BookMarks September 2019

author bookmarks ernest gundling sept 2019 what is global leadership working globesmart Sep 16, 2019

Working Globesmart: 12 People Skills for Doing Business Across Borders by Ernest Gundling, 2003, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 376 pages.

What Is Global Leadership: 10 Behaviors that Define Great Global Leaders by Ernest Gundling, Terry Hogan, and Karen Cvitkovich, 2011, Intercultural Press/Nicholas Brealey, 240 pages.

Reviewed by Craig Storti

This month we review two books by Ernest Gundling, probably better known as the founder and co-president of Aperian Global, the people who bring you the GlobeSmart tool and an extensive suite of other tool and services. Besides highlighting Gundling’s work, our other agenda here is to highlight the publisher Nicholas Brealey. There used to be something called Intercultural Press, which many readers will be familiar with; at one time it was one of the very few publishers of books in the intercultural field. It was started years ago by David Hoopes, George Renwick, and Peggy Pusch; the multi-talented Peggy was also the founder, first president, and executive director of SIETAR-USA while she helped steer the ship at Intercultural Press.

Then some years back an Englishman named Nicholas Brealey bought Intercultural Press, retaining the name as an imprint under his company, which published books on a variety of other, mostly business, topics. Two years ago the giant publishing house Hachette, with many imprints, bought out Nicholas Brealey Publishing, also retaining that name as an imprint. Now Hachette/Nicholas Brealey continue to publish books in the intercultural field. If this is news to you, you should definitely go to their website to see what they have on offer. (Full disclosure: Your humble Book Review Editor’s books are published by Nicholas Brealey.)

Now to the books. The appeal of these two books is, as their titles suggest, their emphasis on skills and behavior, as opposed, that is, to knowledge or cultural information. As Gundling himself makes clear, we need both: after all, the skills and behaviors he is talking about have to be applied and practiced in global and cross-border contexts, so they need to be supported by awareness of cultural differences. The other appeal in these two books is Gundling’s solid business background which makes the two books almost automatically practical. Gundling can’t go on for more than two or three paragraphs without drawing business inferences from what he is saying. You will be informed by these books, to be sure; but you will also use them.

Working Globesmart: Here is Gundling’s case for the skills book “The single greatest cause of difficulties in global business transactions is not a lack of technical expertise, hard work, or good intentions—it is a lack of people skills for relating successfully with counterparts from other countries and cultures. The number of people involved with global business has increased dramatically over the past decade, and now, with the advent of virtual teams, global people skills have become a daily necessity in many professions.”

Gundling divides his 12 skills into three subsets—interpersonal, group, and organizational—and identifies them as follows:

  • Interpersonal: establishing credibility, giving and receiving feedback, obtaining information, and evaluating people
  • Group: building global teamwork, training and development, selling, and negotiating
  • Organizational: strategic planning, transferring knowledge, innovating, and managing change

Each skill is then developed in a chapter or half a chapter, full of examples that highlight cultural differences, describe the challenges of global teams, analyze common mistakes (mostly his own, he notes), and place the skill in context. There are a number of great tables in the book and a lot of great stories, my favorite being one about Americans training Russians how to negotiate. 

What Is Global Leadership? Gundling says the goal of this book is to describe what is different about leading in a global context. “Rather than applying the word “global” to a model that originated in one country,” he writes, “we sought to make this research project ‘global from the start.’ We eventually interviewed more than 100 leaders from 14 companies based in several regions who were identified by their employers as their most successful expatriates. These leaders were from 26 different countries of origin and had been on international assignments in 32 countries…. We explored in depth with each of them what they had found distinctive about working in a global context in comparison with their prior domestic roles, and summarized these findings in the global leadership behaviors described in the SCOPE model.

The SCOPE model has five elements and under each element are two of the 10 “key behaviors” the book is all about:

Seeing differences: cultural self-awareness and invite the unexpected

Closing the gap: results through relationships and frame-shifting

Opening the system: expand ownership and develop future leaders

Preserving balance: adapt and add value and core values and flexibility

Establishing solutions: influence across boundaries and third-way solutions

There are five chapters for the 10 behaviors and then three additional chapters on training, coaching, and teaming the 10 behaviors. “The best part of the book,” Gundling says, and I wholeheartedly agree, “is the pithy wisdom of the interviewees.” And not just “pithy” but also very insightful.

In the space we have here for our Bookmarks column, it’s not possible to do justice to one book, much less two. Our goal this month was not so much to describe two books but to introduce readers who may already be familiar with the Globesmart tool to other treasures this organization offers.