The competencies for internation managers


1. Executive Summary

This report is generated in order to identify and analyse the competencies for international managers, as our company is looking to train the managers for international assignments. I have not discussed hierarchical model in this report as for me it is understood that a manager who is chosen for any international assignment should possess those competencies in default setting. Not all managers are able enough for international projects because of the deficiencies they have in the competencies discussed in hierarchical model. Those competencies are technical competencies, business competencies, knowledge management competencies, leadership competencies, social competencies and intrapersonal competencies. Although for international managers few of these competencies needs to be outstanding and rest should be perfect. I have analyse and identified the areas where international managers needs to focus on, with the help of Leonard-Barton work I have tried to point out those key areas. Work and experience from many other authors and scholars have been taken into account. Cross cultural (C/C) competencies have been my main focus. How managers from different cultural background with different concepts and ideas can mould their thinking according to the culture they will be working in is discussed in this report. I have also discussed my competencies and skills by taking guidance from CIPD think performer vision. The abilities that need to work on and those I already possess are all discussed in the personal list of competencies section. At the end of this report I have concluded the topic by highlighting the rapidly changing global world and business trends. My view is that if an organisation is in static position it can never progress and cannot keep the pace in the competition. For an organization to keep the competitive edge it needs to be dynamic in its policies and strategies. With the changes for example technological changes, managers need to develop their skills in order for the organization to maintain a strong grip on the market.

2. Introduction

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Organizations change and organizations compete for the same resources, competencies, and customers. These are the cruel realities of management that cannot be neglected. This also means that the notion of strategy and strategic management cannot be neglected as an integral part of what managers do. Strategy is about affecting the overall activities of an organization in ways to make the organization a winner. Strategy is about survival in fierce competition. Expatriates who are unprepared for the challenges of an international assignment are likely to have difficulty adjusting abroad and are likely to experience culture shock (Oberg, 1960). Poorly adjusted expatriates are, in turn, likely to perform poorly (Ones & Viswesvaran, 1997). While the cost of training, relocating, and compensating employees for expatriate assignments is estimated to be $80,000 U.S. for each expatriate (Dowling, Schuler, & Welch, 1996), the costs associated with expatriates' failure to adjust and perform in foreign cultures have been estimated at well above twice that amount (Briscoe, 1995; Dowling, et al., 1996). In the international management literature, myriad lists of cross-cultural (C/C) competencies have been posited to be helpful for C/C adjustment (e.g., Hammer, Gudykunst, & Wiseman, 1978). Accordingly, extensive evidence exists for the effectiveness of C/C training as a means of providing these competencies and improving C/C adjustment (Black & Mendenhall, 1990). As we look at the literature and feel like a lot has been learned up to date but still there are some areas of concern that needs some attention. So what are these areas? Well simple enough first of all if managers are trained to acquire C/C competencies, can they acquire those competencies through training and can everyone be equally trained for C/C competencies. Also, is it necessary that all C/C competencies are equally essential for C/C adjustment? And last but not least if we go through all the C/C competencies listed in literature, we might not be sure about the validity of the guidelines for determining the contents for all those lists. While looking at the C/C competencies one should not neglect competencies within the organization culture an individual must have. So in order to identify the C/C we will look into the competencies that an individual must possess in order for the organization to maintain a competitive edge over their competitors. In order to find out the usefulness of competencies we first have to identify and analyse those competencies in order to make them effective.

