Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Manager Skills – A question I have pondered recently is how do you quantify what your leadership style is, and to what degree this style can be because of our unique international experience. International management can be very tricky but I have found the following experiences in my life to have been essential to what I have become. Learning from a university is good but it will not prepare you for the everyday issues of being an ex-pat in a foreign land and organizing labor for the support of who you represent internationally. The information I am going to convey is from my experiences and is not meant to represent the only way. This information is just meant to be a guide of what worked for me, and how I was successful in doing so.
Table of contents
Get out and speak to people
First I cannot deny the fact that my military service with a constant focus on teamwork, and leadership has been a major influence in my career, and living in Europe during the last years of the Cold War also influenced what I did moving forward. First even while still on active duty I got out on each day off, and learned the customs, languages, and food of each region I was in. I hit many world-famous museums even before I knew they were famous. I had little money and would walk the streets in Germany, France, and others just talking, interacting, and meeting new people on a constant basis. By the time I left Europe, I had already spoken German and could understand and speak a dialect within Bavaria.
Continued international exposure
Then there was a time in Panama, Bolivia was exposed to Spanish from different regions. These experiences set the stage for when I would launch my formal career as a Field Service Engineer traveling around the world fixing equipment. These past experiences made it very easy for me to feel comfortable exploring new areas of Asia to include Singapore, Malaysia, India, Thailand, Phillippines, Tawan, China, and South Korea. My comfortability grew, and my ability to interact with the people of Asia grew over time. I then began training customers, and engineering while becoming an international expert on the technology I was dealing with daily.
So imagine you started in one year with little experience, and each month you worked and worked domestically until the day came, and you were asked to fix something overseas. If you work hard and become an expert at what you do, and ask for the assignments overseas you will get them. Is it easy of course not but it is was then everyone would be doing it? But once you begin, and keep at people will notice your capabilities, and you will benefit from all of these experiences.
Bringing your family along
Second I have to say that having a family has caused me to focus on my long-term planning and mitigation of failures. Having very close family when traveling is a major delight for me and I enjoy it immensely. Watching my children learn, and grow around is an education that is difficult to get. Now in the university when they have to write and give speeches they have the mental memories to be able to do so with skill-based on real-world knowledge.
By the time I was able to begin bringing my family I was already considered capable and executives needed people to stay for longer periods of time. They need you, and you needed them to ship your family to Europe, Asia, or whatever location you are in. Most of the time these larger projects go over the expected amount of time. Once that happened the amount of people willing to stay gets very small fast, and if you only require your family flown over, and you will stay for a much longer period of time the possibilities are endless. These new experiences caring for yourself and your family help you develop new skills that can be applied to business management. Because your new people reporting to you will have many different experiences and could be very diverse in nature. Taking care of others is part of an international manager’s job is a manager skills portfolio you are building on paper and within your mind.
Manager skills and lifelong learning
Third, my exposure to international travel starting at eighteen, and continuing to this date has transformed me in ways that I can not even describe. I now feel comfortable in most countries and most situations due to this alone. Even if I don’t speak the language I seem to always get what I want to be done. But this did not just happen, and I continued to learn at every step of the way. I have read books on international business, history, anthropology, and other skills I felt I was lacking. I have used private tutors in Singapore, Taiwan, and Korea to get me started on a few quick language skills. My wife and I both did this and exposed our children at the same time. We even went to the university in Hsinchu Taiwan to get more advanced Chinese language and writing skills.
Time off is also important and if you are still living abroad find another low-cost location close by. When we lived in Taiwan the Phillippines were close, and somewhere we went several times. Make sure to meet new people and to spend time with old friends along the way making lifelong bonds.
What are the top skills I have worked on over the decades and what do I think is the most important idea or concept? I can now answer this question with two particular statements. First, always remember that everything you do is primarily about people. It is other people that have made the decision to support you and to learn from you. No matter how complicated the equipment is it is people first and foremost that should always be the center of every decision you make. Second is the concept of leadership, and one that I think some managers just getting started don’t understand. Leadership is not about the position you hold. It is about other people making the conscious decision to follow you, and respect your leadership. It does not matter how many people work for you because if they don’t truly follow you you will not succeed. The way you get this second point to work is by working on the first point.
For the most point, I always try to learn something new each month and take university classes still even though they no longer benefit me from a degree standpoint. I look for subjects of continuous learning, continue building on old ideas, concepts, and learn new ones. The world is always changing and it’s important and change with the times by learning what is happening around you. Political science ideas and concepts are very important internationally, and you being able to maneuver around obstacles only happens if you understand the problem.
Management skills for your resume
Time management skills – Personally I think this is best learned by doing and reading books on the subject. Here are a few books that helped me understand and build on my skills. The One Minute Manager was a great book and the author has built up a tremendous amount of material around his ideas, and they have helped me very much over the years.
Project management skills – PMP and skills in this area can be viewed from the project manager website, and they provide a tremendous amount of up-to-date information.
Management skills for resume – Being able to articulate yourself is also important and you understand management over time. Books like “Art of war”, “Power”, and “The Warriors Edge” were early reads for me. I also read Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people“, all of his other books on management to build new skills and learn more about the art of people management. Still today I have an account on Audible.com where I now listen to the same books over and new books on many subjects.
So my best advice to young people is to get out and work overseas. Spend part of your education overseas meeting new people and building a network of people that you can rely on. I once hired a mechanical engineer from Ireland who was teaching English in Taiwan. Another was a soccer player who I hired to act as a project manager and he was from Spain. Why did I hire these guys? Did they have the education yes sure but even more important was that I knew they could be trained, and I could send them anywhere in the world to bring ideas, technologies, and others to help us on our project.
So in conclusion, if you want to do something then that is what you must think about and what you should ponder about in your journals, emails, job search, and what you should read about. Because what you think about becomes reality. So structure your life to include your ideas and concepts of your future that you dream about into everything. Even the passwords that you type each day should mean something. Look at articles, pictures videos, and eat food from the region. Learn languages from the internet and even save money for small vacations close by. Every exposure and every person you meet is a possible co-worker for the future. So embrace and learn every absorbing the world around you via osmosis 24/7 and watch yourself grow in real-time. Stay positive no matter what is happening, and organize your life to keep it that way. Don’t let the energy vampires, and the negative people put you down and find new more positive people to be around. So travel far and wide, and even if you are stuck somewhere travel via your mind and read read read every single day. Travel on everyone, and I hope to see you around the world!
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes