Six Leadership Actions to Optimise your International Growth
Focusing your business on international growth involves change across the business. In times of change your approach to leadership requires special attention, no matter how small the business. Are there any areas where you can do better?
- Get key people on board from the outset
Make sure that you engage appropriately with everyone in the organisation. You will probably want to involve decision-makers and those having key roles in delivery to your export clients in the creation of your plan from an early stage. This not only brings their expertise into the equation, but the best way to develop ownership of your objectives and plans is to let people have their input and feel they have really shaped the future.
- Ensure you communicate at every opportunity
Your initiative is likely to have some level of impact on everyone in the business. Changes to people’s jobs or changes in expectation, no matter how minor, are very important to the people they affect. Ultimately they will need to understand what this development will mean for them, both in terms of what they do, but also in terms of potential future opportunity for them.
Communication is a two-way process, so think about avoiding the ‘company presentation’ approach. A bit of ‘management by walking about’ or chatting to people in small groups with the emphasis on finding out what they think about what you are doing works wonders. Using the same technique to keep people updated is also a great way to find out about what is working and what isn’t.
Finally, let everyone know about your overseas customers. Profiles of customers bring a personal dimension to activity, a simple map of overseas sales can be a great source of pride. Make it someone’s job to keep this updated!
- Ensure people’s roles continue to be clear as the business grows and develops
As things change make sure you keep an eye on how roles are changing. Roles are usually a link in a process with a person receiving some kind of input and producing an output for the next people in the chain. If the chain breaks down quality generally suffers as well as staff temper and morale. Make sure roles have been reviewed and changes agreed and recorded in line with your normal approach.
- Encourage and support staff who are facing new challenges
Any kind of change can be at least challenging if not daunting so don’t underestimate the size of the ‘ask’ you are making.
Encourage people to tackle new requirements positively and be prepared to give positive encouragement when things don’t go to plan. You will get there quickest as a team if everyone is on a learning curve together.
And demonstrate your own positivity. Exporting is often described as a journey and, as with all journeys, it is likely to have both its ups and its downs. Your ability to keep focused on the big picture and to keep others focused on the objectives will be a key factor in making sure that success is achieved
- Demonstrate cultural sensitivity
As a leader you set attitudes and behaviours in others in the organisation. Cultural differences with other markets may create problems of communication and that can create negativity towards overseas customers. Maybe they appear rude on the phone. Maybe they demand different service levels to UK customers. Maybe their English isn’t very good. Your response to these kinds of issues will show others how to react, so make sure you ‘gen up’ on what to expect and keep positive if issues do arise. Let people know you have taken the time to increase your understanding and encourage others to do likewise. The ‘International Communication’ Modules in Exportsavvy provide a lot of information and food for thought.