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First-hand account of a globetrotting ‘plug and play’ General Manager

First-hand account of a globetrotting ‘plug and play’ General Manager

Ever since the 1980s, organisations have been on a constant look-out to find multicultural profiles, which has created a talent shortage. It is clear that, with the globalisation of exchanges, whether it be trade or cultural, the attributes that one expects of leaders have changed. Global mobility makes you more adaptable, flexible, empathetic and open minded. Every expat will tell you that it’s a must to constantly adapt and question oneself, and accept cultural diversity. This requires particular qualities which are rare to find. 

Hugues is a very international General Manager. He has spent no less than 15 of the past 20 years outside his native France, with postings in a number of different locations, including Poland, Sweden, Italy and French Polynesia. Here he shares his rich experiences, which are according to him defined by two factors that are inextricably linked to each other – professional success and cultural awareness.

What value does a global general manager bring to an organisation that has international subsidiaries?

Hugues:A global general manager must have a strong capacity to adapt. My professional achievements show that you can successfully transition from a Scandinavian type management model, which is based on a collective style of decision making to a more Slavic model where the manager has to take the lead as to the direction to take.

“This ability of the manager to adapt to another mentality is a necessary quality for any organisation to thrive. I must admit that all throughout my time as an expat, I always kept in mind that I was the foreigner and therefore it was down to me to integrate even if I headed up the subsidiary. However, as you become more immersed in different cultures, a bit like blotting paper, you become a real patchwork of knowledge and that’s where a company can achieve its Holy Grail." 

“My international experience has allowed me to develop in the way that I approach unknown cultures and it is this intellectual flexibility that has enabled me to be agile in solving organisational issues. Leadership is above all taking decisions to help an organisation progress. Management is about understanding the needs of each colleague, which requires a strong capacity to adapt. If you’ve been able to immerse yourself into an Italian or a Swedish way of life, then you’ll have the empathy and intelligence to understand a quality manager, a communications director, an accountant or an engineer…and just by understanding their problems, you’re already bringing a solution

Each colleague will have their own way of working and their particular motivators that will allow them to excel and engage with their company in the long term. I often hear about the friction between management and staff, each trying to pass the buck for poor organisational performance. As a manager, I am the first to feel responsible for the failure of someone in my team. My experience has taught me that the root of failure lies in not listening to the other person, which is not so much due to a lack of time or a difference in opinion but more often than not an inability to let go of your usual way of thinking. Living and above all succeeding in a foreign land means to break this habit of doing things a certain way, which while it may be comfortable can be very limiting." 

Let me conclude by saying that my hope is that this crisis that we’re going through, where we can’t predict anything, will allow us to develop adaptability, versatility, listening and understanding – the key elements that form the DNA of a global manager. Whether your operations are global or local, hiring a global manager will give you the best chance of success. I believe that when an organisation embarks on a crucial period in its history (LBO, sector or product diversification, entering new markets  etc.), to not give the reins to a manager who has been able to adapt to all scenarios would be a strategic mistake.

Hugues is back in France. In his own words, “I left my country and my comfort zone to ply my trade all over the world. I’ve always moved forward and am not the same person –  I am much more rounded professional because of it in terms of both my technical know-how and interpersonal skills.” 

Most recently, Hugues was based in Poland working on a corporate turnaround for a subsidiary. He managed to triple its turnover and double the headcount in six years. With a dual science and business background, he holds an MBA from Stockholm Business School. He's available immediately for a new challenge.  

If you’d like to meet Hugues and put his considerable knowledge to use in your company, or if you’d like to know more about our interim management and business critical recruitment services, get in touch now with Alexandra Varlet on +33 1 58 56 59 87 or +33 6 52 45 64 94.


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