3. Identification and Analysis of Competencies

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The first two steps in formulating a competence-based strategy, identification and analysis, are treated together in this report for two reasons. First, the decision-making process of these two steps is different, more intuitive and less tangible, than the decision-making process in the last step of competence development. Second, there is a tendency that the third step is a matter for the human resource management (HRM) function of the firm alone, whereas the other two steps usually are the matter of top management. Even though if this tendency can be broken, HRM function certainly should be involved in the issues related to competence development as well as the other two issues. The third reason is that we need to develop a lot more knowledge about how to apply theories and models related to, especially, organizational learning to competence development than what goes for the identification and analysis of competencies. In order to analyse the core competencies let's have a look at Leonard-Barton works (1995). Part of her starting point is that competencies should not be defined as static entities, since: "organizations, like the people who populate them, have invested in knowledge building over the years and have developed particular skills, they still must continue to build and change those skills in response to changing environments" (Leonard-Barton, 1995, p. 17). In other words, competencies need to be changed all the time. In order to do that, however, managers need at least two abilities: "they must 1) know how to manage the activities that create knowledge and 2) posses an understanding of exactly what constitutes a core capability" (Leonard-Barton, 1995, p. 4). As the time changes and in order to get the competitive edge, the knowledge and competencies that the firm is based on must also change as: "…even seemingly minor innovations that alter the architecture of a product can undermine the usefulness of deeply embedded knowledge" (Leonard-Barton, 1995, p. 17). Thus, innovation, even in the form of not creative destructive, is a key factor in rendering current core competencies obsolete. This phenomenon is called core rigidities by Leonard-Barton. She discusses four technical competencies as under.

3.1. Employee knowledge and skill.

This is the most obvious dimension according to Leonard-Barton. This is because Leonard-Barton perceives organizations as knowledge. She writes that firms are knowledge as well as financial institutions and that they are repositories as well as wellsprings of knowledge. Expertise collects in employees' heads and is embodied in technology, and this knowledge is the starting point of core competencies.

3.2. Physical technical systems.

Technological competence accumulates not only in the heads of people, but also in the technical/physical systems that people build over time: databases, machinery, software, and so on.

3.3. Managerial systems.

The accumulation of employee knowledge is guided and monitored by the company's system of education, rewards, and incentives. These systems are often called management systems, and they create the channels by which knowledge is accessed and flows and barriers to the same

3.4. Values and norms

It determine the kind of knowledge that is sought and nurtured, what kinds of knowledge activities are tolerated and encouraged, and so on. In organizations, there are informal systems of caste and status, rituals of behaviour, and passionate beliefs associated with various kinds of knowledge. Often the systems in organizations are no less rigid and complex than systems of religion in society as a whole. Thus, values and norms serve as knowledge screening and control mechanisms.

These four elements are a first step toward a structural definition of competence. The four elements can be identified and manipulated by certain processes, thereby enabling us to go one step further. As our organization is looking to develop managers for international assignment, we also have to keep in mind the C/C competencies they will need to perform their job. By going through the literature and looking at the policies adopted by different companies I will go for the following competencies that will be essential for the international mangers in our company.

4. The c/c relationship competency dimension

The C/C Relationship competency dimension is all about willing and able to maintain the interpersonal relationships with host country Nationals. To effectively deal with diverse communication styles, social customs, and the miscommunications that may arise from these; and to accurately understand and empathize with the feelings of another person (Hammer, et al. 1978; Mendenhall & Oddou, 1985). In this competencies dimension both dynamic and stable competencies exists. We can include cultural knowledge and conflict resolution knowledge in dynamic competencies and two types of skills can be included that are conflict-resolution skills and C/C Relationship self-efficacy.Dynamic C/C Relationship Competencies are as under:

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4.1. Cultural Knowledge.

For the international manager the awareness of the culture of host country is very important as it will make job easy and life smooth in that country. That's why Follet gave it such importance and discusses it as "However, the form of cultural knowledge most relevant to C/C relationships may be conceptual knowledge, particularly about the other culture (e.g., values) and about one's own (e.g., how one's own cultural values might appear to a cultural outsider). This is because knowledge of the "Other" and of the self can help to provide the most critical piece of knowledge for relationship building: knowledge of how each party's cultural characteristics might affect their interactions" (Follett, 1951).

