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Case study: Leadership and collaboration

Frank works in a firm in Austria that produces beauty-care products. He recently accepted a position leading a new international marketing team responsible for Europe and the Middle East, with team members located mainly in three centres: Poland, Spain and the UK.

Until recently, the team members worked independently. They are all highly experienced and successful, and needed little direct management in the past. Frank, however, has been asked to build a cross-border organization that develops common campaigns for international brands, uses common documentation and processes, regularly shares best practices between countries and saves costs where possible. The team members report directly to their local CEO but have a “dotted line” reporting relationship to Frank.

A kick-off meeting was held at the beginning of the year, which seemed to go well, but by June, Frank is finding it very challenging to get team members to commit to the new way of working. No common campaigns have been developed; these are still developed independently, country by country, using local budgets with no cross-border cost savings.

Also, the teams continue to build their campaigns using different external and local suppliers and using different documents with different information stored on their local IT systems. This makes it impossible for Frank to compile standardized management reports.

Frank feels that the more experienced team members in the UK don’t accept his leadership. Some of them applied for his job and were rejected. Also, Frank is less experienced than they are, and has spent less time in the company. He suspects that they are acting against him in order to undermine his authority with other team members.

Frank also thinks that cultural differences are preventing collaboration. After receiving cancellations from the British and Spanish colleagues for a planned international meeting, Frank decides to write an email to clarify the objectives of the new marketing team, to define the team cooperation he expects and to re-establish his leadership.

This is Frank's e-mail:

What to think about  

  • How does Frank explain the failure of the Polish, Spanish and UK teams to follow his leadership approach and work more closely together?  
  • What do you think of Frank’s explanation? What other factors could explain the team’s lack of support for cross-border collaboration?  
  • To what extent do you think Frank’s email is an effective way to resolve the situation?  
  • What could Frank do differently to encourage collaboration?
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