills most effective in a global setting is developing a Global Mindset.

“ Global Mindset: “It is the ability to step outside one’s base culture and to understand there is no universally correct way to do things.”  

In the words of former client of Dr. Ranker, the CEO of a Japanese Global company.

I am now much more mindful about my behavior. I never had a global mindset before. This new coaching has lasting value. In business, many things happen. I will now be more mindful of how I respond to people. In fact, whenever I am writing an email, I hear Gary’s voice.”

Note that his biggest learning lesson was to be more mindful in how he responds to people, he is more self-aware, he is focusing on communication and relationships (form and style).   Those components weren’t the focus of his coaching, helping the leader becoming a more effective leader was.  Having a Global Mindset makes all the skills that executives already have more focused and more effective, especially when dealing with people that are different from them.



Skills for Managers with Global Responsibilities and how to develop them.2019-07-09T21:28:16+00:00

Ikea’s Global Mindset, a Competitive Advantage in Emerging Markets.

Ikea is about to open its first store in India, in what it seems to be one of the last big untapped frontiers for international retailers. Ikea has been successful in China, where they were able to understand the needs and wants of the customers and  local management practices.  Ikea is taking this approach, and implementing practices to meet the Indian Market, in other words, Ikea plans to bring its core concept to the Indian market however, influenced by acquired local knowledge; this is a Global Mindset approach.

Ikea is a Global Mindset company

Global Mindset: “It is the ability to step outside one’s base culture and to understand there is no universally correct way to do things.”   – Dr. Gary Ranker.

The opening of the India store is not happening overnight, in fact it has been a long process.  At the center of this initiative was not only a curiosity but a necessity for the company to learn about the culture and the Indian consumer.  As Ikea CEO Michael Ohlsson explains, “Most people don’t really know and can hardly imagine that we visit thousands of homes around every store in the world every year. We sit down in the kitchen and talk to them … that’s the way we try to learn and understand. ‘What are you annoyed with? What are your frustrations? What would you like to have? How much can you afford? What are your alternatives?'”

Ikea has Global Mindset Leaders

In 2012 Juvencio Maeztu landed in India as the CEO of Ikea India.  Since then, he has been busy trying to understand and laying the foundation to make Ikea a success in India. In his first two years, he stepped out of his comfort zone, by exploring, learning and adapting his style and the company’s to the “Indian way of doing things.”  As he explains, “This is a market you need to learn and not come into with an attitude that you know everything.” He met people from all walks of life asking them for advice and things that Ikea should know about their new market.  Maetzu is a leader with a vision and a Global Mindset.

Maeztu, a Global Mindset leader has moved back to Europe, his replacement in India is Peter Betzel.  Peter is passionate about diversity and inclusion and has the tools and the foundation to make Ikea a success in India and as India opens its first store, the components for success are there.   They are not taking risks; rather, they are executing on a business plan with a global mindset approach.

The approach Ikea has taken to globalization is truly exemplary.  They are taking the necessary time to understand the culture they are moving into and adapting their practices accordingly. Unlike the Home Depot approach previously discussed, their incompetent local adaptation and mode of entry were the main reasons for their lack of success in China.

The principles of the success of Ikea are simple, stepping out of their base culture with an open mind that there is not a universal way to do things, simple but not easy.  Companies are not global; leaders are, he success of Ikea is driven by Global Mindset leaders drive the success of Ikea.







Ikea’s Global Mindset, a Competitive Advantage in Emerging Markets.2019-07-09T21:34:44+00:00

Global Mindset and the Home Depot China Experiment.

In 2006,  Home Depot Inc. decided to enter the Chinese market.  First, they acquired 12 stores from Home Way, a Chinese company. By September 2012, all Home Depot stores had closed.   They announced that it would close all of its big-box stores in China, ending an investment that cost the company upwards of  $160 million.  Home Depot, like  every big company on the planet, saw a massive opportunity in China, where the dramatic growth of the middle class has opened up a vast new market and the potential for profits yet they failed to capitalize on any of that market share and the investment was a failure.

So what went wrong for the Atlanta-based company? 

According to a recent case study, Journal of Business and Management Studies, the failure of Home Depot in China can be attributed to a number of complicated reasons.  One of those reasons was a disconnect between the needs and wants of the market.  In order to achieve true and successful globalization of business, business leaders need to possess the right mindset,  a Global Mindset.

According to the Journal article, there are two main reasons why Home Depot failed in China:

  1. Incompetent local adaptation
  2. The wrong entry time and entry mode

1- Incompetent Local Adaptation

First, Home Depot did not address the Consumer’s needs and wants and they ignored the local culture.  “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” says Josh Noble at Britain’s Financial Times. In other words just because it works well in Atlanta, does not mean it will work just as well in Tacoma, Toronto or Tianjin.   The Biggest assumption that Home Depot made is that middle-class Chinese would act like their American counterparts in areas of home improvement.  However, the “comparatively low cost of labor prompts middle-class Chinese consumers to pay handymen or independent contractors to do the kinds of projects American homeowners tackle on their own,” Indeed, Home Depot spokeswoman Paula Drake described China as a “do-it-for-me market, not a do-it-yourself market.”

