international studies

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International business skills

International Business Skills

In modern business, what makes some people more successful than others and more valuable to the company is not only their knowledge in the field but most importantly their competence in using certain soft skills. These skills can be developed and learnt so as to facilitate an organization to thrive towards success but also to enhance personal characteristics and capabilities of people. The module in International Business Skills has given me the opportunity to develop skills I already had so as to enable me succeed in my future career but also in my academic performance. The eight topics studied are complementary to each other and have therefore provided a solid foundation for development. This learning log introduces the topics by stating how they are relevant to international business; it then emphasises how the seminars have been beneficial to me and how I will be able to develop and apply the skills I have acquired during the sessions.

Emotional Intelligence

Over the past years, corporations have started to look for more varied qualities in the people they employ. Emotional intelligence is important as it is relevant in people working at different parts of international business such as in management development, recruitment interviewing and selection, customer relations and service. It provides a way of understanding and assessing people thus it is vital where it concerns human resources.

Reflecting on the seminar, I believe that I can now separate between two main areas of competencies. On the one hand there is a personal aspect, which requires competencies such as self-awareness, self-regulation and motivation. On the other hand, there is a social aspect, which concerns bringing humanity and compassion at work by conveying empathy. Learning how to manage both personal and social capabilities will help me become more successful in my work but also in my everyday life. Being a very emotional person, I have sometimes found that my emotions keep me back from my work when faced with certain challengers who affect me emotionally. The seminar has taught me how to manage my emotions and motivate myself, be more adaptable but most importantly on how to suspend judgment, be optimistic and try to find ways in bettering myself and becoming successful. I have learned above all to understand myself and then understand others and their feelings.

As emotional intelligence is vital in developing many skills such as networking, teamwork or leadership I had the opportunity to put into practice what I have learned. In teamwork, I was able to show self-awareness by assessing my behaviour and how this would affect others, and then by exercising self-management by being adaptable, optimistic and having emotional self-control. By showing social awareness I was able to meet my team's needs and also understand their emotions and their perspective.

Learning about emotional intelligence will help me when it comes in employment opportunities. For example if I establish good rapport and a strong relationship with my manager and show him that I do not only have good training or expertise in my domain but I can also handle myself as well as others, then this will increase my opportunities of getting promoted to higher levels in the company.

Cross-cultural teamwork

Working in teams has proven to be essential in contemporary business due to increased competition in the global arena. In the module “Issues in Management” I have learned that especially in knowledge based businesses, the collective practice of people on a certain task has demonstrated better outcomes than individual work since with the interaction of people there is better exchange of knowledge and efficiency in task completion. However, in cross-cultural teams certain barriers such as language, clash of personalities, cultural backgrounds or different ways of approaching problems may restrict members in integrating in a team. Dealing with different people from diverse backgrounds and cultures may cause problems but the need to work collectively for the achievement of the same task can make people come together and bring about compromising for the mutual benefit of the group.

The cross-cultural teamwork seminar has proven to be vital for my understanding of how teams are formed, how they function and the different stages of team development they undergo. The four stages of team development provided insight to the common traits of relationship building I had observed in previous teamwork. Learning about the storming stage gave me confidence to confront uncooperative behaviour in a positive way by trying to bring balance and harmony in the team so as the team will undergo successful development.

My personal academic experience always had to deal with teamwork. Throughout the years I had noticed that in a team each person would always take up a role, for example that of a decision-maker or an implementer. Learning about Belbin's team roles validated my observations by illustrating how each member contributes to a team through certain roles they adopt. This has helped me in dealing with my “Issues in Management” assignment where each team member was assigned a particular task based on his/her abilities. Moreover, through the Belbin's Self- Perception Inventory I had the chance to assess my “best team roles” and as a result raise my awareness of the informal roles I adopt within a team and how they might be valued by other team members. This gave me an explanation as to how I contribute in a team and why I react in specific ways, especially in situations where there are no effective leaders in the team and I automatically take initiative.

It is indubitable that the knowledge I have acquired through this seminar will help me in my next teamwork assignment since above all I now know myself better but I am also more aware of others. After working with a multicultural team in the practical exercises I now have a better understanding of the different particularities of each culture. I have also learnt to adjust my behaviour so as to facilitate the smooth collaboration towards the successful completion of a task through effective team working. Therefore, I will be able to overcome any difficulties that may arise with ease when working in an international business environment which will involve interacting and working with people from different cultures. As a result, this practical session gave me the opportunity to put theory into practice by being conscious of my behaviour and the different development stages we underwent as a team.

