Liza Robbins; what is an international mindset?

March 23, 2023

Sector: Finance

Liza Robbins, Kreston Global Chief Executive, shares her thoughts on what makes a great international leader.

A requirement for leadership

The first is that thinking internationally positions you for success in a globalised world. More than that, it’s a prerequisite for leadership. Our countries are far more connected and interdependent than they used to be, and being able to confidently navigate the different environments in which you will find yourself is a key competence.

If you’re narrow-minded, you’re going to fail. You will not connect to the people you’re dealing with, you may not understand how they operate, and there may be multiple misunderstandings. Of course, you can’t entirely erase a culture gap just by being curious, but the willingness to learn goes a long way.

You will also miss opportunities to learn and grow. There is so much we can learn from other cultures, both about how to do business and about life more generally. You don’t have to struggle to reinvent the wheel at your firm when you can simply watch how your peers at Kreston firms elsewhere operate and adapt their best practices. This is how many of the greatest advances are made.

When you think internationally, you will talk to clients and colleagues about your differences and commonalities, exchange views and share what’s important to you. The result will be deeper, more meaningful relationships.

These aren’t just ‘nice to have’ but the foundation of long-term partnerships and a sustainable business. The reason that “Knowing you” is the Kreston motto is precisely because having these conversations and forming these deeper relationships is critical to offering a transformative service.

Think Internationally… Even locally

All this applies and benefits you at a local level too. Although we talk about thinking “internationally”, this mindset does not miraculously switch on when you phone someone in another country or get on a plane abroad. Being curious about others makes you a better, more informed, and more personable leader at home.

And finally, this approach is fun! At least I’ve always found it to be so. Nothing is as interesting as other people. If you enjoy travelling and discovering new places and new sights, actually getting to know people whose lived experience is very different from your own is even more fulfilling.

None of this necessarily comes naturally and simply belonging to an international network does not automatically mean you’re thinking internationally. Your mind can still be shut even if you speak to people on the other side of the world every day. It’s a skill that has to be cultivated.

Consciously develop your international thinking

An oft-cited survey by McKinsey showed that 76% of senior executives believe that their companies need to develop global leadership capabilities while only 7% think that their efforts are effective. That survey is more than a decade old now but the gap and the need certainly still exist.

Some of you may be natural ‘international thinkers’ while others will want to be. Either way, I want to challenge both you and your teams to do more to consciously think internationally.

Here are some easy baby steps:

  • When a firm joins Kreston from another country, email them and ask them to share something about themselves. Better still, get on the phone.
  • Every time a new firm joins, follow them on LinkedIn. Notice their cultural celebrations and the issues that are important to them.
  • Get your atlas out! Do you know where our firms on other continents are located?

Through globalisation, our world is getting bigger. But the more you get to know people, the smaller it feels. That’s exactly what we should be aiming for – to take actions that make us feel closer and more intimate, whatever the distance between us.