Along with globalization, multinational corporations (MNCs) needs more global leaders to win future competition. The international role offers high potential leader a platform with regional or global view and working experience. Here I would like to share how MNCs select international talents based on the practice of several of famous MNCs I worked with, also share how to lead worldwide projects to cultivate global mindset through real working experience.
The way to be a Global Leader
More and more MNCs develop their own employees rather than hire someone from outside. In the long run, internal promotion is better for employee’s motivation, as well as cost savings from the perspective of the company. Moreover, external hiring may take risks that new hire is not familiar with company’s business or failure from culture adaption.
In order to make it happen, it will be better if MNCs adopt talent review and successor plan annually. First, through talent review, the employees with high performance and high potential can be identified. The criteria of talent selection not only focus on pure performance assessment, but also aligns with key behaviors measurement which reflect the culture of MNCs. As effective global leaders, global mindset is one of the most important behaviors. It can be stated as:
• Bring the best global thinking to your own organization and region
• Broaden your global perspective through interaction with customers, suppliers, and colleagues
• Think globally and act locally. Drive speed and agility by developing and empowering teams to make local decisions.
Second, through successor plan, MNCs can provide cross country, cross function job rotation program (international assignment) and necessary trainings to qualified successor candidates so that they can gain direct management experience and skill sets very quickly. The international assignment can be on project basis. It takes at least 6 months to 2 years in different countries and functions. The trainings should concentrate on leading and managing with a global mindset. It helps candidates to facilitate their soft skills such as Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE), culture intelligence, expatriation and repatriation, delegation, cross culture conflicts resolution, virtual team management etc.
To make sure global leader development program effectiveness, it will be good if MNCs employ corresponding key performance indicators (KPI) to measure each member’s performance. The KPI contains performance assessment for exact business goals, direct manager’s comments, and 360-degree feedback from peers and coordinators. It also consists of the expectations on global mindset:
• Consider global implications before implementing organizational initiatives
• Effectively manages the complexities of working globally
• Demonstrate openness to new experiences and comfort doing business in different locations • Understand the impact of global trends on the organization's plans and growth
• Develop market strategy to appeal to global customers
Talent review and successor plan may help MNCs to identify, select and develop more effective global leaders. For those outstanding members, they will be in the key talent pool to fill in permanent global leaders’ position when it is available.
Development Plan for Chinese Leader
For candidate who is currently working as leader in China and would like to further develop his/her career path, the most likely position will be Asia Pacific leader. However, this regional position will be quite different compared to country role.
The first challenge will be the “culture distance”. Even if there is some culture difference between mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, but there is not significant culture distance among Greater China team members. When being a regional leader, the candidate needs to work with team members in US and the others Asia Pacific countries. The gap of culture distance with Singapore is not so big but do have big culture distance with team members in US, India, Australia, etc.
The second challenge will be virtual team management. As country role, most of team members and stakeholders may locate at the same site or close site. Then it is easy for face to face daily communication with same language. When being a regional leader, the candidate has to manage a virtual team from different cultures and locations.
The third challenge will be building a strong team pyramid. To lead a big international team is not same as to lead a small team in country. It needs strong leadership to influence team members, especially for some employees who do not direct report to you.
To embrace the challenges, the very effective way to change the mindset is to keep learning. I would like to recommend a few practical methodologies on leading and managing with a global mindset by various case studies which introduced by professor Gilad Chen when I studied EMBA in Robert H. Smith School of Business in the University of Maryland. For example, in case study “In the eye of the beholder”, it was taught how to reduce culture distance. First, you need to share information about your own as well as the host country’s culture. Second, you also need to think about how to bridge the gap between the two cultures. In case study “Five challenges to virtual team success: lessons from Sabre, Inc.”, it clarified the key challenges on virtual team management and how to overcome them to achieve company’s goals. The book “The five dysfunctions of a team” by Lencioni (2002) suggested to convert the team from absent of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to result of a team of trust, healthy conflict, commitment, and accountability.
