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Coaching for Global Effectiveness
The field of Executive Coaching has seen a steady rise in popularity over the last couple of years. Senior executives and CEOs the world over are now seeing the clear benefits coaches have brought to both their business and personal lives. Yet with globalization a fact of everyday life, executives are becoming ever more unprepared for the increasing levels of complexity and unpredictability brought about through doing business globally. Not only do they need to operate effectively in this new global environment, they also need to develop the necessary skills to allow them to do so. And this calls for a certain type of coaching that is flexible and tailored to the specific challenges and uncertainties of global business.
A recent study by Bain Consulting in New York tracked the 1996 – 2000 financial results of 7,500 publicly traded companies with revenues in excess of $500 million from 7 countries. The results were astonishing: only 1 in 6 companies showed a growth in foreign sales and operating profits as rapidly as its domestic ones. This daunting success rate begs the question: If the chances of global success for larger organizations are only 1 in 6, then what chances do those companies with smaller expansion budgets have without some form of effective risk mitigation? Could global effectiveness coaching be a means of helping senior executives become comfortable with the challenge of global expansion? Could it help create real value globally, avoid the traps so many of us fall into, and dramatically increase the chances of global organizational success?
What is Coaching for Global Effectiveness?
Coaching for Global Effectiveness is regarded as a specialized area of coaching that meets a wide range of global-facing business (and personal) demands. It contrast to the traditional training approach where global skills development (such as cross-cultural training, working in international teams, remote management etc) tends to be "prescribed", global effectiveness coaching takes a much more flexible, tailored and personal approach. Coaches take the most appropriate route depending on the goals and current situation.
Global effectiveness coaching should first be seriously considered when senior executives are confronting the major organizational (and often cultural) change and restructuring that normally accompanies global market entry. Many organizations simply react to the globalization imperative, embarking on overseas expansion at whatever the cost and without first considering how real (global) value will be created. Studies have shown that those organizations that place a great emphasis on developing a corporate global mindset throughout the organization will be more likely to succeed on the global stage. Yet studies have also shown that one of the most taxing challenges that an executive can ever face is the prospect of navigating an organization into new global waters. The consultancy PWC recently carried out a survey of the 100 fastest growing technology companies in the US and showed that of all the challenges facing CEOs, the prospect of taking an organization into global waters was the most daunting. Simply put, global expansion means that an organization will never be the same as it used to be. And since global performance is directly related to the global performance of executives, small wonder that many CEOs show emotions such as lack of confidence, self-doubt and stress.
Secondly, global effectiveness coaching is valuable as an investment in global skills development. Gone are the days when executives could rely on the old axiom: "It worked at home, so it will surely work overseas." Only hard experience and many an embarrassing situation brought about by blunders and cross-cultural gaffes have shown that organizations need to shed their reputations for ethnocentric arrogance when overseas. That is also why organizations such as Shell and HP have such a profound reputation for investing in, and keeping, global skills and talent. But therein lies a major paradox as well; the greater the demand for global skills and talent, the less the supply. It takes time and effort to invest in global experience and talent, and it takes even more time and effort to ensure they are anchored into the organization. Global effectiveness coaching is not only crucial for ensuring that organizational commitment to global skills development is forthcoming. It is also crucial for providing individuals and groups with the necessary encouragement and support when learning how to become more effective in their global facing roles.
Thirdly and finally, sometimes even the most internationally experienced executives are often unprepared for the landmines they can step on when operating globally. Cultural and business blind spots are an everyday fact of global business life, compounded by long periods of time spent overseas, language barriers, a demanding work environment spread across multiple time zones, and pressures from your domestic peers who never seem to understand you or be there when you need them. This is an environment where business and personal lives clash dramatically, and can result in culture shock, fear, fatigue, anxiety, stress, under-performance, self-doubt and lack of confidence. In these scenarios, global effectiveness coaches act almost as a personal advisor and mentor, using their own global expertise and experience to help the executive meet their daily challenges and reach their goals.
Coaching for Global Effectiveness: Classic Interventions
10 years ago, the only executive likely to have had "global" experience of some form or another was the expatriate manager returning home upon completion of a three-year overseas assignment. The global skills and experience people gained during their assignment were generally under-valued by many corporations when they were repatriated. Not surprising, since expatriates were hardly ever selected for their global abilities in the first place. Within a decade however, not only have corporations realized that managers don't even need to set foot on a plane in order to interact with overseas clients, partners, employees and suppliers, they also need to become much more effective at working within a global-facing environment. Global effectiveness is no longer just a "desirable" element on people's resumes. Global experience and expertise is now widely becoming a crucial factor for promotion to the high executive ranks of an organization.
