Taking Businesses Global With Cultural Competence

9/15/2015

To take their businesses global, companies need diverse leaders who have a deep understanding of their local customers, especially those in emerging markets. Those leaders who develop individual cultural competence become ready to lead their companies in global expansion. It is not enough to just work overseas; in order to achieve cultural competence as a foundation, global business professionals must process and learn from their experiences abroad.  

One of the best examples of a global leader building their organization into a strong international presence is Coca-Cola. The Atlanta-based company is a pioneer in cultural and geographic diversity, with almost 75 cents of every dollar in revenue earned outside of the United States. As early as the 1960s, the company was run by South African Paul Austin. Since that time, Coca-Cola has had Cuban, Australian and Irish CEOs, leading to today's CEO, Turkish-American Muhtar Kent.

Working for the company since 1978, Kent has learned seven languages and has now settled in a comfortable bilingualism with his native Turkish and English. Kent’s colleagues and C-Suite peers know him to be highly culturally competent, which is one reason his company is among the most recognized corporations in the world.

“He can step off an airplane in Malawi, and will know what to do, and know people there,” said Howard Buffett, a Coca-Cola director and son of Warren Buffett, who’s Berkshire Hathaway owns 400 million, or 8.9 percent, of Coke's shares.

But while Kent has leveraged his languages and travel experience to expand his business across the globe, not all of us have had the opportunity to live in a half dozen countries and speak seven languages. This is why corporate learning focused on cultural competence development is important. TMC’s cultural competence training helps professionals develop an open attitude framed by mindfulness, in which they are taught to reflect and gain self-awareness, and open themselves up to discussion with others. This helps them make room for cultural insights that demonstrate the criticality of developing cultural perspective.

Truly culturally competent leaders can take their companies’ business across the globe. The good news is that TMC’s cultural competence training can help leaders attain the skills they need.