Running a company in today’s world is top sport. The world is changing rapidly, so organizations constantly have to reinvent themselves to stay relevant.  |

As a business leader, you must simultaneously manage your business, your culture, your team, yourself and your stakeholders. It is not easy to manage those five focus areas simultaneously in a rapidly changing world. After all, a lot is at stake for you as a leader and for your organization, both in emotional and in business terms. Fact is that those who can best manage these areas of focus will survive and thrive.  |

The first (virtual) Intercontinental RoundTable on 27 January 2021 was attended by a group of senior executives (CEO’s, CFO’s, CHRO’s) currently based in India, Indonesia, Singapore, China, Germany, The Netherlands, Dubai and Oman. What the business leaders all have in common is that they gained significant Management & Leadership experience leading and managing businesses and local teams outside their home country and in a different culture operating in growth and/or transformation contexts.

“The atmosphere was very good

I found it deeply validating that talent and culture has a significant mindshare in the leadership in these times.”

“Very valuable and effective – normally it takes 5 days what we discussed in 90 minutes

“Be aware of the difference in expectations between generations and cultures

“The reason this RoundTable meeting was so effective is that having leaders from different horizons with no personal agenda or other interest than learning from each other made the discussion with such openness and value.”

“Rich conversation as it brings out the experiences that the business leaders have encountered dealing with people and businesses in the current landscape.

“Value has been created naturally due to the high quality and variety of profiles including the intercontinental concept”

“Great 90 minutes discussion, it allows to reflect on your own structure


The theme of this RoundTable is ‘Leading Businesses and Teams Across Countries and Cultures’. You start in a new job (at a new company) with the objective to lead a business outside your home country in another culture. What are the 3 most important things you pay attention to when 1) Managing Your Business, 2) Managing Your Team, 3) Managing The Culture, 4) Managing Yourself, 5) Managing Stakeholders?


01  |  LISTEN

A listening attitude is of great importance, even more than usual. Why? To avoid going to wrong conclusions due to judging and misperception. And it shows that their input is valuable to you. Besides that, a first impression is crucial. Therefore, listen by interviewing your direct reports and if possible, the second or even the third layer to understand the culture of the company. Focus on what is going well.

02  |  LEARN

Learn the country dos and don’ts – facts, history, cultural behaviors. Understand the explicit ánd implicit objectives of the company. Understand the business – go in deep before zooming out. Understand the culture of the company, especially, the intrinsic culture and core beliefs that drive the company – which may not be congruent with the official comms. Understand team dynamics. Learning all this helps to get a view of how that is working for and against your desired goals.

03  |  ALIGN

A challenge can only be successful if there is alignment – alignment of stakeholders, team, and culture. What is important to check? Analyze risks and engage with the Board Members what matter to them, including appetite to risk… Check shareholder commitment to the company (growth) strategy. Make sure company and personal goals are aligned. Make sure that management operates as a team, having a good understanding of company environment and culture.



Bring people along, create sense of team, keep them engaged and develop people at all levels. At the end you should not forget that you lead by example and people will talk without you knowing what they say about you. Key leadership style is to participate with clear communication of goals and expectations. In addition, be transparent about your own style and also about your expectations and beliefs, whilst being very alert to walk the talk on this – the shadow of the leader is long. Yet, adapt your “approach”, within authentic style, to each team member (“Horses for Courses”). Give time to know each other through dedicated individual face to face meetings. Sharing is important and last but not least, as a leader, be visible but always speak last.


Get a grasp of what makes each team member “tick”. What motivates each? What purpose do they have in their work in relation to their core beliefs? What’s in it for them? Understand issues, what timelines they have to deal with. Do we have high Ego in the team, and if so, how do we manage them? For sure there is no place or need for diva’s and stars – team players are required. By understanding personal drivers, you know to motivate by giving the perspective of individual advancement.


You can only be successful as a team. Knowing that, what do you pay attention to whilst managing your team? Is the team aligned all together and do they move in the same direction (example growth mode)? Or do they all have individual agenda’s instead? What is their ultimate drive? Does the team have the right balance of different characters – Strong Executors, Compliance, Strategic Thinking, Negotiator?

