Leading & learning, multi-culturally

August 2, 2011

This year has really flown by, hasn’t it?

For me, a contributing factor is likely the travel I’ve enjoyed the past few months. In conjunction with client work, I’ve been to Minneapolis; Alexandria, VA; Seattle; Allentown, PA; Atlanta; Washington, DC; and Wilmington, DE…some of these cities more than once. Tucked in the middle was a trip to San Antonio for a family celebration of life and a too-short visit with some friends.

The highlight of the year (so far!) – and my first international client engagement – was a week-long trip to Singapore at the end of May. I had the pleasure of facilitating a three-day workshop for 24 of this new client’s in-house trainers, who came from eight different Asia Pacific countries. I always enjoy leading SME workshops; it is great fun to see the “light bulbs” come on as these folks discover how to increase the effectiveness of the training they lead. I always learn something from participants in workshops I facilitate, and Singapore was no exception! I discovered a lot about learning in other cultures even as I led the group – who spoke English far better than I spoke any of their languages – in exploring how they could make their training more effective.

I’ve been asked, on occasion, whether the adult learning principles and practices we utilize in the U.S. apply in other cultures. At least for this group, the answer was a resounding yes! Every one of these participants – whether from Singapore, Malaysia, India, China, Japan, Vietnam, New Zealand, or Australia – wanted to know how they could better engage participants in their own training sessions. In part of the workshop they were able to share the similarities and differences in their approaches to delivering content and work together to reach consensus in key areas. In short, the workshop was much like any I facilitate in the U.S., with the addition of a very rich multicultural environment.

If you’re responsible for learning in a global organization, do you reach out across borders to…

• provide development, mentoring, and/or coaching programs so individual SMEs can build their skills and knowledge?

• encourage your subject-matter experts to regularly share ideas and techniques to raise the quality and level of learning for everyone?

• provide formal opportunities for your SMEs to gather with their colleagues from other countries?

      An effective (and effectively used) learning and development program is the best competitive advantage in today’s global economy. Help your organization make the most of that advantage by ensuring those who lead learning have everything they need to be successful.

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