Challenges in International Business for Managers and Leaders

As companies expand into global markets, executives can expect the number of challenges facing international staff to grow as well. From navigating language barriers and time zone differences to managing teams via an array of technological platforms, effective business leaders find creative ways to bring their employees together around a common mission.

Graduates of the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Management/Leadership program from Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) pick up the communication and collaboration skills they will need to take on complex business problems in different cultural contexts.

The Changing Landscape of Global Business

Before the COVID-19 pandemic brought millions of Americans into the remote workforce, international business leaders were already tackling the difficult task of managing team members living in different countries.

Managers must navigate a medley of tax laws, payroll policies and employee rights to ensure that their company meets all legal requirements in each country, according to Multiplier. In addition, employees have vastly different levels of access to technology. While one staff member has consistent Wi-Fi and can communicate regularly via video conference, another may have unreliable electricity or an older computer model that makes using their webcam difficult.

Even when all team members can access online communication platforms and share a common language, they may struggle to understand each other’s perspectives. Communication challenges can range from an employee misunderstanding a native speaker’s slang to some team members not participating as much in group meetings because they feel less comfortable expressing themselves in the “lingua franca,” or common language, used by coworkers.

Beyond the obstacles associated with managing remote teams, global business leaders also navigate shifting political relations between countries, fluctuating currency exchange and inflation rates, and supply chain risks that come with delivering goods and services across borders.

Understanding the nuances of each country’s policies, especially as the global economy reacts to unrest in Europe and the Middle East, is challenging for every international manager. Creating a successful brand despite those obstacles requires business leaders willing to communicate across differences.

International Business Management Strategies

Effectively leading a team of people working across various time zones and cultural contexts requires excellent organizational skills and emotional intelligence.

Managers should keep a calendar of regular video meeting check-ins, including one-on-ones, with staff to ensure they remain engaged and open about the issues they may be experiencing so that the company can effectively respond to those challenges. While it may be easier to fire off an email requesting updates, video conferencing — and travel to international offices, if possible — can facilitate employee engagement and conversation that is impossible to achieve through text alone.

Friction between countries may be outside the company’s control, but effective managers closely follow political and trade law changes that will impact their business operations. They also take advantage of their international staff’s expertise and work collaboratively with team members to address challenges as they come up.

Above all, successful international managers unite people of different backgrounds around a shared vision of the company’s goals and strategies for achieving them. To make that dream a reality, leaders must earn their staff’s trust by creating a framework that includes clear roles and responsibilities for each team member, according to the Center for Creative Leadership.

They also assess systems and policies and establish core principles for communication between staff. If a team operates from a place of mutual respect and accountability, the center says, employees can tackle whatever challenges they encounter.

Master Global Organizational Issues With FGCU

FGCU’s online MBA with a concentration in Management/Leadership program offers students a chance to deepen their knowledge of international business with courses like Global Organization Issues. By learning the importance of cross-cultural competence and how legal, ethical, diversity and environmental issues affect corporations operating in different countries, graduates leave the program with essential skills that will translate into global success.

Learn more about Florida Gulf Coast University’s online Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Management/Leadership program.

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