Strategic Human Capital Insights

3 Critical Challenges to Global Business & Global Leadership

3 Critical Challenges to Global Business & Global Leadership: Global business acumen, deliberate planning and exceptional execution.


Earth planet on grey background with pencil sketches. Elements of this image are furnished by NASAI was recently interviewed by Becky DeStigter of The International Entrepreneur for my thoughts on the challenges of running successful global businesses and the global leadership issues that are critical to successful outcomes.  If we think that domestic business issues of competition, growth, profitability and sustainability are daunting, those issues magnify exponentially when we move outside our geographic operating core.

In preparation for this interview, I reflected on the international growth experiences I have observed over the years – those that were successful and those that were not.  Too often, even the successful experiences were often the result of luck rather than method and we could fool ourselves into thinking that international business was easy. In an international theater, we could often deny our mistakes under the guise of, “This local business just doesn’t have what it takes to be successful.”  In some cases we simply closed businesses down and moved to other locations, or allowed marginal business results to limp along.

In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, we no longer have the luxury of making mistakes – the consequences are simply too high. We must approach global business issues with the highest level of business acumen, deliberate planning and exceptional execution.  To be successful in global business – there is no other choice.

It is with this backdrop that I organized my thoughts for the following interview. 


Q1: What are the biggest mistakes you see companies making in terms of global talent management? 

Over the decades the same, obvious mistake continues to happen. We don’t take into account the cultural nuances of the international business culture we are either doing business in or with.  From an American perspective, we continue to think that other cultures will naturally adapt to our American business culture and we stumble every time.  We must understand and then acknowledge the differences, teach them and then incorporate them into the business operating style, mentality and practice of every person responsible for interacting on a global level.  If employees can’t make that leap – they should not be allowed to play on the global playing field.

Q2: What are the traits you look for in a successful global corporate leader?

I look for a global citizen with global business acumen, cultural business acumen and the ability to adapt leadership style and practices to the local cultural needs.  If an organization is committed to global growth, it needs to develop a bench of global leaders before there is a specific need. A crash course in working globally doesn’t necessarily create the true multidimensional global / cultural mindset that a true global leader needs.  The worst scenario takes place when an organization has a global post that needs to be assigned.  The leader assigned is a home office SME but has never worked internationally. This person is ‘immersed’ in everything local in the 2 weeks prior to being reassigned, and we consider that person ‘fit for purpose’.  Consider that an emergency measure – not a long-term global strategy.

Q3: How important is cultural competency in international business hiring/promotion decisions?

Cultural competency is a fundamental strategic and operating skill. If that skill is missing, then the strategic business impact can be both damaging and derailing. I have seen instances where lack of cultural competency sidelined an organization’s growth for 5 years. Can we afford those types of mistakes in a highly competitive global marketplace?  I don’t think so!

Q4: What advice can you give a growing company about hiring locals for positions in foreign subsidiaries?

If you can find local talent who can understand your organization’s goals – it is best to hire locally.  However, you must bring that person into your central operating hub so the local hire has the advantage of learning about your organization first had and understanding your operating culture.  I have seen examples of when the local person is hired in and then left to figure things out.  That normally does not end well.

If you cannot immediately find local talent, then you must send a non-local employee to start the process but immediately construct a plan to find and develop local talent.  Be sure that whoever the non-local employee is, they have the ability to work in a local and global environment.


To read the full interview and learn more about the impact that global competitiveness can have on a company’s success, visit The International Entrepreneur.

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Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

Joanne T. Flynn heads up the human capital advisory group, Phoenix Strategic Performance, Inc. Previously, she was a Managing Director with Phoenix Group International and was Vice President / Director of Global Learning and Development at Goldman, Sachs for nine years. Joanne works with organizations as they face global growth and competitive challenges. She works with her clients to be both externally focused and internally responsive. With her unique background, she aligns competitive strategic efforts with related internal organizational leadership challenges. With the benefit of her career-long focus, Joanne contributes the unique insight of aligning strategy to internal organizational structure and process. She focuses on human capital relative to strategic initiatives, accelerated business growth, value creation, and business development. Joanne holds a Master of Arts degree in Business Management from the University of Oklahoma. In addition, she holds a double degree major in History and German from St. Elizabeth University, as well as certificates from a variety of leading universities and professional training and development organizations. Joanne has recently published her latest book, Accelerating Business Success, The Human Asset Management Strategy.

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