“I am committed to learning all my life.”

Karine Mangion is an executive coach specialised in global leadership development. She has delivered programmes on professional language communication and intercultural competence for corporate companies including Barclays and HSBC, as well as for the UK Cabinet Office and HM Treasury. Karine is a senior lecturer, currently lecturing at Regent’s University London, where she is the Deputy Programme Director for its BA in International Business. Indeed, when I Skype her, she swivels her laptop round to show me a chillingly empty classroom, prepared for an imminent examination…! Karine herself has various MA degrees, and is in the process of undertaking a PhD.

Interview

Q. What sparked your international outlook?

A. I have a very international background. I am from the South of France, but my family is of part-Portuguese and part-Tunisian descent; I always felt quite Mediterranean. Languages and economics – in particular the capacity to adapt to different cultural environments – have always been central to my educational interest.

Q. You specialise professionally and academically in intercultural competence. Are there typical issues which arise in global business, or does it very much depend on the specific combination of cultural groups?

A. Intercultural competence and cultural intelligence lie at the core of global business relations. Obviously we can have cultural statistics and even cultural values for a particular group, but we must never overlook the diversity within a group or company. We are dealing with people; it’s people rather than statistics or general values that form a group, and we need to learn how to connect with them in order to make the most of the diversity present.

Q. You speak of your insistence on bridging academia with hands-on business experience. Why is this balance so crucial?

A. Business School is all about creating a bridge between research and practice. During my professional trajectory, I have been a consultant in HR, leadership and management for large corporations as well as a coach and lecturer. I believe it is important to be very evidence-based when judging and making business-related decisions. But as an active practitioner, it is important to stand back and reflect on the theory of what you are doing.

Q. Is this an approach that you have applied to your PhD?

A. Absolutely. My PhD is in Coaching, with the aim of understanding how coaching benefits leaders engaged in global projects or in international organisations. I use case studies from my practical experience with large corporate companies.

It took me five Master’s degrees to decide that I was ready to embark on my PhD! I wanted to be able to start it with a solid foundation and knowledge from my experience in the corporate world. I want my research to be meaningful not just for me, but for the community in this field. I am committed to learning all my life; learning is a lasting passion of mine.

Q. What do you enjoy most about teaching?

A. Teaching is an exchange. I like speaking about what I have learned from my experience with the students – I often share my PhD research findings with them. The challenges of international competence can be daunting; there is often no set-in-stone solution. It’s good to bring the reality of this into the classroom, and to spark discussion. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a group of young people engaged in a topic, and to watch them intellectually developing.

At Regent’s University, 85% of students are international. The challenges the students confront are directly connected to those faced by global leaders. Group work can often be difficult – the students’ challenge of achieving cohesive group action is cultural intelligence in action!

Q. You have lived in both Denmark and Bulgaria, and are now based in London. What did you learn from your experience of living abroad? 

A. Cultural intelligence depends on an ability to adapt to a complex and changing environment. It’s about taking on board challenges and delivering as much as you can in that new environment. For me, Denmark was so different culturally from France. I had been to state school and state university in France, where hierarchy played a big role. In Denmark, I was pleasantly shocked at how the professors on my Erasmus placement spoke to me like an equal. Because I was a Master’s student, I was given the responsibility of teaching a room of undergraduates! I felt the pressure, but I was so motivated by this responsibility that I ensured I delivered the best I could. Adapting is not about changing who you are, but about developing; we have to learn how we learn as an individual.