Know Thyself – but is it easy to do so when working in an unfamiliar environment?

The world’s most effective leaders have a high level of self-awareness.

Sometimes the only instrument one can rely on for the job is oneself. What happens however when the ‘instrument’ has never been tested in a new environment? What steps can be taken to ensure we have enough awareness of what we take in and what we put out in the correct measure to suit unfamiliar and challenging working situations?

Speaking with a head of leadership development in a multinational organisation a short while back she told me the following:

We have a Leadership Development programme where we bring our high-potential managers together from around the world. We need to address the issue of global collaboration as there is an increasing dependence of the organisation on sales in emerging cultures, and many of our high-potentials are already involved in diverse teams. Yet we don’t currently get people thinking enough how they can approach working with other cultural locations, and what they can do to improve. We want to promote self-awareness about working in a global environment, and not just rely on generalisations about how cultures differ.

It made me think of a response I received from one of WorldWork Limited’s  licensees, Banu Goleshorki of Pharos International, Brussels, when I asked of her experiences using tools to train. Banu uses the International Preferences Indicator (IPI):

For me one of the key benefits of the IPI is that it is a training tool; not a coaching tool. I use it as a part of some of my two or three-day executive development programs. Last year I also used it for my Masters students and plan to do so again this year.   

 I personally really like the fact that it is not easy to fake the IPI responses as the respondents need to make choices and then indicate how strongly they feel about those choices. It is exciting to see the thermometers [a pictorial indicator within the IPI report that shows participants their levels of push and pull competencies] and it is very eye-opening for them that they cannot have ten full thermometers and they start to be more aware of how they represent themselves when working in unfamiliar environments. The executives are intrigued by the idea of Push-Pull preferences (click here to find out more about Push & Pull) and are surprised that they generally tend to have one or the other preference. They also like the fact that we are not talking about fixed personality attributes. Respondents really like the idea that they can focus and develop a certain area depending on the needs of their job or circumstances they are likely to face. It helps them to be more concrete about what they want to develop, why and how. IPI is not a predictive test and it does not claim to be, it merely provides awareness and a discussion tool for developing intercultural skills and strengthening our repertoire of behaviors and switching between styles as needed.

Operating as a leader in an unfamiliar cultural environment calls for a different level of self-awareness and the ability to adapt working styles accordingly. The IPI can be used in a training environment to help increase self-awareness and enable leaders to recognize and adapt their particular preferences when working internationally, which can then lead to more effective performance.

You can go to to find out more about WorldWork’s International Preferences Indicator (IPI).