4.2. Knowledge of Conflict-resolution Strategies and Conflict-resolution Skills.

International manager having substantial amount of knowledge can't stop the rising conflict. He or she must be prepared to deal with conflicts and miscommunication when interacting with culturally different individuals, and to do so in a manner that permits effective work interactions (Hammer, et al. 1978; Mendenhall & Oddou, 1985). So what does that mean? For the international assignment knowledge of conflict resolution strategies is also important which can include familiarity with conflict resolution styles, strategies and tactics and how the culture will influence on those styles and strategies.

4.3. Knowledge of conflict-resolution

Strategies alone are insufficient to ensure appropriate performance in conflictual circumstances. Conflict-resolution skills, also critical (Hawes & Kealey, 1981), may be defined as the capability of utilizing alternate conflict-resolution styles, of responding to cultural cues that prompt the need to alternate between these different styles (Kozan, 1989), and of employing a variety of different conflict-resolution strategies and tactics appropriate to the situation (Fisher, et al. 1991). So how it can be measure, this construct could be measured using a role-play exercise, which is an effective method for assessing behavioural skills that require empathy and understanding of the "Other" (Harris and DeSimone, 1994).

4.4. C/C Relationship Self-efficacy.

The ability of having meaningful dialogue with people and dealing with their social customs requires confidence. Experientially based C/C training leads to better adjustment and performance outcomes than doe's mere information-based training, and Social Cognitive Theory would suggest that this is because it promotes higher self-efficacy (Black & Mendenhall, 1990). Of course, the third possibility is that C/C Relationship self-efficacy may simply not be a valid predictor of C/C Adjustment.

This construct may be operationalized using a self-report instrument that taps confidence in employing conceptual knowledge effectively. For example, respondents could indicate their confidence in applying conceptual knowledge about social norms when interacting with local buyers or suppliers. Or, if the position requires few external work interactions, respondents could indicate their confidence in applying conceptual knowledge about the social norms pertinent to working with host-country national co-workers on project teams. Measurement of self-efficacy might then proceed according to Stevens, et al.'s (1993) approach.

4.5. Stable C/C Relationship Competencies

All of the dynamic C/C Relationship competencies require an interpersonal orientation. Accordingly, extraversion and agreeableness appear to be appropriate stable competencies for this dimension. Because the very definitions of these two personality traits correspond to the general description of this competency dimension, it seems likely that their absence would impede trainability in the dynamic competencies.

4.6. Extraversion.

Extraversion refers to an interpersonal orientation, or a willingness to develop interpersonal relationships with people in general. Deller (1997) used this trait to measure C/C Relationship competencies. Introverts were found to be more likely to experience C/C adjustment and performance problems. For this reason, it appears appropriate to regard extraversion as a stable C/C relationship competency. This construct can be measured using Costa and McCrae's (1992) self-report instrument.

4.7. Agreeableness.

Agreeableness refers to being altruistic, cooperative, likeable, and socially sensitive in interpersonal relations (Costa & McCrae, 1992; Hogan & Hogan, 1992). It seems quite likely that this personality trait would also predict one's ability to develop and maintain relationships with people in general, and with host-country nationals in particular. Although this trait has not been tested in C/C contexts, and theorists such as Ones and Viswesvaran (1997) have omitted it from their list of personality traits that might predict C/C Adjustment, indirect support exists. Many of the constructs convergent with agreeableness, such as altruism (Kealey, 1989) and sensitivity (Hawes & Kealey, 1981) correlate positively with C/C Adjustment. In addition, although the construct of C/C adjustment differs slightly from that of adaptation (Deller, 1997), agreeableness correlates positively with both self- and supervisory-appraisals of expatriate adaptation.

For me competencies discussed above should be included for International managers in the organisation, as the world has contracted and globalisation has played its part in bringing businesses across the boundaries. In order to maintain the competitive edge our organization should not neglect these competencies as these are important for any organisation to maintain a competitive edge.

5.1. Personal drive and effectiveness:

I will think myself as a personal driven and effective person as the 'can-do' factor always encourages me towards positive approach of any task. I am always anxious to find my way through the guidance I receive and I don't panic when I see any obstacle, rather by staying calm and positive I try to exploit all resources that I have for the accomplishment of my objectives.

