Management: Time to learn how to get on in the world: Business schools are teaching executives how to succeed on the European stage

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The Independent Online
WHATEVER the problems the politicians may be having in agreeing on the shape of European unity, business shows no sign of halting the drive for cross-border organisations.

Yet the signs are that in Britain, at least, managers are not necessarily equipped for the job. They may not have the scepticism of some of those in politics, but they exhibit an equal lack of ability at languages and absence of appropriate international experience.

No wonder, then, that Britain's business schools and management colleges have spied a gap. They have started formulating courses aimed at managers having to grapple with a new world order.

The Oxford-based European School of Management, with its affiliated schools in Paris, Berlin and Madrid, has, for instance, started to supplement its MBA programme with short executive programmes in various disciplines for multinational companies.

Only last month, Ashridge Management College's research group published a report concluding that lack of overseas work experience and languages were not the real problems facing companies in their efforts to build teams of mobile Euromanagers. Indeed, strength in these areas was no longer enough.

With the evolution of the 'borderless' world market, organisations were seeking new forms of co- operation and integration, the survey said. As a result, the international executive must operate across several countries and cultures at once.

Using interviews with 60 managers in nine leading international companies, the researchers made what they claim to be the first qualitative study of international managers as individuals. They examined their temperament, their attitude to life, their abilities and how companies can identify those with the potential to fill these roles and develop their skills.

Not surprisingly, the picture that emerged was of somebody with an appetite for learning, who demonstrated cultural empathy and respected the dignity of others, was an active listener and combined sensitivity with the 'emotional muscle' required to face stressful situations.

More important, the researchers suggest, the study revealed two inter-related facets of the successful international manager - a 'doing' side and a more spiritual 'being' side. This finding, they believe, has significant implications for management development methods.

Kevin Barham, a senior researcher at Ashridge and co- author of the report, said: 'Successful global managers have a definite philosophy of life which underpins the practical implementation of managerial skills. It is essential, therefore, that management education addresses both sides of the international manager's competence - the 'being' as well as the 'doing'.'

To this end, a series of one-day seminars are being held at the college's international arm, TOC-Ashridge, at the international business park in Haute-Savoie, France.

Also building on international links is Sundridge Park. It has joined with de Baak Management Studiecentrum of the Netherlands to offer a 'European Management Initiative' developed in collaboration with Pischetsrieder Communication of Germany.

The idea is to develop the practical management skills needed for achieving business success throughout Europe. In particular, says the course's organiser, Bob Dodds, it will provide executives with the skills needed to manage key relationships and lead international teams.

With its unashamedly practical base, it will be split into a series of two-to-three-day modules that will take place in Brussels as well as London, Berlin and Noordwijk, the homes of the three participating bodies. Since each city has its own identity, it is intended that each module will have a different focus and enable those on the course to appreciate the variety of approaches and abilities needed to succeed in business in modern Europe.

The first programme is getting under way and others are planned for next year.

Mr Dodds is convinced of the need for this sort of programme. 'While politicians may be unable to agree about pan-European involvement, the vast majority of businessmen clearly recognise the need for active participation.'

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