Below are some of the typical scenarios where global effectiveness coaching can become very valuable.
Inv-ROI: An Alternative Way at Looking at the Return on Investment in Coaching.
Measuring return on investment (ROI) has traditionally been the question for those charged with maintaining a close eye on the corporate bottom line. A recent study by Fortune magazine asked executives to provide a "conservative" estimate of the monetary return they received from a 9-month coaching program. The survey showed a return of 6 times the initial outlay for the service. In other words, an $18,000 executive coaching investment returned $108,000. In addition, 70% of the executives improved working relationships with their direct reports, 71% with supervisors and 63% with peers. There was also an increase of 61% in job satisfaction as well as a 44% increase in commitment to the organization.
But operating within a global environment requires an alternative and even more powerful model of looking at return on investment in executive coaching. The investment in global expansion, in terms of people, management planning, commitment, time, cost and patience is not cheap. Many executives are surprised by the length of time it can take before an overseas venture becomes profitable. Estimates range from an absolute minimum of 18 months to as much as 5 years. It can take even longer to change an organizational mindset to become more globally focused. When one looks at the internationalization effort in this light, it is not surprising that only 1 in 6 organizations become profitable international operations.
The Investment Returned on International, or Inv-ROI, is an even more powerful way of looking at the return on investment in global effectiveness coaching. The INV-ROI measures the combined return on investment in both the process of globalization (i.e. the everyday actions and decisions taken by executives to reach global markets) as well as global mindset (i.e. the corporate global mentality that has to be adopted by all executives in a global facing environment in order to stay in global markets).
A company that is internationalizing its business and wants to measure its INV-ROI in global effectiveness coaching should seriously consider the cost to find, recruit, select, develop and retain new people with international skills and talent. It should consider how internationally experienced people will reduce both time and cost to international markets. It should consider the improvement in cross-border working relationships with direct reports, the reduction of conflict inherent in cross-border teams, JV partners and acquisitions. It should consider the increase in the quality of global customer service. It should consider the reputation of other leading global players who, as a direct consequence of investing in global skills and talent, have created powerful global brands as well as a high level of responsiveness to local markets. It should ultimately consider how much under-investment in international skills and talent could ultimately cost the company in terms of productivity, output, and even perhaps overseas market failure.
Ultimately, the Investment Returned on International (Inv-ROI) offered by global effectiveness coaching will not only have a direct bearing on the investment returned on people, but also on the level of organizational success in the global marketplace.
Qualities of a Global Effectiveness Coach
Although global effectiveness coaches share a wide range of skills with other forms of executive coaching, it is their many years of international management experience that really sets them apart. Global effectiveness coaches have a unique insight into the broad range of globalization issues that can profoundly affect both business and personal lives. Indeed the range is so broad, that some global effectiveness coaches are now becoming specialized within the specialization itself.
Once you have decided to work with a global effectiveness coach, it then pays to take your time to ensure you know precisely what you're looking for. This crucial investment will eventually pay off in terms of time, knowledge, experience, trust and chemistry. The following are 12 key criteria for identifying the critical characteristics of a global effectiveness coach so that they can help you achieve your global organizational goals.
Globalization is here to stay. And even though the world appears to be becoming smaller, it is also becoming more complex and unpredictable. Relentless competitive pressures from all parts of the globe, major swings and changes in market conditions, mega-mergers, increasing customer expectations and rapid technology advance all require executives with the necessary skills and talent to keep up with this change and complexity, and to read and interpret it in a way that allows them to be swift, responsive, effective, creative and innovative.
It was the legendary CEO Jack Welch who said: "The real challenge is to globalize the mind of the organization. Until an organization captures the intellects of other areas, it really does have a problem. Until you globalize intellect, you have not really globalized the company".
The winners then, will be those organizations who respond well to this call, and embrace coaching as a powerful way of helping managers to succeed by creating an environment where skills development and behavior change is consistent with the needs of the business plan as well as the global marketplace.
Many more articles in Coaching in The CEO Refresher Archives