Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The qualities and skills of international managers

The qualities and skills of international managers

The qualities and skills of international managers should include an ability to share common interests and visions with individuals across a wide spectrum of cultural and language differences which actually helps define a corporate global culture when one compares the cosmopolitanism of many of the world's leading business and finance cities with its most successful global companies. The ability to enhance and embrace change and uncertainty will be an asset in a team which may often resemble a meeting or committee of the United Nations which mirrors those markets within which it operates.

Trompenaars,Hampden-Turner and Hofsteade represent global leaders in cross-cultural research.

International managers should have more than a passing understanding of the roots of cross-cultural management research and behaviour. Their skill in cultural context mapping and bridging especially in mediating or resolving disputes and conflicts due to differences in power-distance, individual versus collective decision-making, degree of masculinity or femininity (womens' rights), deference to authority, and uncertainty avoidance will determine their level of tolerance and negotiating success. A brief nod towards Canadian and Korean free trade failures lately to illustrate that. Cars, for example, are not the only Canadian products which should be on the table.

Expressly I believe global tolerance useful for business team-work cannot be an acquired trait without some cross-cultural behaviour education. Politicians and trade ministers indeed often lack this. For example, my Korean students had no idea that Western and Eastern minds view patterns of events and contexts dissimilarly. Explaining and activating any such self-realization early in an international career can help remedy many frustrations with working cross-culturally. International managers will naturally have some curiosity or interest in the differences and similarities in various cultures. But to develop such a talent into a skillful asset for the business cross-cultural training is recommended.

Domestic market managers will often be quite familiar with national culture and language requirements where their knowledge will be an advantage over market entry managers from foreign nations. However their limited experience in terms of dealing with customers from foreign cultures and nations will require a more local less global outlook, a more conservative context frame of business mindset and possibly less concern or tolerance for differences which occur as a result of such dissimilarities. It makes it easy to understand why Canadian businesses are perceived as risk averse. Too few are operating internationally.

Unfortunately it often appears from a foreign experience that Canadian government and business leaders expressly make their international decisions from an overly-domestic management perspective. However I believe in many cultures such as France and Germany, foreign managerial postings are a regular and rewarded portion of corporate training. In some other western countries such as the US and or Canada/Australia foreign corporate postings are sometimes seen as a means of distancing difficult managers from head-office essentially as a form of exile.

This might explain the growth of Asian multi-national corporate growth in the last few decades which takes the bull by the horns so to speak and makes international assignments an essential testing ground for innovation and creativity in international manager training. Such polarized views on international management and its usefulness for national global competitiveness might highlight a current trend away from teaching and learning good negotiation skills in countries like Canada where even entire provincial school boards may be deemed summarily incompetent and thus fired and/or entire provincial justice systems may operate without seeming public accountability. Such examples demonstrate evidence of domestic social movement towards the American litigious model of competitive individual business relations which is really not the basis of good international management.

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