Six key skills to look for when recruiting general managers for global teams

As an executive search firm which specialises in making senior leadership hires in the media and information sector, we are often asked to find general managers who have a track record in leading international/global teams.

Many of our clients have operations in the Asia-Pacific region and the Americas, as well as in Europe.

Leaders who have experience of managing geographically-disparate and culturally-varied teams are essential if these firms are going to work well and in a cohesive fashion.

When recruiting global team managers, a hiring firm should look for a candidate who has experience in, and insists on, these core competencies:

1. Clear communication and expectation setting

A manager should ensure that role definitions, deliverables and measurables are clearly set out at the start of any project or period.

By having regular weekly/monthly meetings, progress can be tracked.  This is true for any management role, but it’s even more important when a team is being managed remotely.


2. Time alignment

Managing a team in the US and Asia-Pac will generally involve late-night or early morning calls. There should be flexibility around these from either side to make the remote team dynamic work. Don’t insist on a hard and fast time each week that is convenient to one party, but always antisocial for others.


3. Face to Face

Telephone conversations are great – face to face visits are even better.  One candidate told us that while most of his remote management can be done efficiently over the phone or video-conference, there is no substitute for “taking a direct report for a coffee downstairs – especially when it was time for performance reviews”.

This quality is a must for any global manager, so when your considering hiring it’s a good trait to look out for.


4. Structure

Any remote management situation is going to work more effectively when it combines clear, purposeful guidance with a good strong leadership structure on the ground – those local team leaders need to be people who a manager can trust to deliver and to work pragmatically.


5. Cultural differences

Even though a local Asian analyst may converse and communicate in perfect English, don’t assume their cultural values are aligned with those in the UK. A good global manager should be aware of any potential cultural and religious differences of their team members.

Similarly, different cultures have different ways and practices of working. For instance, many European countries have traditionally taken the whole of August as holiday, while in other cultures challenging decisions and ways of working, or even just saying ‘no’ can be difficult. An understanding and awareness of these goes a long way in smoothly running an international team.


6. Attending client meetings

If your team is client-facing, make sure you attend those meetings your local team members have with the client, whether by phone or in person.

One candidate explained: “I’d jump on some early morning calls to help him [the local employee] out and speak to the clients.

“You have to do that to understand how things are going. You can see what they [remote teams] do in terms of output and also the reaction of the customer as they’re the guys who speak the truth really.”