Cross-Cultural leadership

In international business working with and leading groups of people from different cultures is common in multinational projects. For me, being an effective leader means directing successfully the people you work with by the means of motivation towards the accomplishment of a mission. Knowing how to do things right is what characterises a leader and having the capability to be both an effective manager and leader in a business will undeniably lead a business towards success.

The importance of emotional intelligence in successful leadership cannot be refuted since leaders have to deal with other people and relationships. As a result, effective leaders primarily need to have self-awareness and self regulation in order to be able to lead a group of people. The seminar taught me that the key to earning someone's trust and to building a relationship with a team is to show empathy and to understand their emotions. This knowledge will facilitate me as a leader in managing relationships effectively and in implementing change where needed.

Leading a multicultural team is not an easy task. I came to know this when working with a multicultural team this year. After the seminar, I realised the mistakes I had made and how I had been sending across the wrong messages to them unintentionally. Even though I tried to communicate with respect, the fact that I was not flexible in my way of working to fit in with their culture preferences created stress and panic in the team. They felt under pressure and that they could not work by the hectic working plan that I had set. After the seminar I had the chance to remedy my actions by recognising that my own perceptions and opinions may not be shared by others but also made me realise how differently some cultures might perceive power and leadership. I therefore became less assertive and I motivated them to co-operate and show commitment by satisfying their psychological needs. I achieved this by giving them more responsibility and by letting them make choices more often. I then showed my appreciation and recognised the significance of their work.

In the future I will aim to strengthen my emotional leadership by being conscious of the particularities found in other people and also by constantly practicing and gathering feedback from peers. In this way I will be able to identify my strengths and weaknesses and try new ways to improve myself. I will then be able to correct my mistakes on the spot so as to become an effective leader.

Win-Win Negotiations

Negotiations are considered to be an integral part of our everyday lives, particularly of our jobs. It is a skill that everyone may possess to some degree, however, it is essential to develop and cultivate this skill through learning and practice. In business, negotiation skills are constantly tested through completing contracts, sales, team building but also negotiating on salary issues. Win-Win negotiations refer to both parties emerging as winners from their negotiation. Therefore, knowing how to persuade but also please the other party is essential for a successful and rigid negotiation process.

The seminar has been vital in improving my negotiation skills by teaching me what makes a good negotiator. It has helped me correct my biggest mistake by emphasising that an effective negotiator does not only think of what he wants out of the negotiation but is also capable of identifying the needs of the other party. Learning how to use specific tactics but also being able to change them in order to facilitate the negotiation process has been the main competence I have gained. This has reinforced my creativity as well since finding different methods of negotiation and possible solution requires creative thinking in order to produce unique ways of persuading. My creativity was put into practice during the case study exercise when I had to make a decision which would result in mutual benefit and when I had to find different methods of solving the problems raised.

In summary, the further development of this skill will help me gain lifelong success in my life and career in business. I will be able to apply my negotiation and communication skills when having to influence people with regard to salaries and contracts or be able to increase the sales and profit of the company. My learning will be supported through further developing my negotiation skills when working in teams in my academic work. When working in such an environment I will implement and develop a plan with possible scenarios that could be followed to reach my objectives and at the same time satisfy the others' needs. As a result, my skills will be strengthened to such a degree that in the future I will understand my opponent's position ahead of time and be able to use different tactics to reach my goals.

Numerical Skills

One of the reasons people go into business is to make money hence when working in a business environment, you are bound to come across numbers at some point; that may be the profits of the company, balance sheets, interest rates or exchange rates.

Having only a literature background, I have not had much exposure to numbers. My numerical skills have been fairly poor since the last time I had to do work with numbers was in high school. Undeniably, I could not build on any skills I previously had or on any knowledge since this was completely new to me. However, the two sessions of Financial Mathematics have proved to be of valuable importance since I have now developed some abilities in calculating basic financial mathematics equations which will be necessary in my future career. The exercises we had to complete have given me the ability to apply and use numerical skills within a business context. I can now do exchange rate calculations which will be vital when working in an international business environment which might involve transactions between different companies across different countries using various currencies. This session has prepared me to interpret business information with ease since I am now familiar with the different terminology and with the different formulas needed to calculate potential investments.

Moreover, this session has complimented on the theory of finance which was taught in Issues in Management. My interaction with numbers has made me more confident since I now feel that I can manage basic financial numerical exercises which I will come across in my future career in business. As a result, I will be able to support and keep developing my learning by interpreting the Markets Data column in the Financial Times which will also keep me up to date with the world economy and finance.

