What You Need to Develop Global Acumen


Obviously the first and foremost responsibility of the individual on assignment is to do a good job at their functional task at hand. However, the personal and organizational benefit associated with the development of global acumen should be a focus as well. There must be tangible, practical and realistic goals established for the manager. These goals should be determined well in advance of the expatriate assignment and should be different from the practical day-to-day job functional responsibilities of the manager.

In addition, people trying to develop global acumen must:

Understand what it is and what it means – It seems obvious, but we have seen too many organizations send a high-performing manager on an international assignment without fully emphasizing the need to develop global acumen. In some cases the manager on assignment is unaware of exactly what global acumen means and its value during and following the assignment.

Set learning goals – These goals must be purposeful to succeed in the tight time constraints found in most development situations. Development success should be reviewed periodically, even if the review is informal. The expatriate should be tasked to conduct research and write, and then present a report on an area of the world and its customs and culture.

Some of the many areas that might be researched and presented either during or following the assignment are:

Leadership/Managing Performance

  • How to build trust
  • Managing people remotely


  • Formality of meetings
  • Expected role of boss in meetings (i.e., does the boss actively participate, or just listen and observe?)
  • Cooperation among teams or units with managers from other parts of the company. (Is cooperation reinforced or impeded by the bonus structure?)
  • When to expect decisions by a team. There are considerable inter-country differences in the expectation of team members relative to agreeing on decisions.

Decision Making

  • Is there a history of following corporate policy to the letter, or is there flexibility in certain countries?
  • How and when to press for a decision.
  • How to check for understanding or agreement without offending.

Human Resources

  • Salary policy and expectations of yearly advancement.
  • Bonus decision-making process.
  • Government laws regarding hiring, firing, reassignment and customs that will effect business decisions.

Ken Belanger