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Know Thyself – the Number One Rule for Working Internationally

The category: Global leadership, International Preferences Indicator, International Working Style, WorldWork Blog

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As experts in global working, it’s our business at WorldWork to provide the tools that will help people to become more aware of themselves and others, in order to become highly effective in international and global roles. We have developed specialised psychometric tools which can be used as diagnostics for a range of learning and development interventions – the International Preferences Indicator (IPI) is one of those tools, and it’s particularly useful in leadership training.

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

Let’s think about it a bit deeper. 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?

What’s so good about IPI?

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’s Certified IPI Consultants, Banu Golesorkhi, of Pharos International in Brussels, when I asked her about using different tools in intercultural training. Banu uses the International Preferences Indicator (IPI) in corporate leadership development training and with Masters students.

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.

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 (Figure 1) and it is very eye-opening for the respondents 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 in particular are intrigued by the idea of 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 behaviours and switching between styles as needed.

How can you use IPI with your clients?

The IPI is used in many different contexts, and so to ensure the best results and maintain a high quality of delivery, our tools (including IPI) require certification. We are proud to have a global network of certified consultants, coaches and trainers.

If you are certified to use IPI but still not sure how to incorporate it into your training programmes, then this case study below may help. It demonstrates how IPI can be used effectively in different situations and with a range of clients.

The case study is from Banu Golesorkhi, whose expertise include development of intercultural awareness and competence, management of global mobility and building trust across cultures.

Context: Used as part of the intercultural awareness module of executive development programs in business schools in Europe and the US.

Participants: High performing managers targeted for leadership development.

Training programme structure

  • The IPI is used in intercultural awareness programme. In 2021, it is used also as part of virtual training programs.
  • The tool is introduced towards the end of the programme, to tie all the insights together.
  • The ten qualities the IPI identifies are explained thoroughly before participants are given their feedback report and asked to guess their scores.
  • What is important skill-wise in their job is discussed and then compared to their results.
  • Participants study their profile and discuss whether they agree with the findings.
  • Participants are then put in groups of three according to interesting differences in their scores.
  • They read each other’s profiles and then coach each other, sharing advice on how to cultivate particular areas of strength.
  • The participants use the resources manual that comes with the IPI to ask additional questions and further expand the discussion.
  • At the end of the session, each participant is asked to identify two IPI dimensions that they would like to further develop in light of the changes in their job/career in the coming year.

Objectives of embedding IPI in a training programme

  • To act as another point of self-awareness.
  • To help participants to understand where they are distributing their energies and where they might divert them, in order to better meet their job’s requirements.
  • To serve as a building block for personal development.


  • Increased self-awareness.
  • Brings useful insights together under one umbrella.
  • Prompts new ways of thinking/behaviours.
  • People see that they can make choices in their approach. They can decide where to channel their energies.
  • Enables them to re-evaluate their behaviours and decide which competences they want to develop, in line with their current/future or aspiring job requirements.

Key benefits

For the trainer: The beauty of the IPI is its flexibility. Whatever the objectives/time frame/participant, a facilitator will be able to flow it into a training programme successfully.

For participants: Increased self-awareness and preparation towards achieving their international success.

Would you like to add IPI to your toolbox?

If you aren’t yet certified to use IPI then consider the next Certification Programme. There is also an opportunity for our existing IPI Consultants to take the course again as a refresher. Find out more here or contact us at

Gabriela Weglowska, WorldWork Ltd. & Banu Golesorkhi, Pharos International