Help Me Solve My Problem#2 “My First International Assignment was a Disaster”
Compiled by: Mariana Saldanha
About “How to Solve a Problem” series:
“How to Solve a Problem” is a discussion forum conducted in the WhatsApp groups of L & D Global every week, where a case study is put before the members which requires to be discussed and a solution to the particular problem in the case study has to be provided. This virtual discussion forum is very interesting and helpful because, every member who participates in the discussion presents his/her point of view of solving a particular problem and all the members get to learn how to face such challenges. This particular case study is a problem shared by a mid-level- management professional working for an organization in India.
Case (Problem) for the week:
“I am an Operations Manager in an Indian multinational Company. I had been working in Chennai for 9 years. I grew within the organization very fast. I joined the organization as an entry level associate and within 9 years I grew to a mid-level manager role. I was considered as the best people’s manager and was identified by my company as a key talent. Recently my company set up its operations in Romania. As a part of my company’s key talent program, I was offered the Operations manager’s role in Romania. I was very excited and I shifted there 5 months ago with my family.
However, nothing is going right for me since I have arrived in Romania. I am finding it difficult to become effective here as a people manager role. My company which considered me key talent is now planning to take me back to India. My manger told me that I am unable to manage people here and they are looking for a local guy.
What do I do now? What should be my next step?”
The following were the solutions discussed by the members in the group:
- This is a classical problem seen in corporate India today. Indian companies are now establishing a strong foot print across the globe. This provides new opportunities for the employees to augment their career by taking up international assignments. However, employees who are very effective as managers in India are often failing to scale up abroad.
- I think, culture across the globe is very varied. People have a different mind-set and out look towards life. I think as leaders or managers, one should develop the necessary skills, by learning about various cultures and adapting their leadership styles accordingly. Also here the old adage fits perfectly, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
Adaptability to the local environment with appropriate knowledge would go a long way in helping people adjust to the new managerial roles across the globe. Also acceptance is the key. Managers go with a filled up cup, with the experiences of their past, not knowing that new territories will require a new approach altogether. A clean slate will help people to adapt to new roles better without the baggage of the old roles.
- The next immediate step for him would be self-analysis.
What went wrong? Is the question he needs to ask himself.
Self-analysis is critical and self-awareness is the first cluster of emotional intelligence.
- Many times we tend to overlook the underlying problem. Probably the issue may not be anything that great, it can be a petty issue which with adequate effort can be resolved. If he could be successful in India then he can be successful abroad as well. He is talented and the problem is not with his ability or skill. The problem can be the approach with which he addressed the issues in Romania. He should not doubt his capability, instead he should focus on some deep study of the situation and answer the question WHY.
- He can have a constructive discussion with his manager, to know what went wrong and where was he lacking. He can know the areas of improvement and try to convince his manager that he may need some more time to work on it. If given a chance, he can very well prove his mettle. If not, there is always a next time. Probably he can take this as a learning and bounce back.
- The homework of those who promoted him should be questioned or analysed. But this might not help him much. Probably this is a training issue. The company could have given the necessary preparatory training to work in a new environment. Companies should take culture sensitization as a responsibility, especially the MNC’s. This is where potential appraisal is very important. Understanding the gaps depending on what terms and conditions of his return to India are. He should check out the job market. Also in future, family should be migrated only after the person is settled in the new location.
- He has subconscious fears around. Not being accepted by people of (foreign) unknown place, issues of self-esteem, fear of failure, fear of unknown, etc. Whatever is outside of us is the reflection of what is inside of us. So we attract exactly the situations that reflects our inner fears. Looks like he had a similar situation in his childhood (may not be a foreign country) a new school or something like that. Age regression will resolve this issue permanently.
- Few questions which we can ask ourselves regularly:
- In my existing role, what skills can I update that will help me to excel?
- Looking at volatile and dynamic external environment, am I upgrading my skills to cope up changes?
- What is the new skill I have developed in the last 1 year?
- Our skill development is our responsibility and we should never become outdated. When we remain and stick to a skill set which has given us success in past and are not adaptable, things will become challenging. 6 months is too short a time to conclude anything. But very few realise especially when things are going well and that’s the best time to upgrade for future.
- A to do list suggesting him a small plan:
- Self- analysis addressing the question why six times and what went wrong, getting it on paper with all the things that worked for him and all that did not.
- Have a productive discussion with his manager. Talking to his manager about the situation will give him better insights, understanding the manager’s perspective and what was truly expected of him.
- Requesting his boss for a second chance to prove himself and then getting back to work with an empty cup.
- If not given chance he should work on himself, not lose hope, should do away with self-doubt, he should stay motivated and should look for better opportunities in future.
- There is no point now crying over spilt milk. So if second chance is not given, he should return back to his home country, pull up his socks, get back to what he was doing the best.
- An initiative to learn about the culture, people and other demographic factors across the globe. Especially, he needs to study those countries where his company may try to expand in future so that he stands a better chance to adapt if given the opportunity.
- Reading and learning about the global work culture, company’s global strategy, global policies, the industry globally in which the company deals, various reforms, new practices a mangers in the said field.
- If required, he can even rethink his career choice and probably get into another function, just to see whether challenges are for him or not. Because many times stagnancy is also a factor in career.
- If he comes with a good track record, he needs to spend time with stake holders, buy more time and adapt. He needs to have a 2 year plan with 6 months experience and should be able to sell it aggressively.
- He may do self-assessment, however, as stated, he knows his strength as people manager and that is what helped him in past. He just needs to re-align to cultural sensitivities of the new place to understand what is culturally right and wrong. E.g. If someone is well dressed, saying “You are looking great/awesome” and “hey! That is a great dress”, the first one is not acceptable culturally in many European countries whereas second line is acceptable. Similarly you can’t ask for personal numbers or call on weekends, it is just not acceptable.
- Analyse the Indian context in terms of subordinate’s age, surroundings, bonding with them as compared to subordinates in Romania. What worked in India, the habits, openness or close behaviour, top-down or bottom-up approach may work if created on similar mule.
- Note the skill sets, positive attribute of each subordinate and have a close one to one discussion. Secondly be open to criticism. Thirdly accept and act what can be changed and present a detailed report to the management how he can change the picture if putting detailed change management structure and what support required from the management.
- He should read “People Skills” by Les Giblin every day for 12 months and get back to us to what happened. The prescription never fails, if the person reads every day and follows the instructions.
- Personal experience cum suggestion by a member – “What I can say about working overseas is adjusting to that culture. I had gone to UK London working for aramex and that is it was for me. Mentally I made them due my beliefs via opinions which got it. Even when I was working in Mumbai I did not adjust. My performance was before what I was expected. Each day’s things went wrong due to lack of knowledge of local working. Moreover I was not a highly travelled person nor had gone through trainings. For me what I see is that it was me who came in the way of performance.