The Foreign Effect

An increasing number of British-based companies continue to fall under foreign ownership, with the latest example this week when International Power agrees a £14 billion takeover by France’s GDF Suez. With a growing sense of protectionism around the world, British governments have placed little restriction on outside ownership of British businesses.

BP's recent appointment of Robert Dudley to replace Briton Tony Hayward as CEO has drawn a somewhat relaxed reaction in Britain. More than 40 percent of British-listed shares are foreign-owned and examples include BAA, BOC, Marconi, Pilkington, British Energy and Abbey National.

C-level executives in their respective domestic countries are questioning the impact foreign ownership may have on local talent management strategies and future career growth opportunities for senior appointments and non executive roles. But David Pierce Hallahan, International Director at executive search firm Team Capital comments: “Organisations looking to crack overseas markets have to ensure that there is sufficient depth in their management team so that when they open somewhere else, the culture of the institution is transferred across”. He adds: “We live in a global economy and firms are interested in the best person to do the job, not their nationality”.

Top Executive Mistakes

Whilst a key focus for the executive needs to be about getting the match right in terms of the role, cultural fit and longer-term potential within a new organisation, senior executives need to seriously consider to what extent they will be able to develop a track record of results within a new firm, prior to accepting any new deal, irrelevant of any package on offer. Hallahan warns that the biggest mistake top executives make during an interview process is an “all about me, internally focused approach”, concentrating on personal career progression and their knowledge, as opposed to “focusing on meeting employers’ needs first and emphasising the impact their contributions have had on the bottom line”.

“Whether you are hiring in US Asia or Europe, the further you move up the value chain and the more senior the role, the more critical soft skills are. Key stakeholders within the hiring company will be carefully evaluating your behavioural style and emotional intelligence, to differentiate between acceptable and outstanding performers.”

Raw intelligence gets you into the game but does not determine where things go from there. What really matters when moving into a senior leadership position is your emotional intelligence and social style.

Recommendations for preparation in different interview environments, which may include:

- Telephone Interviews: focus your listening skills to hear what is really being asked, may be used early on in the search process

- Video conferences: careful as to how you look and present yourself, often used by companies to limit travel expense

- Panel interviews: especially prevalent with academic and non-profits. Demonstrate learning agility. Find out in advance how much time you will have and be sure to interact at least once with each person on the panel

- Off-site venues, usually used in final rounds bringing in top-level decision makers. This practice is often designed to assess your informal leadership style.

Transforming an international business requires someone who is clear about their goals and sensitive to the needs of others. The mindset of great Human Resources leaders – how they define their role and what they believe about themselves, the HR function and its contribution to the business – is more important than the technical skills and knowledge they have amassed. Their cultural and emotional intelligence as well as self knowledge are critical factors that differentiate top performers from the rest. With the appropriate preparation and insight into today’s interviewing styles, you can leverage the value of your softer skills and generate the kind of chemistry that will position you as a strong fit for the right international firm.

About Team Capital: The Power of Teamwork
Team Capital, the leading executive search firm & executive representation service provider, is an adviser of choice for top companies seeking counsel on their talent and leadership in United States, Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia. The company’s Advisory & Counsel Practice provides Chairmen, Chief Executive Officers, Vice Presidents, Non-Executive directors and Senior Executives with best practice models and private representation to drive your next career move.

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