Second, Home Depot did not see the importance of preparing managers/executives to deal with local management practices.  The lack of awareness of the various social relationships (in Chinese “Guanxi”) was also a fatal problem of the company’s management.  Overall, Home Depot neglected to deal with  relationships with outside entities and in some cases, instrumental in for developing business in China.  Home Depot failing in this management behavior resulted in the disadvantageous position of the company in the local market.

2- The Wrong entry time and mode

At one point Home Depot blamed the slow economy and even the cultural differences, but that hasn’t stopped Ikea. “The furniture retail giant from Sweden is killing it in China, and it’s famous for making its customers put everything together themselves,” says Kim Bhasin at Business Insider. The difference? Ikea understands what the Chinese consumer wants and has therefore adapted their strategy to the fulfill the needs and wants of their Chinese customers.

“The successful company of the future will have a global mindset as a core characteristic of its leadership”

 -Dr. Gary Ranker

Surprisingly, Home Depot did not do  detailed research of  consumer behavior and market features of the local Chinese conditions.  First, the company made one big assumption,  they only saw the “potential” market size based on population and  home ownership, rather than on the market needs and wants.

How is possible that a company as large as this would make these “basic” mistakes?

Organizations increasingly need executive talent to lead their growing international operations. They need truly “global executives”—those who can work effectively across countries and regions to advance corporate goals while balancing regional and local interests.  They need leadership with a Global Mindset.

How does it relate to Global Mindset leadership?

We welcome your comments.

Global Mindset and the Home Depot China Experiment.2019-07-09T21:59:37+00:00

Qualities of a Global Mindset Coach

The most important factors of an effective Global Mindset Coach  according to a recent study shows the importance placed by the respondents on the coach’s actual on-the-ground experience in other cultures. But experience with other cultures can take many different forms. It could be that you grew up in a family that has more than one culture represented.

You may live as a child or as a young adult in another culture, study, or have experience in your own professional background where you live and work in another culture. All of those forms have different values for the potential coach who is in a position where global mindset is important.

Comfort with change is cited as being the next most important coach quality when looking at what it takes to be a global mindset coach. For some people change comes easily, but for many of us that’s not the case. When we become more comfortable with change we can deliberately put ourselves in positions where change is what we confront.

Some of these coaching qualities–like working with people from other cultures, familiarity with specific countries, and education in other countries–were all listed as important qualities for a coach who was expected to help someone else develop a global mindset. One thing that stands out is comfort with change.

If you think about it, comfort with change has relevance for dealing with or having experience with other cultures in that there is a dramatic change necessary in your mindset and your ability to cope with the values and differences of another society.

It’s possible to teach many of these qualities. We can depend on training from outside sources that could potentially help the coach develop global mindset.

Universities and institutes could even provide some form of cultural experience, both by bringing people to the training, and providing an opportunity for the coach learning global mindset to have an experience in another culture.

Qualities of a Global Mindset Coach2019-07-09T21:43:00+00:00

Notes from Global Leaders: Global Mindset Coaches Serve as Role Models and Leaders

Culture coaches emphasize differences. There are many of those. Only a few, however, are ‘Global Mindset’ coaches, among whom Dr. Gary Ranker is preeminent. Such rare assets exist to support business leaders’ success in today’s always-online, fuzzy-bordered business world.

‘Global Mindset’ coaches serve as role models and leaders of their own multicultural leadership experience to those who strive in a fast-moving global market. They need many attributes but foremost, they must have high moral values and be true to those always. At the same time, they should be sensitive to competing cultural forces and exercise pragmatism with care. Wherever I meet Gary Ranker, be it in Europe, North America or Asia, I meet the same highly-principled man, but I see him engage the most appropriate styles in his coaching in cultures as diverse as Japan and the U.S..

Dr. Ranker is always true to his values, but he is also attuned to the current environment–the mark of a truly great “Global Mindset’ coach. His latest book adds much to the world of business leadership.

–Iain Martin
Author, Looking Down on Leaders – a bird’s eye view of business and bosses. Chair of I.J. Martin & Co Ltd, Executive Coaches for Global Business Leaders, with presence in Europe, Asia and the U.S., Zurich, Switzerland.

Notes from Global Leaders: Global Mindset Coaches Serve as Role Models and Leaders2019-07-09T22:12:23+00:00

Notes from a Client: Triggering Positive Changes in the Workplace and Beyond with a Global Mindset

I decided to hire a coach because I wanted to improve my skills as a leader. I wanted to make sure that I’m always open-minded to outside influences that can improve me as a person and businessman. I’m intrigued by the process of growth, and one-on-one education.

