Adobe Digital Dialogue

November 22, 2017 /News & Reports /

Leading teams across countries and cultures means far more than travel

It doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly fol­low that man­agers who prove them­selves in one coun­try will repli­cate this suc­cess in anoth­er. Exec­u­tives for inter­na­tion­al brands are expect­ed to offer guid­ance, knowl­edge, and action to teams oper­at­ing in a range of markets.International lead­ers need to adjust to new envi­ron­ments quick­ly and know how to nav­i­gate dif­fer­ent cul­tures and get the best from their peo­ple.

It’s a big task. My own career has tak­en me to more than 250 cities and 65 coun­tries, cre­at­ing irre­place­able expe­ri­ences that have expand­ed my skillset and shaped my approach to lead­er­ship.

Being present

Adobe has 12 active mar­kets in the Asia-Pacif­ic region alone. As APAC Direc­tor of Mar­ket­ing, I trav­el to Seoul, Sin­ga­pore, Syd­ney and more cities so I can phys­i­cal­ly embed myself in the team. Today’s dig­i­tal advances make it easy to fall back on tech­nol­o­gy to build rela­tion­ships, but that’s when you miss the action.

A phone call won’t let you under­stand the cul­tur­al nuances of how your team inter­acts with a cus­tomer, and an email won’t give you the full pic­ture of how cus­tomer expec­ta­tions are chang­ing or where the next oppor­tu­ni­ty lies.

To lead teams across mul­ti­ple coun­tries and cul­tures, it is my job to under­stand the chal­lenges they face and give guid­ance where I can. This takes more than show­ing up – it means shut­ting down your inbox, can­celling your after­noon sched­ule and being present in the moment to sup­port your team.

Learn more than required

My ear­ly career was focused on tech­ni­cal skills both in and out­side my mar­ket­ing spe­cial­i­sa­tion. While work­ing for a health­care soft­ware provider, I signed up for a diplo­ma in clin­i­cal risk and claims man­age­ment. As a mar­keter this cer­tain­ly raised a few eye­brows, but I had an appetite to learn about the minds of my cus­tomers. I want­ed to under­stand the day-to-day grind so I could pro­vide them with a real solu­tion to their busi­ness pain, not just a piece of soft­ware.

Talk­ing to cus­tomers at a tech­ni­cal lev­el is one of the most impor­tant aspects of any role, but one of the hard­est to keep updat­ed as your career matures. Suc­cess depends on the team, so soft skills become your num­ber-one pri­or­i­ty as a leader. I have found that allow­ing my peo­ple to hon­our their strengths is the best way to moti­vate and ener­gise a team. Under­stand­ing my peo­ple and their poten­tial, and align­ing this with busi­ness objec­tives has become my pas­sion and method of suc­cess.

Embrace your sur­round­ings

Every cul­ture has its own excit­ing busi­ness chal­lenges. Korea has an intense respect for its elders that leads to a strict hier­ar­chi­cal sys­tem. Gov­ern­ment involve­ment is com­mon when mov­ing with­in the Greater Chi­na mar­ket. And South-East Asia dis­tils one of the great­est tru­isms in busi­ness and life: “same, same – but dif­fer­ent”. Each mar­ket has its own way of doing things that demands we, as lead­ers, embrace the unique­ness and nav­i­gate our way through.

CMO.com is Adobe’s online pub­li­ca­tion pro­duced for and by today’s dig­i­tal lead­ers. When I joined the com­pa­ny in 2013, we had con­trib­u­tors from all over the Unit­ed States and Europe, but none from the Asia-Pacif­ic. This region, now expe­ri­enc­ing the fastest eco­nom­ic growth in the world, offers great val­ue and need­ed a voice on the plat­form.

This task wouldn’t bring imme­di­ate busi­ness impact and sat at the bot­tom of a long list, but I knew it was impor­tant to give our audi­ence of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and busi­ness lead­ers in our region a seat at the table. Embrac­ing this per­spec­tive has deep­ened our under­stand­ing of the Asia-Pacif­ic region and the busi­ness chal­lenges it faces.

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