Being a Global Manager
Date: Saturday , September 30, 2006
Breaking from the past where I have focused on all IT professionals, this one specifically addresses the managers in a high tech company. While many of the points discussed are equally valid for non-managers or professionals in a multi-national company of any segment, they are imperative for a manager to succeed in the IT industry.
It used to be sufficient for a manager in India to understand the people dynamics and diverse cultures of the Indian workforce, until India became a global hub for the software industry. The terms management, leadership, communication, relationship, and innovation have a new significance. The diversity now goes beyond our geographical boundaries, and many cultures that are somewhat alien to our own.
Management: Whether you are managing a team or a project, very often you have to interact with peers and counterparts in other countries who may have a different business language and work ethic/culture. Understanding these technical and cultural differences to whatever extent possible will help remove obstacles to global success.
Tip: If you were to visit your counterpart teams in other countries, do not lose the opportunity to spend time to understand how things work at that site technically, process-wise, and in terms of work culture. It is easy to concentrate on the current project and return home. It would be wise to take a long term view on learning about the other team’s practices.
Leadership: In a global setting, leadership transcends culture. It is important for your leadership to be visible during conference calls or face to face meetings. Some level of peer-level behavior and non-hierarchical approach to understanding things at all levels will bring you respect and understanding from your overseas counterparts. That buy-in is essential to successfully execute projects/tasks.
Tip: Assertiveness is important in a global setting, while aggressiveness or meekness will not take you too far. Integrity and consistency are the most watched qualities among a global audience where there is little in common in terms of language, culture and style.
Communication: When you have teams on your project who are not face-to-face on a daily basis, over-communicate, communicate frequently and using multiple modes. In a global company, managers cannot afford to be “quiet achievers”.
Tip: Do not send an email and assume the person on the other side knows the context. Set up a context during each new meeting/conversation so that everyone is in sync before you can make progress.
Relationship: It is one of the key success factors for a global manager. The level of trust and ease of progress can dramatically vary depending on your global relationships. When you have overseas colleagues that you work with regularly, develop a mutual understanding of each others roles, styles and goals apart from a small degree of personal interests. That will help you pick up the phone and call each other when required instead of situations getting complicated.
Tip: Again, use any personal visits of individuals/teams to each other’s sites to spend time together away from work after hours. Getting to know someone in their local habitat can be invaluable insight that could help build a relationship that promotes better inner workings.
Innovation: Often innovation is mistaken in India for invention or for solving technical problems. Globally, innovation is focused on solving new customer problems or extending your business to apply to new markets. Use global settings to understand global customers and markets.
Tip: Create an environment in your team that helps promote customer intimacy and market awareness. For companies with mostly an overseas market, this is done by visiting customers, attending trade shows and seminars, and to a good extent by participating in user forums and blogs.
Sridhar Jayanthi is the VP of Engineering and Head - India Operations, McAfee Engineering Center. He is responsible for the Indian R&D and product development operations including the organizational development, operations strategy, and project execution. He can be reached at Sridhar_Jayanthi@McAfee.com