While top performance is often what earns international assignments, soft skills may be more important in making them a success. It is all too easy to misunderstand each other's behaviours or stereotype people from other countries.
Managers shouldn't expect to be able to do things abroad in the same manner as they do them domestically: they should seek to balance the need for consistent corporate practices with regional uniqueness.
They should also exercise independent thinking in unfamiliar surroundings: neither simply adopting the 'headquarters mentality' nor succumbing to cultural intimidation and going with the existing local way.
Likewise companies shouldn't see globalisation as a one-way street but seek to cross-fertilise their managements by bringing back local personnel to work in their headquarters' country.
Managers may well benefit from being introduced to global assignments slowly: initially managing an international team or project while remaining based in their home country, and being coached by 'cultural ambassadors' before being sent on assignment.
Source: The Soft Skills of Global Managers
HBS Working Knowledge, 5 June 2006
Review by Steve Lodge