Global Management Mindset – Uncertainty is the new norm

Industries face faster competition, innovation and market reactions than ever before. Against this, ‘business as usual’ is failing to deliver the vision of leaders. Ashridge research suggests some 70% of strategies fail at execution level due to poor planning, cultural blocks and a lack of management experience.

While some leaders would prefer to ignore the warning signs of this, those prepared to adapt and think globally are better placed to compete.

“Today’s businesses will live and die with the capacity of their teams’ ability to adapt and evolve,” states Ashridge Research Paper Mindset Matters. “Growth mindset is a cultivated approach that helps individuals to cope and manage change, adversity, and uncertainty. It is intended, not acquired, and requires sustained effort and practice.”

“Individuals need to invest in their personal development so that they are cognitively and behaviourally job ready now and re-invest to ensure they stay job relevant in the future. With a little investment, businesses can support employees to develop a growth mindset.”

At the heart of this mindset are three core principles: Embracing digital disruption; thinking globally; and managing teams at a distance with an understanding of diversity.

Influencing a global team’s culture is no easy task when it is made up of so many individual cultures. As the renowned business culture expert Stan Slap, Chief Executive Office, SLAP says: "It's not up to an employee culture to understand the business logic; it's up to the business to understand an employee culture's logic."

Embracing uncertainty can be challenging for a team. The leader therefore needs to adopt a toolkit of soft skills that will enable the team to be comfortable in uncertainty.

Digital disruption reshapes markets and is relentless in forcing companies to change their strategies. For example, even the legal industry - one of the oldest professional services in the world - is changing its entire business model based on artificial intelligence.

Research from McKinsey estimates between 22%-35% of lawyer and clerk jobs can now be automated. In one case study, AI technology learned legal tasks 100 times faster and reduced the need for junior legal workers by 99%.

It is crucial that leaders understand the impact of new technologies and challenge their teams to embrace them. But not all technology comes with a warning label – especially those used for virtual collaboration. As such, leaders must insist their teams collectively understand the limitations of communication tools – and find ways to ensure needless conflict does not occur.

Yet failures in communication and cultural understanding are not always down to technology. Often it is leaders themselves at fault. The face-to-face signals people seek in person are absent when we use emails or phone calls. Yet international teams in particular are inclined to find their own ways to repair confusion when statements are unclear.

Studies have found that people in conversation ask for some type of clarification of every 90 seconds*. Research from Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen showed that people naturally seek to repair ‘trouble’ statements with questions such as “Who?’, ‘come again’, and ‘he did what?’.

“One of the bigger strategies is to remember to be inclusive,” said Dr Christopher McCormick of EF Education First. “When you use a language that isn’t your home one, you learn a lot of ways to repair, support a conversation, or talk around something until you finally get there.”

Uncertainty in business today is certain. Competition can appear from anywhere while digital disruption pushes the agenda faster. Successful strategies rely on the leader’s global management mindset and how well they impress this on their teams.

Paul Griffith
Professor of Practice

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