Many Country General Managers aren’t clear as to what their role should be. I believe it’s not about replicating the corporation with “presidential” approaches but to get the job done in the country focusing on opportunities for future success.
Great local management teams make the difference in the performance of global Corporations. They could be somehow involved in the global strategy through providing insights but their key role is to adapt the global strategy to the local reality and implement, implement and implement.
I was curious to see what other people experienced on this topic but I couldn’t actually find much, so I’ve decided to share those things that worked out well for me while working as a General Manager in Spain some years ago.
1. Ensure the team is small and the roles are big as they could possibly be
The scope of control on direct reports, that interact among each other on a daily basis, should be as small as possible or otherwise you as a leader will not be able to properly do your job. Create big jobs so people can stretch to their maximum potential. Invest a lot of time, particularly at the beginning, to generate a common understanding on what the team should be and should achieve. Small teams allow fast decision-making. Avoid setting pre-schedule meetings and only meet when it’s truly necessary. Ensure they get focus on the really important things, typically clients and offering, and avoid spending too much time on internal matters.
Put together a rotational extended leadership team when you want to double check on bias or explore more complex situations or implement strategic initiatives. My personal choice is to do this by invitation and mostly around the n-2 level but with additions from across the organisation. It is about contribution not hierarchy.
2. Ensure ALL of them are great talent
You can’t afford to have low performers in small teams so it’s important to ensure all of them are strong leaders, or could be developed in the short term, particularly those in core functions like commercial and production.
Genuinely care about them as people and professionals and ensure you develop at least one of them into your role, ideally more than one. It’s a learning opportunity for them and will contribute to higher performance in the overall team, as well as allowing you to leave the team without generating major disruptions.
Talk with them, not to them. Listen. Understand. Know them. Allow them to own their careers. Provide feedback with strong emphasis on maximising strengths more than minimising weaknesses. I believe people grow through further improving their strengths. Focusing too much on the weaknesses is many times a fruitless exercise where people get defensive, negative and demotivated. Instead, focusing on the strengths is energising and, many times, it’s synergetic with the weaknesses you want them to improve.
3. Allow them to “own” the business
Make them accountable for the business and allow them to make their own decisions and to live by those, for the good and for the bad. Do not micro-manage them. Expect good corporate citizenship from all of them and the ability to work for the good of the business overall and not just their area of responsibility. Ensure sound incentives are in place (t’s not just about the money) and recognise great work.
4. Back them up in front of their people
You have to be careful with what you do, what you say and the promises you make to their people. Do not by-pass your team. Also, ensure you provide corporate visibility for them to be exposed and challenged allowing them to grow in the organisation.
5. Challenge their thinking every single day and be prepared to get your hands in the mud
Ask open-ended questions to brainstorm strategic and operational matters. Don’t let them get in the comfort zone and fall into complacency. I’ve seen this happening in successful teams that ended up living from past glories and failed to adapt to new realities. Focus on stretch goals. There is always more to be achieved. Know the details and be prepared to get your hands dirty.
Anything else you could share from your experience?