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How to Distinguish Yourself in Today's Workplace

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GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE

Do you know how the uprisings in the Middle East will affect the average American? If you are in business, you should know. You can't help but be affected by major happenings around the globe. Knowing this can give you the competitive edge you need in business.

Whether they do it begrudgingly or with open arms, more companies will tap women for executive positions in this new decade. How can you make sure you are on the short list for advancement? Or... If you run your own business, what will give you the competitive edge?

A leading differentiating factor women can possess is having a global perspective.

First, most everything we touch these days is affected by the global marketplace, but few people in the United States (and other big countries) acknowledge the world beyond their own borders. It's important for a leader in today's marketplace to understand the global economy to make deliberate decisions for both innovation and problem-solving.

Tim Hartford, author of "The Undercover Economist," explained in an NPR interview that if you look at what goes into your daily cappuccino, you will find that the coffee, the chocolate powder, the wood for the cardboard holder and paper cup, the petrol in the plastic spoon and possibly the steel in the cappuccino maker come from different countries. It's likely only the milk is local. He notes that displacing any one part of the global economy can disrupt others... much like the analogy where the butterfly influences the hurricane.

Cultivating a Global Perspective

If most women are naturally inclined toward inclusiveness, broad-based perspective, and compassionate understanding, then we have the natural gifts to use a global perspective for making short-term decisions and contributing ideas for long-term gains. Here are three ways you can gain this perspective:

Travel More

Even if you have to figure out ways to bring your family on some of your journeys, figure out ways to cross borders and oceans at least once a year.

I have had the wonderful opportunity to teach classes globally since the 1980s. In my corporate positions, I taught classes in western Europe and AsiaPacific as well as across North America. After starting my own business in 1995, I expanded my reach into eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America. In 2010 alone, I delivered leadership and coaching programs in The Netherlands, Spain, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa and China, bringing my count to 22 countries across six continents.

The more I travel, the more amazed, and sad, I am about the lack of global perspective in the leaders I teach, especially in the United States. I was impressed not only by the advances in leadership mindset in Brazil (read Arianna's post), but thoroughly surprised to find Chinese leaders in profit-making companies interested in learning coaching, emotional intelligence and team collaboration skills to sustain the global success they are currently experiencing.

The United States is no longer number one in innovation. In 2010, we were rated 11th. We are sorely lacking in gender parity, which has proven to increase financial success. Our educational system continues to weaken. The shadow of the countries growing faster than us is threatening.

A global perspective widens your lens of possibility. You can provide possible solutions based on what is successful in other parts of the world. Additionally, a global perspective helps you to understand the sandbox your organization is playing in.

If you can't travel...

Watch Global News

Sometimes I can't get U.S. news when I travel. In Russia, I was able to access BBC. In Chile, I mostly had the English version of the Arabic-language news network, Al Jazeera. In Hangzhou, China, I watched the news from Hong Kong. I love getting a perspective of world events through different eyes. If I spoke another language, I would definitely watch the local news.

If you can't travel, scan the channels from your local cable or satellite TV companies. Seek foreign news sites on the Internet. You might find some interesting programs from other countries. If you speak another language, you might find more options on the list.

Even more important...

Talk To People

Seek out people who have lived in other countries or at least, have traveled beyond their borders. Ask questions about the cultures, the business practices and the changing family dynamics. Be curious. Don't judge.

When you meet people from other countries, ask them how they see your community and company in contrast to their homes. Listen for their unique insights, note their frustrations, hear their dreams, and feel their hope. We can learn so much from the people themselves beyond the news stories and books.

A progressive company should be on the lookout for innovative processes and management ideas. Having a global perspective is necessary for companies to pursue superior customer experiences, profitable growth and, ultimately, a competitive edge. Will you be the one to provide this perspective?

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Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D., president of Covisioning and author of "Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction," works with companies and individuals to implement leadership practices that are both effective and fulfilling. Read more at www.outsmartyourbrain.com

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