My Company's Leadership Sucks!Written by John McKee
Maybe it's season or just a more buoyant job market; but lately I'm sure involved in a lot more discussions about leadership. I'm receiving more requests for help defining key characteristics which make a great leader; and I'm hearing a lot of negative stuff from clients about their bosses. Most leaders die with their mouths open: I recently read an article in Fast Company magazine which reflected on issue of leadership. In it, they quote Ronald Heifetz, founder of Harvard's Center for Public Leadership, who made above comment back in 1999. He followed it up by saying that, "leaders must know how to listen - and art of listening is more subtle than most people think it is. But first and just as important, leaders must want to listen." You'd think this is simply basic stuff, right? Like what we learned in Management 101. I doubt there's any exec in business today who wouldn't say they 'know' this already.
But in my experience, in many cases, leaders don't seem to think it applies to them. And yet, I'm continually told by executives and professionals that they don't feel 'heard' enough by their superiors. And here's really interesting thing about it - I hear this frustration cited by people at every level within organizations!
What this means that managers at every level, are busy looking 'up' organization chart for someone to listen to them - but they're not giving their own managers and staff 'below' them same benefits! So we have situation, in many companies, where managers go around telling those who report to them what to do & how to do it but rarely ask those same people for their input. How dumb is that? Our North American companies are pretty inefficient: OK - this is a random poll: Please raise your arm if you believe that your company is at least 90% efficient. Based upon what I hear from clients, there aren't many arms raised out there, I'd guess. In fact, most executives tell me that their own organizations are actually inefficient. Many are concerned that their employer is getting less competitive on a global scale. Some worry about cutbacks or reduced investment spending which may result. At same time, they'll often tell me that they personally are bored, unchallenged, stale, and losing interest. So, let's review: Inefficient businesses - no one is listening to those closer to real action - and stale managers who are worried about global competitiveness.
Assessing Managers for International CompetenceWritten by Brenda Townsend Hall
How do you select staff for international assignments? It's an important question because, no matter how effective and successful your employees may be at home, they cannot be guaranteed same performance in a different culture unless they can demonstrate some key competencies and these may be quite different from competencies they need to succeed in their own environment.
To begin with they need to be receptive to host culture. This will mean that when they face new ideas, new ways of working, new people, different values, they can accept these as different but valid. If they go with firm belief that their own way of doing things is only way, if they are suspicious of new people they meet, and if they cannot respect values of their host culture, they will simply engender hostility, fear and antagonism—hardly best climate for a successful team effort.
Building on that receptiveness, they will have to be sufficiently adaptable to blend into local style of doing things. Take working hours. Mediterranean cultures often have early starts, long lunch breaks and late finishes. It's a timetable that takes some getting used to because that lunchtime break really does need to be a time when you wind down and rest, otherwise working day and its related stresses will occupy every waking minute. Not everybody is capable of adapting their natural rhythms to this. Employees with family commitments may also find it very hard, so in assessing suitability of somebody for an overseas position, you need to ensure that their family is fully supportive of move.
It is also essential to be able to take an objective view of host culture and not to judge new colleagues. For example, a manager who moves to a culture in which normal working environment is very hierarchical should not be surprised if individuals lack initiative. What may seem a negative quality from a British perspective could well be a strength in local context.
Given that new environment could make yours manager feel like fish out of water, it is important for them to have clarity of vision. As they face many hurdles that arise from different ways of working and living that characterize new environment, they will have to be able keep a hold on their purpose for being there. They will need to let that vision drive their actions so that progress towards required goals is maintained despite obstacles. And part of this clarity of vision should be pre-assignment awareness of new culture and its framework so that they are prepared for what they will find and have thought of some coping strategies.