The most difficult challenge for an expat executive like a country general manager is to be able to find congruence between various opposite interests in a highly complex environment (see picture above).
The expat executive must be able to deal with local issues such as specific regulations and laws then explain clearly the specificity of local markets and “sell” his decisions vertically and horizontally. Be able to dismantle silos in a matrix-type organization, managing up with board members, making internal alliances with peers and encouraging bottom up initiatives from multicultural cross-functional teams.
As an expat and multicultural team leader who lived and worked for 20 years in more than 10 countries for various industries and different management functions, I have seen many successful expat executives sharing same characteristics that for me are key skills to look for when considering sending people to international assignments or hiring locals at senior management level :
1- Attitude: Look for people who are leading by influence, able to federate people across cultures, able to lead trans-functional and virtual teams worldwide. Suitable personalities have high EQ and are pragmatic, open, curious, learners, risk-takers, negotiators, diplomats.
2-Cultural Intelligence: Knowledge about local customs,cultural traits,norms,social and business etiquette. Basic “survival” language skill is enough in most cases as business is often conducted in English. Don’t make the mistake to hire a local manager because he can speak English, check his leadership and technical skills.
3-Mentoring and Coaching Skills Usually an expat is sent from the HQs to share some technical knowledge or implement global processes such as performance evaluation. In each case make sure the person is able to “glocalize” or adapt locally the company’s global vision, mission, values and principles, One very good example of “glocalization” of corporate culture is Starbucks
The challenge for global companies is to be able to have the right process to assess people globally both for internal succession planning, talent management or hiring new managers. Three components should be considered:
- Technical skills: operations, finance, markets, regulations, innovation, HR etc.
- Leadership style: Top-down, bottom-up, influence, networking, lobbying, foster creativity
- Cultural intelligence: Group or individualistic cultures, knowledge of cultural dimensions, able to create a third culture team
After I posted a story last week with the headline, “What To Do As Soon As You Get Laid Off,” I hosted a chat on Forbes’ LinkedIn page and fielded questions and comments from readers. One comment came in from UK-based Jack McLaren-Stewart, who works in sales for a company [...]
There are two types of people in the world: those who choose to be happy, and those who choose to be unhappy.
Contrary to popular belief, happiness doesn’t come from fame, fortune, other people, or material possessions. Rather, it comes from within.
22 things that should become habits.
Coach tip: Start writing in a journal your daily activity based on this list
A number of studies on the development of intercultural skills and competences have shown that first-hand experience of ‘otherness’ and even sojourns in a foreign country are not sufficient conditions to foster interculturality.
Both study abroad and intercultural education literature state that, in addition to experience, intercultural learning needs reflection and analysis, and that immersion in a different culture does not in itself reduce stereotypical perceptions of otherness.
Interculturality does not mean comparing two or more countries, nor learning to adapt to a specific ‘national culture’.
Rather, the concept implies, for example:
- Understanding how different types of identities (eg gender, age, racial, ethnic, national, geographical, historical, linguistic) impact on communication with others
- Interpreting what people say about their culture as evidence of what they wish others to see about themselves, rather than as the ‘truth’ about a particular culture
- Exploring the role of power in dominant discourses (media, political, institutional) and reflect on how these discourses affect the way we perceive people from other backgrounds.
At one point or another new expats will get a “lecture” about “Culture Shock” as it is explained in this video:
Not every expats experience that sequence of emotional reactions and saying this is “normal” is not removing the pain or discomfort. Often people who do not experience this “one size fits all” approach may feel “abnormal” or less competent than typical expats and sometimes think they are a failure not able to cope with their struggles while living abroad.
It is important to acknowledge first the feelings without judgement and then look at individual best coping strategies. You can’t change things you have no control about but you can change the way you think and from a new perspective make necessary changes to get the most of your expatriation.
Sometimes friends are not enough and it is important to allow yourself to find professional help.
If you need someone to deeply listen to you and help you solve issues you have as an expatriate, Please ►Send Me Your Message for a complimentary coaching session
What insights does Hofstede’s 6th and least frequently discussed dimension on Indulgence vs. Restraint give us to help us to collaborate more effectively with people from other cultures? See on www.communicaid.com
I don’t think this is a valid dimension and would really like to see more validation.
For example, I don’t agree with the score differences between France and USA, France shown as medium indulgence and United States as very indulgent.
I don’t think United States is a more indulgent culture than France. In the USA there is no law that oblige employers to give paid holidays while in France by law people work only 35 hours/week but also have more than 5 weeks of paid holidays per year compared to 25 % of American workers that don’t take their vacation.
Paid maternity leave is also much more in France than in the US : six weeks before birth and up to 8 weeks after birth.
People don’t work on Sundays in France and you cannot do your shopping 24/7 as you do in USA, Japan or Russia (personally I think it is a wrong thing for the economy but majority of French people are against opening stores on Sundays to preserve the quality of family life)