It is important to get alignment and buy-in on the shared vision and re-re-re-check whether the vision is shared and whether people are really on board. Build a trusting team that is motivated to work and learn together in a lean way. Implement feedback culture (Johari Window) to improve team spirit and mutual understanding, especially when team members are from different cultural back grounds. Create an atmosphere of trust and being open to new ideas. Then, create team spirit by working together.



Be aware of the microculture of your teams. While the organization has a culture and the country cultural aspects influence it, the team over the years develops a specific set of shared beliefs which guide them beliefs and ways of working. Understanding this helps to get a view of how that is working for and against your desired goals.

It is important for the employees to be able to see that you as a leader provide “clarity” in your vision and the way you expect to achieve it. While different cultures may expect different things from what they call a “strong” leader – clarity is one thread that is much appreciated as it allows everyone to align to the overall goals.


It is important to know what the values of the company are and according to the values you will have a culture. If the values do not fit in your values, do not join the company as it will be in contradiction with your own values and you will not be able to perform. Also, the team will not understand you if certain directions are taken.

“A reflection of my values”. Own fundamental beliefs cannot deviate too much from companies’ core values otherwise too much to bridge. Balancing between authenticity and “blending in” is a challenge – Cultural awareness, sensitivity, preparedness is important, and be humble about making mistakes about those as well.


Respect first as it opens all doors, including trust, which is the most critical point in business. Identify the values (claimed versus reality) and identify the real goals. If the culture does not need to change then don’t change it. If you have to change it 360 then draw plans with all Managers. Still, creating an own culture as newcomer is not to be taken lightly. It can be step-by-step, but expectations should be realistic. Rome was not built in a day either.

Better to adapt first to the culture and try to identify the gaps. If any, you share the why of the changes and you implement the modifications. Communicate, walk the talk, implement a feedback culture, make sure you keep everybody on board. It is important to break up the values with the direct Managers and convert it into Actions that fit the culture.

The sooner you begin shaping culture the better, as that also gives a good reading of your team and the direction to take.



A deep diving in business is needed. A fast understanding of key metrics vs target and why, is important. Also, listening a lot to identify/validate the priorities based on risks assessment. Make your stakeholder analysis – Who has what opinion and issues? Last but not least, network within the company.

Spend a lot of face time with team and individuals, socialize with them a lot to lower boundaries and enhance understanding vice versa. It is important to spend extra time otherwise it will not work – again if you do not show that you know what is happening it will not have the same effect. You need to lead by example and be in a way hands on when needed. For example, if your team also asks for more practical input, you cannot always have a holistic approach, it must be balanced.


“The legacy is not only successful business, but also growing people and contributing to a larger purpose (better world)”  |  “The company organization and vision – both will last and people stay if both are proper”  |  “Legacy, is not the most profitable P&L, but what is the contribution to the people. Did they grow…”  |  “To have developed my team skills and theirs to grow within the organization, the company to be more prepared to the future than it was before I joined (organization, process, business segments,…)”  |  “Mature team and organization reaching future business and personal goals”


“Lead by example”  |  “I am energized by People and Complexity”  |  “My impact on the learning and fun people had”  | “People to remember me as a fair leader”  |  “Having been true to myself and my values”



Have the ability to build relations with the external Stakeholders: Board director, ministers, head of Union… Build trust with all stakeholders.

Try to get personal rapport with stakeholders to have a basis that make difficult discussions easier. Cross check “How do I do things” versus “How things are being done in this company”. Understand the driver of your stakeholders and define the rules to work together.


Spend a lot of time with superiors and Board to validate the expectations and concrete deliverables. Each Stakeholder has different interests in the business, understand them.

Ask and reformulate to clear and define the expectations (including time frame) of the key stakeholders (your boss, the Business Lines, the regional office, JV partners, …).


It is important to share the strategy and get it approved and to define the Vision, Mission, Values of the company if not crystal clear. Regular interactions are needed. It is good to report regular meetings and exchange with minutes of meetings. Above all, empower your team to interact with stakeholders, not CEO only.

ABOUT  |  RIVIONT’s Intercontinental RoundTables are meetings discussing the challenges of global and regional business leaders of international companies in achieving their growth and transformation strategies in Europe, Middle East & Asia region

ORGANIZATION  |  The Intercontinental RoundTable #001 was organized, facilitated and moderated by Richard A. Vincent, Founder & Managing Partner RIVIONT in co-production with RIVIONT Board Advisors David Kalife and Ravi Bhogaraju.