Saturday, April 21, 2007

plezWorld's Global Village

I spent this week in an Executive Leadership Training Class for my job. The company that I work for has a global presence, but to be honest, I thought that most of the class participants would be from the United States. I guess I should've known something was up when my riding companion from the airport was from Madrid, Spain.

Imagine my astonishment when a poll during the opening session revealed that less than 40% of my fellow managers were American. The assemblage of over 150 managers and facilitators were from literally every corner of the globe! The lead facilitator was from Singapore and the two instructors for my breakout session were from Paris, France and London, England.

As the week went along, it felt as if the whole world was shrinking before my eyes. I was talking with, laughing with, and relating to people who were from places that I'd only read about in books or were from places that I'd never heard of. I was an occupant of a true global village.

My 4-person team consisted of a delightful lady from London, England, an analytical guy from Singapore, and a fun chap from Buenos Aires, Argentina. And of course, I'm a driven soul from Atlanta, Georgia.

Did you know that Singapore is the name of the country and the name of the city? It is a small island in the South Pacific near Malaysia. Most people there speak Mandarin Chinese, but in our offices everyone speaks English. Did you know that in Argentina, everyone speaks Spanish at home and at work?

Africa:
I met an interesting fellow from Lagos, Nigeria, he travels frequently to London, England and Houston, Texas to visit friends and family. He came to the United States for college (undergraduate and graduate school) and stayed here for close to 15 years before returning to Nigeria to live and raise his family.

I ate lunch one afternoon with a young lady from Khartoum, Sudan, she said that she grew up in Ethiopia. I also met a guy in another breakout session who was from Johannesburg, South Africa.

North America:
Less than a third of my breakout class was from US and Canada. I did some role play exercises with people from Montreal, Quebec and Phoenix, Arizona. Compared management styles with a older lady from Houston, Texas. And tripped out at lunch with a crew that included folk from Boston, Massachusetts, Los Angeles, California, Chicago, Illinois, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Others who were not in my breakout included two Black guys from New York City and I was on the same flight home with a colleague from our Atlanta, Georgia office.

South America:
In addition to two Argentinians, there was also a young lady in our breakout who was from Sao Paulo, Brazil. She was very quiet and I didn't get an opportunity to speak with her.

Europe:
There were more Europeans in the class than from any other continent, and I was surprised by the number of managers from the Nordic region: Copenhagen, Denmark, Stockholm, Sweden, Amsterdam, (North Holland) Netherlands, Oslo, Norway, and Helsinki, Finland.

Another role play partner was from Brussels, Belgium, which he referred to as the Capital of Europe! There was a guy (with the coolest accent) from Rome, Italy, a guy with that smooth French accent from Paris, France and two guys from Germany: Munich, and Frankfurt.

Asia:
The other two guys from Asia (Tokyo, Japan and Shanghai, China) were very quiet and didn't speak much during the class. There was also one Black guy who kept contributing stories about how he does things in Japan, but he was obviously not Japanese... his country of origin was (and is) still up for debate!

As you can see, the learning environment of the past week was as interesting as the learning material. I learned a lot about people (in general) and as barriers fell throughout the week, I began to see everyone as just people. To varying degrees, we all spoke the same language and encountered the same issues in managing and developing people in our jobs. This week was an education within an education, and I feel that I am all the better for it. Thanks for joining plezWorld's Global Village.

9 comments:

Francis L. Holland Blog said...

That sounds like a great eye-opening experience. I'd much rather go to an international management conference than one limited to American managers. The likelihood of learning something new about the world would be much greater.

I've been thinking about putting up a bilingual site for kids - something like "Afrosphere Kids," with kids writing in Portuguese and me translating what they write into English, and then running the two texts in side-by-side collumns on the page.

plez... said...

Francis,
are you located in Brazil or Portugal?

Dave said...

Plez,

That sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime! It's interesting how we are conditioned to think of a village as something small that needs to be expanded, when the truth is, it is the world that needs to be made smaller, more village-like.

James said...

I have taken similar sessions with a large international student enrollment. It is a great experience and people all over the world are good business people. Thanks for sharing

plez... said...

dave,
i grew up in a a small town in New York that was referred to as a "village"... it was colonial in spirit and was a place where "everybody knew everybody". i'm glad that this week my world became like a village.

james,
it was my pleasure to bring my village to the blogosphere.

Anali said...

Very cool post! What a great experience. I do truly believe that most people are more alike than not.

plez... said...

anali,
you are correct, we have much more in common than we think. there are slight cultural differences, but by-and-large, we are the same. and to be honest, i found that to be quite refreshing!

CapCity said...

wow. it took a nite of insomnia & a few glasses of wine to "give me" the time to read this post of yours, plez. I've always dug your "vibe" and now I understand why - you're an "international brother" (at least you're open to being one;-) to quote the Icon formerly known as ...;-).

As I get to know many others from various cultures it seems the biggest difference is that the average American is less Universally aware.

Thanks for a great blog...once again!

plez... said...

CAP,
i suffer from a similar affliction (the insomnia)... if i make it past 9pm, then i may be up until 2am or 3am... but i'm always AWAKE at 8am, regardless!

i have pretty eclectic tastes which lends itself to non-American (and at times, international) flavors. plus i'm fascinated by meeting and learning about new people and people who i've never met... maybe that's why i don't have many friends, i get tired of folk and am always looking for someone new (i have no idea how my wife has managed to hang around me for the last 23 years *smile*).

thanks for stopping by... and now it's time for me to go to bed!