Festival of Global Mobility Thinking sparks creativity in the sector

A unique interactive approach took global mobility to the next level exploring leadership, agility and engagement to prepare for 2030 and beyond.

Festival of Global Mobility Thinking: Dimitry Kochenov
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Speaking about how the first Festival of Global Mobility Thinking came about, Fiona Murchie, managing editor of Relocate Global said, “I felt it was time for a conference with a different format. The sector is mature enough now to work together and collaborate on some of the bigger issues and put forward a stronger voice. We as a sector are reaching a growing global community who are shaping the future of the workforce in 2030 and beyond.“I wanted to kick start some creativity,” added Ms Murchie. “I know our sector is having a pretty challenging time at the moment keeping up with fast moving technology challenges, from AI to robotics, reassuring their workforces about roles for the future and supporting business needs in an increasing number of locations against a backdrop of takeovers, mergers, cost-cutting and talent shortages. These are the type of issues corporate HR and global mobility specialists and their outsourced suppliers juggle with every day.“Throw in exploring new Brexit locations or the challenges of setting up in a new dominion in Asia or the Middle East with growing compliance issues across tax and immigration, not to mention supporting diversity across your organisation and you’ve got a true picture of what it’s like managing a global team, whether you are a multinational or an SME. But people in this sector are really passionate about what they do and there are some amazing opportunities for business growth and exciting times ahead for mobility specialists who want to be more strategic.”
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And, you only have to read the recently published RES Forum Annual Report to see the supporting evidence for yourself from 1600 members in 600 companies across 45 countries.

A masterclass in leadership

The highlight of the day was Phyllida Hancock’s keynote – a stunning success and a wonderful tribute to both the power and importance of creative leadership. “Olivier Mythodrama’s approach encourages people to see themselves in different leadership modes through Shakespeare and The Tempest seemed a perfect fit for delegates to explore transformational leadership at the festival. I couldn’t wait to see the reaction,” she enthused.
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Speaking after her experiential session, Phyllida Hancock admitted the theme of global mobility was a new one for her, encompassing culture change and people either leading teams that are in other countries or going to other countries, with assignees and leaders having to learn the new culture, and particularly a new market.“Shakespeare was very interested in what happens when people can’t communicate. There are often characters in the plays that need to be encouraged to speak. For example, if you have been very successful as someone who has driven the business, someone who has put goals in place and made sure they are reached, if you’re very good strategically, and someone who is very good at looking at the bigger picture and working out the route to get there and you find yourself in a new location having to build a new market, you may need qualities of leadership that are different – more entrepreneurial characters of leadership. The ability to build a new business where there isn’t one requires a very different sort of leadership. You won’t have the same kind of targets and people can struggle with that,” added Ms Hancock.

What it means to be truly agile

Alluding to the overarching theme of agility for the festival, she went on, “What does it mean to be more agile? What does it mean to accept failure, to be proud of failure, to create an environment where people can take risks? “Inevitably, in a new market, culture or country you’re not going to get it right first time. Sometimes people who come from more traditional companies where they only do what’s safe might not be able to serve you in a new market. A great part of the leadership development is encouraging people to flex their leadership portfolio skills.”The wealth of material in Shakespeare’s plays provides a rich resource with timeless examples of leadership challenges that are as relevant now as they were in the 16th Century. As Ms Hancock explained, “The metaphor that we work with is characters on a stage. If you think of your leadership as being like a play - there are different characters on the stage. Some of them are centre stage, the qualities of leadership you’re most comfortable with, the ones that you’re most practiced in and the ones that people value you for.”
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But she pointed out, in a new environment you may need to step back from them. Ms Hancock’s captivating delivery of the stories that weave through Shakespeare’s The Tempest, had the audience enthralled. A high impact injection of creativity had the room buzzing.Simon Rogers, managing partner at TMS speaking about the Olivier Mythodrama keynote said, “I loved that it was in context and talked about the wider world of HR, economy and not the usual take on business travel.” He added, “It was clear other business leaders needed to be there from finance, talent and learning and development.”Mr Rogers explained it was the first conference he had been to in the global mobility sector at a more strategic level. “I have never seen anyone achieve an event at such a high level before – congratulations, do it again.”Author, HR and international consultant Dr Linda Holbeche, expertly teased out the transformational leadership themes in a facilitated discussion that led into her presentation on developing and leading agility.
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 Dr Holbeche, author of The Agile Organisation, explained that organisations are going to have to become more agile if they are to survive. She added that organisations needed to be more proactive and seek opportunities while at the same time doing their best to mitigate risk and that they needed to ask if they were able to translate an idea into action quickly.Dr Holbeche said, “If the focus becomes more and more on the short-term, how can one stand back and get the whole picture? How can we reflect when we are so busy? It is difficult to make decisions in a timely way.“That is why organisations need to be agile, but at the same time develop resilience. If you do make decisions, you will also make mistakes,” she emphasised.

Why communication matters

The key is to create a workplace culture, which enables people to experiment. There needs to be a two-way communication valuing people at all levels in the organisation. That type of environment is not usually found in organisations with a “command and control” structure, and part of the process is about putting out new products so you can get feedback before they are finished.She cited the example of ING bank, which had taken the template used by the music streaming service Spotify and had built teams known as “squads” to flexibly work on short-term projects. “Digital takes no prisoners,” she warned. “It has even crept into the most highly skilled professions – medicine, law and accountancy.”Another example was the US shoe retailer Zappos, which waits up to six months to get the right staff to work in their call centre. Unlike most call centres, it is a job that employees love to do, because they have been empowered to “bring delight to customers”. “The obstacles are not out there, they are inside,” Dr Holbeche explained.“People don’t want to give up what they have. It affects the way people are rewarded. If you are rewarded for compliance, why would you think innovation? If you are rewarded as an individual, why would you think in terms of a team? If you want people to work in new ways and be accountable, they have to trust you. Your communication has to be real and truthful and you have to take people on the journey.”Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory ©2018. This article first appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Relocate magazine, published by Profile Locations, Spray Hill, Hastings Road, Lamberhurst, Kent TN3 8JB. All rights reserved. This publication (or any part thereof) may not be reproduced in any form without the prior written permission of Profile Locations. Profile Locations accepts no liability for the accuracy of the contents or any opinions expressed herein. 

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