International Strategic Thinking

Some years back, I commenced my voyage to an incredible country, I now call home, America.  Though, my childhood took place in formerly a communist country named Albania, as St. Mother Teresa would say, “God has not called me to be successful. He called me to be faithful.” And through that faithfulness I arrived in America.  

Changing, familiarizing and transitioning in America proved tough and prolonged.  The culture shock took a toll on me and consequently my health weakened. It was painful not only physically but also spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically.  A noteworthy number of individuals and leaders experienced cultural differences during the two-way communication with me. I experienced the equivalent. Discovering the new environment and making good decisions felt challenging in every aspect.  

Like you may envision, I arrived in America, and simultaneously surrendered my former support system and friends I had in Albania.  Meanwhile, in the new country exponential transitions occurred on a daily basis. St. Mother Teresa’s quote, prompted me to persist even in the most dismal and desperate conditions.  It kept me aligned and looking onward. St. Mother Teresa said, “If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.” Although I walked alone, in my journey great Americans offered to assist and guide me. 

Initially, I was unaware why a cultivated individual of my competence would fall apart during the transitioning process to the new country.  Later on, when I attended and graduated with a Graduate Certificate in Diversity Management from Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio, I gained awareness about my experiences in America.  Amongst the many concepts discussed during the program the ones of diversity and inclusion aligned more with my voyage and survival in the new country. But what is diversity, what is inclusion and how the two function together. 

Diversity is the ability to appreciate people and their uniqueness and inclusion is the ability to make those differences work to accomplish team/organizational goals. St. Mother Teresa said, “What I can do, you cannot.  What you can do, I cannot. But together we can do something for God.” My uniqueness and my talents travelled with me in America. My fresh and international perspective added value to the organizations I worked for. As a team member the international dimension/perspective I brought to the table created innovation and made for better decisions in the era of globalization. However, it was not always the case. A long period of isolation and disorientation dominated my daily life. Despite the experienced confusion, I practiced open mindedness and flexibility to my everyday transitions and challenges.  Utilizing these two behaviors and applying them became my saving grace, although in an unaware manner for which I learned it was a best practice in the diversity and inclusion field.

St. Mother Teresa has said, “If you judge people you have no time to love them.”  Diversity and inclusion require suspending judgment. When we foster, appreciate and celebrate diversity and inclusion everyone brings their whole self to work, we make better decisions and we remain competitive in the face of rapid globalization.  There were individuals who embraced my diversity and made me a part of their team and there were other ones who judged me and my abilities without any grounds. I knew the moment I was judged I was not being appreciated, respected or nurtured. The path to success had vanished immediately or had become impossible to achieve.

What could we learn from my experience and from what I learned in my Diversity Management Program?! Studies have shown that international employees experience culture shock when they move to America.  Further, American employees with global assignments (outside of America) experience culture shock in the countries where the assignment is located. There are companies with failed products abroad because they failed to practice diversity and inclusion in their strategic planning.  A product can be successful if you apply it to the culture of the country you are offering it too. 

What could employees practice in order to adjust well, be able to make good decisions and achieve their goals?  We could learn more about culture competence and why is cultural competence important not only to me but to all of us as we conduct business globally.  Cultural competence is of utmost importance in today’s global arena. It’s behavioral based as well as knowledge based. In order for it to work we have to shift our behaviors and apply our knowledge.  It is a long process with encounters in which we might feel uncomfortable during practice. Remember, there is another perspective other than yours. Be open minded and flexible when meeting people of other origins, beliefs, backgrounds, races.  Two people can see the same thing in their own way, and use their perspective in how they see it and interpret it. That does not make them wrong. We must suspend judging people by simply looking at them. People dress differently, behave differently, speak differently, believe differently, eat differently, appreciate differently. 

The knowledge portion of the culture competence is a long and arduous process but well worth it.  It requires reading about the many cultures around the world. Learning what is important to them, who they believe in, what does family mean to them and other important factors about their communities.  In order to be globally successful today, we need to embrace an open-minded attitude, be flexible, do not judge based on visual perceptions, welcome different perspectives, learn how to handle conversations with different cultures and continue to expand on our knowledge about other countries and cultures. 

St. Mother Teresa once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  I am forever grateful to those who showed me love during my initial contact with the new life and environment in America.  Those folks hold a special place in my heart and there is not one day, I do not think of their kindness, appreciation and love for me in days of great difficulty.  Their true character came through. “Your true character is most accurately measured by how you treat those who can do nothing for you.” St. Mother Teresa once said. 

Diversity and Inclusion is a relatively new field but one making great strides and utterly crucial for any successful organization, successful leader and successful professional.  The world would automatically become a better place if we all applied diversity and inclusion on a consistent basis.