Managers without borders: How an MBA could help you oversee a global team

Friday, January 29, 2016 - 17:46

Australians are rightly proud of their country, and the nation's business landscape is certainly grounded in qualities that are quintessentially Australian. However, the modern global economy is calling for managers to operate with increasing flexibility, working with colleagues from around the world as well as leading teams that are increasingly diverse. When portions of a team are based overseas, this complexity becomes even more difficult to manage.

Faced with this landscape, many managers are now considering how they might be able to improve their leadership abilities and focus on skills that can be used to understand and motivate a diverse workforce.

Does your position demand a global outlook?

Lack of knowledge holds organisations back

Among the core reasons for managers to start thinking about how their leadership skills can translate internationally are the economic differences that exist between countries. According to research published by Aarhus University in Denmark, companies that fail to understand cultural and administrative challenges when entering a new market can struggle to turn a profit.

Furthermore, many companies that are looking internationally will underestimate these challenges, leading to a situation where senior leaders have set unrealistic expectations for a new project.

"Despite all the talk about globalisation and the trend towards the expansion of the international trade space, the world is still far from frictionless or flat," explained Associate Professor Ingo Kleindienst.

"There are still large national differences between countries. And these differences can greatly influence the companies' earning potential when they seek to expand."

The researchers suggested that the solution was to focus on developing internal knowledge within teams so that any issues that arise from operating overseas can be addressed promptly. Working with local partners was also cited as a useful strategy to undertake.

While all of these are useful strategic approaches, they are also going to place greater pressure on the skills of managers, both to manage teams across different countries and to engage with a broader set of stakeholders.

Global firms are demanding global managers.

Which skills are the hardest for companies to master?

According to research published by the Harvard Business Review, there are four key areas that hold managers back when they oversee an international team:

  • Direct vs indirect communication
  • Trouble around language fluency and accents
  • Differing approaches to authority and hierarchy
  • Conflicting norms for decision-making

As a leader within a business, these areas provide vital insights into where they can their own skills might be weak and where a professional training course like an MBA might help them address these shortcomings.

Managing teams across countries through higher education

If you have been charged with managing a team across different countries, the starting point has to be improving your own skill set in order to lead across different strands of a company. In many cases, a higher degree like an MBA will be able to offer many of these skills that are essential for leading an international team.

Managers have to possess the emotional intelligence to pick up on variations in expression that come with different cultures

As with any advanced professional training option, undertaking an MBA has to deliver further value to your current and future roles, a focus that is especially important for those who are specialising in global industries. For example, managers have to possess the emotional intelligence to pick up on variations in expression that come with different cultures, a skill that can be hard to master without dedicated training.

By focusing on these skills that will make you a better manager of an international team, an MBA can also help you take the next step in your career. Establishing these highly valuable skills can therefore ensure you are prepared to not only excel in your current role but are also ready to step into new responsibilities.