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Intenational work assignments: A must for all lawyers

Posted by: Laurence Simons 24/06/14

by Anjam Akbar, Legal Director, Dell Emerging Markets EMEA

 
Earlier this year I went on a fantastic three months’ work assignment to Austin, Texas.  A couple of  weeks after I returned to home base (Dubai),  I was at one of those wonderful Laurence Simons networking events and all I could talk about was how enriched I felt having just returned from an awesome assignment.  The excitement clearly hadn’t worn off! At one point during the evening, I bumped into Naveen and was just starting to tell him why I thought everyone should experience an international assignment, when Naveen, being the gentleman he is, quickly cut me short and said, “I tell you what, Anjam, why don’t you write an article about it, I may even have it published in our Newsletter.” For a split second the cynic in me thought, “He’s trying to fob me off!” but then my newly expanded CQ (Cultural Intelligence) got the better of me and I said “What a super idea! You’re right; this is a topic that needs sharing!”  So here I am, sharing with you why I’m a firm proponent of international assignments in today’s global business environment.
 
If you’re like me and you work in an organisation with business in all four corners of the globe (I thought the globe was round, so where did all the corners come from?), then the following mantras are probably familiar to you:
 
1. Understand your customer- delighting your customers is after all the key to success
2. Have Innovation at the heart of everything you do – we all know we’ve got to constantly re-invent what we do and how we do it to stay ahead of the nasty competition
3. Build a culture that is diverse and inclusive – we’ve all been shown highly respectable research that has proven that increased diversity and inclusion means increased profits
 
The question is, how does your organisation get its employees to better understand its customers, to be constantly more creative, and to be genuinely accepting of differences?  I don’t know about your organisation, but mine has a programme of international assignments and with that it achieves on all three goals!
 
There has been plenty of research carried out around the notion of CQ which now validates that culturally intelligent employees are more effective and innovative and that they build a positive reputation for themselves and their organization. Greater CQ within an organisation gives that organisation an enhanced ability to conduct business across borders and an enhanced ability to be more profitable. The fact that employees with CQ understand cultural similarities and differences means that they have the ability to plan and be prepared in culturally diverse situations. Intelligence of this kind opens the mind and enables employees to think more imaginatively and creatively, and equips them with the flexibility needed in a cross-cultural situation. Employees with broader experiences naturally possess a broader knowledge of current world trends.  It follows that their knowledge of the organisation’s global customers is based on a stronger grasp of relevant issues. The sum total of all of this for the lawyer is sounder decision making and an increased ability to manage risk.

I’ve had the wonderful privilege of living and working in places as diverse as Copenhagen, London, Khewra (that’s in Pakistan for those of you wondering), Singapore, Dubai and most recently Austin. Each of these experiences has shaped who I am today. But there’s still a big wide world out there and I’ve still to find its corners, so I can’t wait for my next assignment.  As I was saying to Naveen, if an organisation is serious about doing business globally, then they’ve got to invest in their employees’   CQ.  There, now I’ve put it in an article too.