5.2. People management and leadership:

I have gone through the roles of sub-ordinate, manager and team leader. Each of this role brought vast experience in my practical life. I learnt a lot from being sub-ordinate to team leader. I know how to motivate people around you and how to create sense of responsibility and concern amongst the people working with you. I know the importance of working individually for particular role or working as a team for one task. My efforts have always to build a trust based relationship.

5.3. Business understanding:

While working as manager in Ladbrokes I was totally aware of what company's policies are in order to operate a profitable business. I worked accordingly to give company financial boost. In my job I was responsible to look after the customers and their concerns. Introducing different offers and keeping the expenses in control at the same time was also part of my job that I performed successfully.

5.4. Professional and ethical behaviour:

In my view if anyone is unaware of any technical or professional then he or she is not sincere with the profession. Doesn't matter what profession you are in, you got to have technical and professional command over your role. For me it has always been important. I always tried my level best to understand the environment I am working. Then technically if my job demands any familiarity with the automated of personal system, I have always tried to be in full control of that aspect.

5.5. Added-value result achievement

Any organization doing a business operates in legally defined framework that expected from the employees to follow as well. For me knowing all the legality issues of my job towards other has always been priority. As well as obliged by those rules I have always been trying to perform in maximum to give company a positive output.

5.6. Continuing learning:

I have always shown commitment and interest to learn new things and bring in improvement. Though there have been some tough patches where I struggled and I need to overcome those areas. As self management learning techniques are lacking, I need to work hard on this area in order to be quick learner as I am a slow starter. I need to expose myself more towards external environment.

5.7. Analytical and intuitive/creative thinking:

I have followed a systematic approach whenever I faced a situation. But I must admit that I am not a good planner and I have always struggle to have this competency. I always react on time. Though my plans are always business focus but still there is element missing that I need to work on to be more innovative and pro active.

5.8. 'Customer' focus:

Customer is always right, if we take this in constructive way we will have the opportunity to excel. I have always been customer focus as it provides solid grounds for areas to be improved and overcoming deficiencies. As the customer feedback is always important and helps a lot to fulfil their expectations.

5.9. Strategic thinking:

I need to develop this competency as I feel lack of confidence for strategic building. For this purpose I need to create a vision that I must achieve in the set time in order to develop this competency. I got to improve and bring in the more improvement in my day to day achievement. I got to develop long term planning for the development

5.10. Communication, persuasion and interpersonal skills:

I am quite confident in communicating orally, writing reports for my business in order to transmit information to my colleagues and bosses. But the writing skills still need to be improved, for that I got to have more vocabulary and strong grip on my language skill. I am quite sensitive to any corporate issues and I do understand the political aspect of the environment I work in. I am very sensitive to emotional issues. I can persuade people working around me. I know how important the communication is in corporate life, so I am totally committed in order to communicate, persuade people.

6. Conclusions

It is usually assumed that core competencies should be impossible to imitate. Even include this as a demand for a competence to be considered "core "most important in their work. When it is assumed that competencies cannot be imitated, then it is natural to conclude that their development, and eventual replacement, is not an issue for management attention. Apart from being rational in an economical world. The firms are more dynamic and thinking globally. So they keep on changing their strategies from time to time in order to keep the pace. We also need to think about the rapidly changing global and should bring in the system that can help in keeping the competitive edge. If we can develop our managers by keeping in mind the competencies discussed above, it can help in the successful completion of international assignment. In my view, the HR department can also make additional analyses regarding the chosen core competencies and focus competencies and use these as additional input to the decision-making process of competence development. Such analyses could include the influence of technology and structure, thereby creating the important links to technology planning and decisions on the organizational structure of the firm. Furthermore, the HR department can make aggregation and analyses on that level, perhaps even leading to an estimate of the value of intellectual capital. Hopefully it will help in redefining company's goal and mission for better and bright future.

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