I noticed Gary’s authentic nature and his genuine approach to how he communicates with people. He has a big heart and an empathetic approach to his coaching style. He’s worked at a global level of business from a young age, running large companies overseas, and understanding the intensity of corporate structures and the power struggles that transpire when working with large groups of diverse people.

In our coaching conversations, Gary gets to the root issues at hand. He’s very intuitive about what might be going on, and directs our conversation to unexpected places within the challenges that I face. He walks his talk with people from all walks of life, and from all parts of the world, melding the East and West together in his daily travel.

I find that having a global mindset helps me at a local level because it makes me realize the world is both big and small at the same time, depending on the situation at hand. Global mindset helps me with the diversity of my client base, selecting markets and understanding client needs and wants, and in dealing with differences from all over the world. It helps me in the hiring, development and training of different people, because in large cities the world has become a melting pot. I’ve come to realize that any one thing I do in my business can ripple out and affect many people, so I want to make sure that global mindset thinking is always part of my decision-making process of being a leader.

My business relationship with Gary has turned into friendship. His caring nature—his desire to help and make a difference in my life and the lives of others—has made a positive impact worldwide. I’m honored and proud to be part of that journey, and I know Gary’s efforts will open up the minds of many people, which will trigger positive changes in the workplace and in our intercultural communication, one human being to another.

Gary’s passion and his global mindset keep me thinking about the bigger picture, staying in a positive, productive mode of thinking that helps me create positive change for my clients and the people that I meet.

My coaching experience with Gary is making me a better leader in the short term, and I know that over time it will help me have more creative thoughts on how I can connect with people and clients outside my local markets. It will help me communicate better with all people and to make a greater difference in their lives and businesses.

Gary’s approach to developing a global mindset should be part of the on-going training and education in companies, because having a global mindset shapes the culture and boosts the revenues. With a global mindset you can better open markets, open more revenue streams, and drive profits as you serve people in a more global way.

Notes from a Client: Triggering Positive Changes in the Workplace and Beyond with a Global Mindset2019-07-09T22:15:46+00:00

The Benefits of Executive Coaching

This week I wanted to share with you what I believe are the “real” benefits of coaching. As you probably know, the type of coaching engagement I am most familiar with is coaching CEOs and high-level executives.

I see Executive Coaching as a CEO’s competitive advantage. I have observed that when executives start making better decisions, developing better relationships, taking risks, increasing their presence, etc., I can see a positive correlation between those changes and four main components, which in my view are the real benefits of coaching.

1- Awareness

Successful individuals are a unique breed.  Since they have achieved a high level of success, they sometimes look at the coach, perhaps thinking to themselves or saying, “Why should I listen to you? Why should I take your suggestions? I have evidence that the way I behave, manage, and communicate is successful.”  The reality is that everyone can identify one or more behaviors that deter them in some manner from being their best.  When this behavior is coupled with the awareness of perception, then you have a powerful combination, and it is perhaps one of the most valuable benefits of coaching.

2- Change in Behavior and Perception

Successful individuals are a special kind.  Since they are successful already, they sometimes look at the coach, perhaps thinking to themselves or saying, “Why should I listen to you? Why should I take your suggestions?”  I have evidence that the way I behave, manage, and communicate is successful.”  The reality is that everyone can identify one or more behaviors that deter them in some manner from being their best.  When this behavior is coupled with awareness of perception then you have a powerful combination, and it is perhaps one of the most valuable

3-Benefits of Coaching: Efficiency and Power

Perhaps this point can be better illustrated with an analogy.   If I have a car with a powerful engine, you can start the car, put your foot on the brake pedal, put the car in drive, and still get the car up to a high speed. Highly successful individuals are very powerful engines and having their foot on the brake has not kept them from being successful. The reality is, however, that the brake drags down their efficiency. If they took their foot off the brake, they could go faster using the same power—or they could use less power, less energy, to get the same speed. In other words, the brake does affect performance and efficiency. It’s just that they are powerful enough to absorb that inefficiency and still go fast until conditions change.

4- An Unbiased Point of View

People at the top are less likely to receive meaningful feedback, it gets lonely at the top. Moreover, blind spots are less obvious when things are going well.  Executives tend to become almost strictly inward-looking, especially when they have demonstrated to high levels of success. These blind spots can become “the foot on the break of a high-performance car.” The coach provides an unbiased opinion and is only concerned with the CEO’s success as the leader of the company.

In my work globally, I have been surprised to see the low percentage of CEOs who have coaches.  In fact, two-thirds of CEOs don’t receive any outside advice on their leadership skills, yet almost all would be receptive to suggestions from a coach. Those are the findings of a CEO survey conducted by Stanford University.  In my experience, the most successful assignments have been with CEOs who seek a coach as a key competitive advantage to stay at the top of their game.

All of the coaching benefits can be tracked to awareness, change of behavior and perception, increasing efficiency and power and having an unbiased point of view. Those are the real benefits of coaching.


The Benefits of Executive Coaching2019-07-09T22:23:04+00:00
Go to Top