Building a truly integrated global leadership group
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When I first became interested in how you build a really integrated global leadership group, about 20 years ago, I went and spoke to companies who had been doing it for decades. I met the French HR director of an oil exploration firm who gave me some fantastic advice.
When I asked him what the secret is to building a really integrated global leadership group, he replied that there is none. It is really very simple – there are three elements to remember:
First, recruit people from around the world in proportion to your business. So if 10% of your business is in Nigeria, 10% of your leaders should be Nigerians.
Secondly, mix them up. Put them in virtual teams, give them global assignments, give them international working experiences, because if they never leave Nigeria they’ll never be anything but Nigerian leaders.
I carefully wrote all this down, it sounded like good advice. And when I asked “What’ is the third secret?” he replied that there isn’t one – all you have to do now is wait about 50 years.
In 20 years of looking at principles for building a truly global leadership group, I don’t think I’ve come across better advice.
Think about what he’s saying.
First of all, bring in people who reflect the diversity of your environment. In order to be a truly global organization, we need that diversity of view and we need to bring in the best skills and talents from around the world.
Secondly, it’s really important to connect them together, because if we have the best people sitting just within a single country, they will never build a global perspective. We need them to experience working across cultures, to understand the dynamics of different local and global markets. They also need to learn how to work effectively in this complex, matrixed, virtual, international way of working.
The third challenge is a difficult one: to give it sufficient time. Most organizations aren’t ready to wait 50 years for this to happen organically. Thankfully, there ARE things we can do to accelerate the process both in recruitment and selection and also in the building of the skills necessary to work effectively in this more connected way.
But although 50 years may be too long for your organization (most organizations), it does take time and it can take a whole generation for the people being recruited and trained today to make their way up to senior levels in the organization.
There are many organizations who have been operating internationally for decades, yet are still dominated by senior managers from their home culture, so don’t beat yourself up too much if it is taking time. Expect it to be a long process – and keep at it.