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How to benefit from blending international management styles

How to be a high quality Global Manager: a look at how international management styles differ and tips to bolster any management style.

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International management styles

It’s no surprise that international management styles differ. Obviously due to culture differences, each style is plagued with its own negative connotations. The American management style has been long regarded by our Eastern counterparts as too loose or informal and only focused on one facet of the employee. Conversely, many westerners have argued that the Chinese management style seems to coddle employees and strip them of autonomy.

I’ve heard complaints of African managers letting employees have days off at a time for family issues because family comes first – even at work. While in Poland, I had a VP of Finance show a picture of his 11 month old son during an important meeting with international clients. The most memorable of managers, was one in Germany who insisted that if a meeting occurred after 3pm, beer (in huge steins of course!) be served. Having worked in a myriad of countries, I believe the balance of both is optimal. But if pressed, I’d have to admit I find my Chinese management experience the most palatable.

One-sided Downfall

I recently read a great paper about the paradoxical nature of Chinese leadership and management in the workplace. The authors, both American, put forth that Chinese managers tend to be both “authoritarian and benevolent.” I disagree – but only to a certain extent. I find most non-American mangers to be this way: all business at work, but genuinely interested in you as a whole person. They ask about your family, want you to leave the office with enough energy to give yourself or your family, and help you grow as a person.

The biggest complaint I’ve heard about American managers is they only care about a job well-done, but not about why you could or couldn’t accomplish certain tasks or even about you as a person in general. Initially, I was on Team USA! My philosophy was “I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to work.” My place of employment was not where I sought personal affirmation or the only sense of accomplishment in my life. But having been managed by global mangers and having managed global teams, the one-sided management style is definitely outdated.

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A 360-view

Today, diversity and globalization effect every workplace. As such, I find it necessary to train people to be good global managers. Global has less to do with location and more to do with mental orientation. Think about how many cross-cultural teams/groups the average American graduate student, employee or manager engages with in a given year. The future of management is here. Now is the time to take a lesson from international management styles. Over the years, I’ve noticed a few key differences that, when combined, could make someone a good global manager.

  • Your life outside of the office matters, and managers manage to that effect.
  • Projects and assignments are group driven, not necessarily deadline driven.
  • Personal development and growth are of utmost importance.
  • Employees general well-being is valued.
  • Managers take time to sharpen their interpersonal relationship skills.

This combination of viewing an employee inside and out is what I call the 360-view. There is something to be said of true teamwork at work that is fostered by a sense of concern for the employee’s entire well being. Some American companies and HR departments are even spending on “life balance” seminars and insurance options. It would seem that investing in employees in all facets of life would guarantee at the very least a motivated employee and at the very most your best asset!

Written By

Monica Moffitt, founder and Principal Cultural Consultant at Tianfen Consulting, Inc., has traveled the world and enjoys linguistics and all things culture. Having split her career between project management and business analytics, Monica merges logic, fluency in Chinese and creativity in her new role as cultural consultant. She received a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies/Chinese from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Business Administration (International Management and Marketing) from University of Texas at Dallas.

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