Networking

Networking is considered to be an essential way of creating contacts and connecting with people in order to share information and build a mutually beneficial relationship. Working in a business will require networking skills since employees may have to attend conferences, seminars or even some social events where making good personal contacts is essential in building the business.

As an extrovert and a social person, I have never faced any particular problems when interacting with people. I have always found it easy to talk to people that I have never met before. Nevertheless, the seminar on networking has helped me improve the communication skills I already have by emphasising the importance of body language and outlining the ways we can establish non-verbal rapport. I have learned to use small actions that we make unconsciously, such as smiling or nodding, in a conscious way so as to build and maintain rapport effectively. In this way, I will ensure that I am expressing interest in the matter discussed. Moreover, I have learned how to control my body language so as to transmit efficiently the desired messages to other people. This has been managed and further developed by continuous observations of interaction in between others and myself.

Furthermore, the people bingo exercise was a successful way in conveying how people move from one person to the other in search for information but also how they build relationships based around a mutual benefit. It is indubitable that the networking skills seminar has taught me how to get prepared before a networking session and how to research on the desired future contact so as to make a good impression when conversing with them. I had the opportunity to practice and improve this skill in the “Executive Insight” session which brought me into contact with senior level directors from a range of international firms. The skills I developed through this session will be essential in building my future career in business but will also help me reach my targets through building relationships with important people.

Presenting with presence

Usually managers consider presentation skill as a desirable quality in employees. It is of vital importance in a business since if an employee representing the firm does not have the presentation skills to explain an idea, a project, a service or a product to others, then these ideas or projects may remain in the conceptual stage and the service or product may not be sold.

Throughout my education, I have had to prepare a number of presentations. However, I always have difficulty in presenting with ease in front of an audience. Not knowing the correct method of delivering and structuring my ideas makes me less confident and nervous when presenting.

The presentation skills sessions made me realise that having to do a presentation is not only about presenting ideas in a structured way but it also has to do with capturing the audience's attention using different techniques. The main concern in presentations is having the audience's complete attention until the end. The seminar taught me how to overcome the problem of loosing the audience's attention by getting them involved in the presentation but also by using power point presentations in an amusing way. After this experience, I had the chance to put my knowledge into practice in the daily seminars by consciously monitoring myself and others when presenting. Whenever I felt that the audience lost concentration I used a “hook” such as a real life example or a rhetorical question to grab their attention. The seminar presentations also helped me become confident when having to do a presentation unexpectedly which could happen in any company.

Moreover, I am now more aware of what is expected of me when I am put on the spot, how to control my body language so as not to show my nervousness to the audience and also how not to lose the aim of the presentation by being clear and concise. Presentations are based on how effectively and efficiently the presenter delivers the main ideas concerning the topic presented. What is therefore required on my behalf is to continue developing my communication skills by observing other presentations and thinking of ways to improve them but also by keeping up to date with technology so as to make attractive presentations using appropriate means such as power point presentations.

Art and Business

As demonstrated in the module “Global Shift”, today more than ever, globalization is forcing businesses to be more transnational, multi-cultural and increasingly competitive. In order for an international business to confront the global challenges it constantly faces, it needs to be innovative by developing unique and original ideas. Therefore, art and creativity play an essential role for successful markets to stay ahead.

This seminar taught me how creative thinking and success is born when the environment you work in is equally creative. This was conveyed through the example of “SOL” and “Red Bull”. By having a creative atmosphere at work, creative thinking is promoted in employees resulting in unique ideas being generated. By attending the seminar I learned to be a risk-taker since by doing so I will have the possibility to innovate. In the past, I always feared to express an idea that I had in my mind because I considered it to be silly. Now I know that often good ideas are initially considered to be as such. As a result, I now always express my ideas in class when we are asked to deal with a problem. I have learned to think from different perspectives and always re-think things during breaks because creative and imaginative thinking usually comes at a time when people are more relaxed. In the future I will use brainstorming more often since as it has been portrayed in the seminar, simple ideas can be developed through innovation into successful new business ideas, such could be the case of the iPhone.

Even though in my opinion imagination cannot be taught, it can certainly be promoted when working in a creative and more flexible environment. Creativity might also arise by listening to the ideas of other people and trying to connect them with your own. In past work experience I have had, seeing miserable faces in companies made me think of ways I could change this if I had to manage the workforce. After researching some creative businesses such as Google, the seminar gave me the incentive to aim in inspiring and making a difference in the working environment of my colleagues when attaining this future career goal. I will achieve this by creating an exciting environment for them to work in so as to motivate them to come to work with pleasure. This will certainly promote hidden talent which will contribute towards success.


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