I was facilitating a workshop recently and was approached by one of the participants. He was an operations executive with a large international food manufacturer. The topic was leadership and he was getting totally overwhelmed with the reality of his role in having to develop people. He said he struggled with even delivering constructive criticism and thought the idea of going another step and actually coaching his people too big a challenge.
I felt for him. He works in a competitive, high-pressure space. He is working outside his home country. His skills are stretched to the maximum and now he is getting the sense that there is one more layer of expectation. His situation highlights a challenge for many working in international assignments. Just working in a culture that we understand can be difficult. Trying to do the same management work in another culture is like asking people to switch from right hand to left hand – and then tie the right hand behind their back.
The solution for him of course is more leadership development, better systems to identify talent in the first place, and some cultural intelligence training.
My encouragement to him and to others is that becoming a strong leader (or even building a strong organization) is a lot like building a spider web. There are key anchor points (like the leadership team, vision, solid business model and goals) and then there are connector points like leadership skills, communication, team development, and cultural intelligence. Everything does not have to come together at once perfectly. Lots of effective leaders (and organizations too) are relatively weak in one of more areas. This weakness impedes effectiveness, but not always to the point that is does not work at all.
So think about those areas in your leadership or organization that need some repair or connection. Build a web that is both flexible and strong. It is what top performers do.