Working experience is so far the most effective source for developing global leadership competency. I would like to suggest that you should discuss your career development plan with your manager and seek his/her support. For example, when I worked in Motorola, I was the project leader in Asia Pacific region to implement global P&L project. This project was changing previous cost structure completely for better controlling real estate, construction, and facility cost within global centralization. The project scope included functional responsibilities of outsource, spin off and many new acquisitions as well. During project implementation, I had lots of cross function communications with business leaders and finance controllers in different countries to ensure global guidance alignment with local compliance as well as cost effectiveness. Conference calls with global executives were organized regularly to update project progress. Meanwhile, I was a representative to review with senior finance leaders when they visited Asia. It not only helped me to gain direct experience of international team management but also have exposure to senior management team. Finally, I was promoted as Asia Pacific finance manager after project delivered.
Most recently, I was project leader to resolve SAP migration issues. We were challenged by wrong transactions, delayed order booking etc. after SAP go-live in mid of January 2017. In the following months, I led cross-function team including controllership, tax, sales operations, global customer cares, IT, SAP experts (diversity team from different countries), and Master Data Management team (base in Mexico) to figure out root causes and come up with solutions. I still remembered during the whole March, I had daily meeting with team to get update on new customer setup and order booking progress, then worked on presentations to review with global CFO and CIO at night. Looking back, it was painful but helpful for me to grow quickly, especially on aspects of being highly sensitive of discrepancies and critical thinking, fully understanding top executives focus and driving to happen. After project completion, I was nominated as global top talent by CFO in May.
Through the experience of case studies and real global project leading, I believe the following concrete steps may help the candidate to become more effective global leader.
1. Building commitment
Clarify team goal and mission. Determine how team members can best work together to achieve team goals. It should involve all team members not just team lead. Tolerate high levels of ambiguity, but do key processes / KPI standardization to avoid misunderstanding from diversity. It will help finance team to improve business partnership, increase efficiency, and improve accuracy as well.
2. Reoccurrence review meeting
The meeting will make sure everything on track. The issues can be figured out and resolved in timely fashion. As a global team, the meeting date should avoid the public holidays of team members and meeting time should be suitable for all team member due to time difference. It will be better for US morning, Asia night and Europe afternoon.
3. 1:1 meeting with direct reports and matrix direct reports
Unlike team meetings, 1:1 meeting will be more casual and personal for two way communication. It will focus on to build relationship, understand what kind of support subordinates may need to work more efficiently on critical issues. It also focus on performance review and career development plan.
4. Annual site visit
Site visit provides face to face communication opportunities to team members. Skip level 1:1 meeting will be set up if time available so as to understand skip level subordinates concerns and interests.
As leaders, besides to develop your own global mindset, you also need to encourage team members have global mindset and think bigger. Global mindset is one of key performance indicator in regional/global leader’s performance review. It can be measured as:
• Coaches others to develop a global mindset and to take a global perspective when looking at issues and problems.
• Makes plans and decisions that are effective and on-target because they fully leverage cultural and geographic differences.
• Proactively establishes and cultivates partnerships with people across a variety of functions and locations within the organization.
Chance favors the prepared mind. If the candidate can achieve exceed expectations on KPIs, he/she will be ready for the position of regional or global leader in the near future.
1. In the eye of the beholder: cross cultural lessons in leadership from project GLOBE by Mansour Javidan, Peter W, Dorfman, Mary Sully de Luque, and Robert J. House, Academy of Management Perspectives 2006
2. Five challenges to virtual team success: lessons from Sabre, Inc. by Bradley L. Kirkman, Benson Rosen, Cristina B. Gibson, Paul E. Tesluk, and Simon O. McPherson, Acedemy of Management Executive, 2002, Vol. 16 No. 3
3. The five dysfunctions of a team, copyright 2002 by Patrick Lencioni