By Suzanne Foster, President, Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions
Last month I had the opportunity to attend a leadership conference in France through my participation in the Fellows Program with the International Women’s Forum. Focused on the professional development and advancement for women leaders around the world, this program has introduced me to inspiring, prominent leaders in a variety of industries.
During the conference we heard from author and cultural expert Erin Meyer, who’s also a professor at INSEAD, a leading international business school. Her work focuses on how the world's most successful leaders navigate cultural differences. She shared with us her insights on “cultural mapping,” which is a way of improving one’s relationships with partners from around the world. Erin reminded us that extensive international travel and temporarily living abroad isn’t enough when dealing with cross-cultural complexities.
As leaders of teams and organizations who value representation and diversity, it’s critical we consistently strengthen our cultural awareness to promote an open, inclusive environment for our people and our collective growth. The risk of not understanding differences in multi-national communication styles, customs, social cues and values is far too great. When we gain clarity in these areas, we create opportunities to relate with one another more effectively and positively impact the work we do.
Often in our own business development and innovation processes, one team might have one piece of the puzzle we’re solving for, while a second team has the other. Both pieces need to come together to spark the innovative, collaborative thinking that drives business. Imagine if those teams did not understand or value communication – the collaboration is lost, and the innovation never comes to life. This simple concept of coming together is heightened in a global environment where clear communication, inclusivity and understanding among international colleagues and business partners is necessary.
At Cardinal Health we are committed to fostering an inclusive environment, building a diverse workforce and valuing the unique contributions of our employees. I have the honor of serving as the Executive Sponsor for our company’s Multi-Cultural Community (MCC), comprised of global team members who celebrate our individual experiences and share with one another our values and beliefs. Our MCC was created with the vision of a world map made up of communities that welcome everyone as they are—we consider every Cardinal Health employee a member of the MCC.
In collaboration with the Cardinal Health Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team and the company’s Employee Resource Groups, the MCC Committee helps drive internal conversations to challenge the status quo and empower change. To date, our regional communities have a presence in the U.S., the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, Canada, Latin America (LATAM), the Caribbean and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
By supporting a global, inclusive environment, organizations – like Cardinal Health – have infinite potential for success. Understanding people as individuals and appreciating their uniqueness can unlock great innovation and growth. If we, as leaders, embrace cultural awareness as part of our DNA and encourage global collaboration, our teams will thrive, ultimately advance our organizations and make us all better.
Suzanne Foster is President of Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions, a market-leading medical supplies provider, manufacturer, and distributor serving people with chronic and serious health conditions in the United States. Committed to helping customers take care of their health conditions from the comfort of their home, Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions services more than 4 million customers per year through two distinct businesses: Edgepark and Cardinal Health™ at-Home. As a champion for equality, Foster is a Fellow with the International Women’s Forum, an invitation-only organization of diverse, accomplished women, supporting women leaders. She also serves as the Executive Sponsor of the Multicultural Community within Cardinal Health. Foster is on the board of directors of Unitil Corporation, an interstate electricity and natural gas utility company, and of Perimeter Medical Imaging, a Toronto-based company that is transforming cancer surgery with advanced imaging tools.