Every global leader needs more TLC: Time, Leadership, and Collaboration. Of course, there's never enough time to accomplish everything you'd like; there are never enough leaders in an organization; and getting people to collaborate across the globe is always difficult. Here are five ways to successfully lead globally in any industry, and especially in today's complex, uncertain global business climate:
1. Lead Yourself First. If you don't follow yourself, could you expect your people to follow you? How you lead yourself can be one of the most critical factors in your success as a global leader. First of all, you must be focused and disciplined to stay "thinking ahead" of your organization. You cannot play catch-up when you lead globally, as linking with a diverse set of countries and issues will always have you struggling to keep pace unless you "think ahead." Secondly, your own self-awareness is your most precious asset in helping you to adapt to the different cultures and ways of thinking of your people from across the globe. The more you understand yourself, the more effectively you will adapt, as well as control your own emotions when cultural differences arise during high-pressure times. And thirdly, you are the number one role model for the organization. Your behavior each day (during calls, meetings, visits, etc.) has an impact on your people, and distance magnifies this impact. When there's time between communications, your people tend to magnify in their minds your behavior during your last contact. Remember, both good and bad behavior gets magnified, so it is important that the right behavior is magnified in your people's minds. You are really in show business, and the stories your people tell about you travel much faster than any of the formal communications you purposefully create.
2. Encourage Ownership. When was the last time you washed a rental car? If you are like most, then the answer is probably "never." There is a huge difference in leading a global organization if your people feel ownership for what they are doing versus just "renting" their job. People who feel ownership will feel challenged to solve problems on their own instead of just bringing them back to their leader. The more your people feel that sense of ownership, the less time they will demand from you. Ownership comes by defining outcomes for which your people and your teams can feel responsibility. This is important, as it is very difficult to manage activities from a distance, and from across the globe. Also, the vast array of business cultures in various countries means that you cannot understand how things (activities) should be done in every country. As a global leader, it is more important to be concerned with your achievements rather than getting caught up in all the minute activities and details that lead to the outcome. If you were to manage all the activities, the ownership of the outcomes always stays with you, the leader, instead of with other members of your group. Lastly, one of the most powerful leadership behaviors to ecounrage your people to take ownership is asking questions. When you provide the answers without asking the questions, you have saved your people from thinking of their own answers and solutions. Save them from thinking, and you have saved them from growing, as well as keeping that important ownership.
3. Develop Role Models. How much time do you invest in the "interpreters" within your global organization? Your key people in locations across your organization interpret your direction for their individual areas. What they focus on, and how they behave, has a big impact on others in that location, and an equally important impact on everyone you lead. Develop these role models, or your interpreters, and they can advocate for the direction in which you would like to take the organization. As a global leader, you cannot be everywhere and help each location decide how to interpret the direction within the unique business requirements of that particular business culture. The more time you have invested time in helping your role models understand your direction and the reasons for it, the more their decisions are aligned with that direction. Your role models help you to extend your leadership reach across your global organization.
4. Reinforce the "Glue." Which top three factors drive collaboration within your organization today? You might struggle with the answer. However, the "glue," the thing that links people and locations together, is one of the most important success factors for all global organizations. "Glue" starts with building trust, and establishing the values and principles that provide the boundaries for the right organizational behaviors to follow across the entire global organization. That part provides the framework. However, it is the information sharing processes, and key common operational processes, that provide the way for people to collaborate. As there are always differences across countries, choosing the right "glue" can be one of the most important decisions you and your leadership team can make.
5. Always Follow-Up. There's an old saying that "You get the behaviors you reinforce." How you follow-up with your people on their key outcomes reinforces the behaviors you will get from them. However, there's another key benefit to following up at strategic times is that it says to your people, "This is important" and reinforce your priorities. For a global leader, these reminders of what's most important helps your people to make better daily "yes/no" decisions on how they use their time. The more action they take on what you consider important, the more of the important they accomplish.
Create the leadership habits -- lead yourself first, encourage ownership, develop role models, define and reinforce the glue, and always strategically follow up - and you will always have more TLC.
[Mark Fritz is the author of "The Truth About Getting More Done" (FT Press). Visit him at www.markfritzonline.com.]