Integrity Matters
April 4, 2007

Select overseas workers carefully

Question: (E-280)

Dear Jim:

We're feeling pressure to compete overseas but have only minimal experience there. What should we do?


Make sure those assigned overseas are properly qualified. Successful expatriates must be grounded in their own values and beliefs. That means hiring managers to assess the fitness of candidates, including competency and flexibility. Clear self-awareness enables those working internationally to leverage their talents, character and abilities and be productive in multicultural settings. In addition to integrating their behavior with local customs in a way that overcomes routine barriers to outsiders, they must be at ease bringing in local talent.

Consulting expertise expedites getting high-speed and accurate information regarding those being considered for international assignments. Successful organizations reduce the risks of costly global disappointments by securing answers to these 11 questions:

  1. Are they motivated to work in another culture, and is their family willing?
  2. Do they share the belief in multicultural leverage?
  3. Can they be trusted?
  4. Have the expectations for this assignment been communicated?
  5. Will they and their family adapt with ease to other cultures?
  6. Will colleagues from unfamiliar cultures tend to react favorably to their style?
  7. What support will they need to be successful?
  8. Will their leadership style enhance or inhibit performance?
  9. Will they grow as international citizens and leaders?
  10. What is the strategy to capitalize upon the wisdom gained by the returning expatriate?
  11. Are they likely to return to "home base" better - or bitter?

With positive answers to the first 11 questions, the following checklist of nine traits is designed to make sure those working internationally will do the right things, the right way, repeatedly. Decision-makers must have accurate information regarding the ability of the candidates to:

  • Understand, appreciate and accommodate cultural differences.
  • Utilize a proven "bridging" mechanism to integrate cultures.
  • Demonstrate culturally inclusive listening skills.
  • Define, communicate and model constructive leadership behaviors.
  • Create a process to recognize, encourage and reward cultural congruence.
  • Encourage other members of the organization to exhibit appropriate behaviors, all the time.
  • Sustain high morale with constant pressures to resist cultural integration.
  • Mitigate demoralizing and destructive (local) "third party" critique.
  • Monitor progress systematically, frequently and energetically.
Profitable results are created by good working teams. Wise leaders make sure their expatriates will exude integrity and operate with a sincere desire to listen, respecting the uniqueness of their host country's social and business cultures.

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