The Role of Soft Skills in Navigating the Global Business Landscape

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As technology makes it possible to bring people together like never before, it also presents challenges for international business expansion, particularly in bringing new ideas, products, and solutions to a new audience. In addition to a great product or service, business leaders must possess the necessary soft skills to succeed. Here are four business-critical leadership characteristics to focus on as you expand your reach.

1. Raise Your Emotional Intelligence

To be an effective global leader, you can’t underestimate the importance of emotional intelligence. As you cross a proverbial cultural bridge with your business, you’ll likely need to communicate and collaborate with professionals who speak a different language and who have completely different cultural backgrounds. A business leader’s ability to inspire and drive people to develop creative solutions is crucial to building a positive work environment. Additionally, having a high EQ helps you ask the necessary questions so that you can truly understand what people say, and also encourages cross-communication with the rest of your team to foster a sense of unity.

2. Be Easily Adaptable

From being able to take a call at midnight and lose a night’s sleep when flying overseas to overcoming market shifts and unforeseen changes that pop up, adaptability is an essential skill in the workplace. A useful strategy to use when faced with a change of plans is to ask yourself, “What does this make possible?” By looking at a failed sale as a door closing on you, try to find out how you can use it to help you land your next, even bigger, sale.

3. Possess Impeccable Communication Skills

Communication is a key skill, but even if you’ve mastered it with your employees, being able to communicate with a global team or audience comes with another set of challenges. From your offices to your organic marketing, you need to be able to listen to understand the uniqueness of the culture with which you are working. Listen to understand before trying to make others understand you. This shows self-awareness and respect and goes a long way, especially in situations where it’s easy for key details to get lost in translation.

4. Have a Keen Cultural Acumen

Having a model wear a green hat in a photoshoot for your new ad might not seem like a big deal to you, but it could be for your target audience. In one culture, green hats have a bad connotation and consumers may laugh over your brand’s lack of awareness. Be especially open to understanding what your foreign peers tell you about the culture. Dig deeper into learning about it and ask well-intentioned questions to raise your level of awareness. This not only helps ensure your company succeeds in a new market but also shows other team members that they and their culture are valued and respected.

In the End, Know That Soft Skills are No Longer Optional

Being proficient and excelling in your soft skills is mandatory in today’s business world. In an age where news — the good and the bad — travels fast, you want to ensure your interactions with your global team are not only positive but also set you apart as a business leader who can thrive in a new environment.

With years of global leadership experience, East West Bank chairman and CEO Dominic Ng has mastered the transformative power of soft skills. His understanding of, and insights into, helping leaders succeed across borders sets him apart from others. He’s a valued and trusted voice among his peers and is often sought after to help others develop and hone their soft skills as they relate to global business.