Managers need to be able to plan, control, organize, and lead their companies and departments.
When we look at international business, there are some additional aspects that come into play for a manager to be successful.
Different Yet the Same
Every manager has to have a wide range of skills to truly be successful. When we say skills, we do not mean the ability to walk on a high wire or make animal balloons. While those might be pretty impressive skills, the truth is that in order to be successful, a manager has to be able to:
- Plan: Have a specific outline of the steps that it will take to be successful or have their department or company be successful.
- Control: Be able to keep all the pieces and parts of the plan moving together.
- Organize: Get all the people and equipment together to support the plan.
- Lead: Show vision and enthusiasm to reach the goal of the plan.
Now, we have all had managers that were good, and we have probably had some that were bad. What made those managers good or bad probably also contributed to their overall success.
If all these areas were part of their success or failure, just think how much more comes into play when a manager is working in a global company.When we look at the characteristics of successful global managers, we are looking at characteristics that managers who work only for domestic (or U.S.
companies) probably lack. While there are certain skill sets that a global manager needs that a domestic manager may indeed have, they will not use them as detailed or as frequently as the global manager will. Let’s take a look at the specific characteristics a global manager needs to be successful.
Cultural awareness is the ability to understand the intricacies of a specific culture.
Now, it could be argued that a manager that works for a company in the U.S. needs to be culturally aware (and they do), but think for a moment the depth of cultural awareness needed when dealing with a different country. A manager would have to understand how the entire culture views business. That would include negotiating, the work environment, and communication, among other things.It’s one thing to work with someone that is of a different culture; it’s another thing to manage someone working in a different culture where all aspects of how they work are accepted as the norm. The thought process here is, ‘Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,’ and truly, we are in their world.
A smart global manager will review and understand the culture from different perspectives (religion, culture, etc.) so they have a better chance of being successful.
Dealing with Uncertainty
There is uncertainty in every job, position, and company.
Some of us might say that is what makes work fun or exciting. Personally, I could use a little less uncertainty and excitement. But a global manager is dealing with a broader range of uncertainty than any U.
S. manager could ever deal with. You see, everything for the global manager is a learning curve.
For instance, if you are promoted to a manager position here in the U.S., you could probably understand what is expected: how to treat people, legal issues, work environment, etc. Now, let us take that same situation and drop you in a company office in Taiwan. Think of the level of uncertainty that you will have to deal with. Do you think there would be more uncertainty present in this situation than if you were promoted to a position in the U.
S.? You bet there is. How you deal with that, and what systems you put in place to lessen the uncertainty, will dictate your success or failure.
It is difficult for a manager born in the U.S. to work in a foreign market and, for lack of a better word, forget they are an American. To be successful globally, a manager has to possess a global mindset.
That is to say, they need to see business in a global perspective and not just how Americans see it. Chances are that global company is working with many international vendors and customers, and a successful manager will need to think globally when it comes to all issues.They could be working with shipping issues from China, investment issues from Germany, and labor issues in India. Being able to see the entire global picture is critical for success in this position. It is very different than wondering if the truck from Phoenix got where it was going.
The basic skill sets are the same.
A manager needs to plan, control, organize, and then finally lead no matter where they are. As we described here, the global manager needs to do that and more by being culturally aware, have a broader sense of dealing with uncertainty, and having a global mindset. These skills are typically learned on the job since you need to be in a specific situation to use them, but the desire to learn them and the capacity to understand them are within the global manager.
Following this lesson, you will be able to describe some skills that make a global manager successful, including having cultural awareness, the ability to deal with uncertainty and maintaining a global mindset.