Developing a “Caribbean Manager”
Developing a “Caribbean Manager”
The upcoming Cricket World Cup arrives in the Caribbean in March
2007 and brings with it several interesting possibilities.
One possibility that it brings to mind is that we, as a region
can find a way to emulate the success of the West Indies cricket
team in the 1980’s and 1990’s — off the field. One lesson that we
might learn from our Test cricketers and their collective success,
is that they each had to undergo a personal transition from being
merely a representative of their country, to being a member of The
West Indies cricket team.
I am certain that the transition involved more than just a change
in team name, particularly when we were world beaters in the
1980’s and early 1990’s. The players of that time were able to
set aside their local preferences, biases and idiosyncrasies, in
order to build the kind of unified force that politicians and
business-people have, to date, failed to create.
While our politicians are making little headway with the
implementation of CSME, it is our business-people that are more
closely following the example of our Test cricket team. Assisted
by the liberalisation of the region’s economies, they have been
able to export capital, and use it to build regional conglomerates
in manufacturing, distribution and banking.
In our work, Framework has defined a term that we have been sharing
with our clients that we hope to make synonymous with the power
that “West Indian cricketer” has around the world: “Caribbean
Why should we care about becoming Caribbean Managers? Who or what
are they anyway?
A Caribbean Manager is a manager who has undergone a mental shift
or transition from being a local professional to one who sees
themselves as part of a wider regional fabric. It is a change that
one makes for oneself, and with it comes a broader context within
which to make decisions to invest time, energy and capital.
For example, a Caribbean Manager cares about the latest business
happenings in other countries in the region, and seeks out sources
of news and information that may give her a competitive edge.
How does a manager make the transition? In our work, my colleagues
and I have identified three characteristics that can be learned by
regional professionals: learning to collect different and varied
first-hand experiences, using heartfelt interests as a tool for
natural networking and being willing to identify and surrender
mind-sets that are obstacles to becoming Caribbean Managers.
A Collector of Different Experiences
Perhaps the first part of the transition that a manager must make
is to become committed to having a variety of different experiences
across the region. While there is a great deal that can be learned
from reading books and using the Internet, nothing does more for a
manager than direct experience of other countries in the region.
I can vividly recall my first trip to the Point Lisas Industrial
Estate in Trinidad. When I surveyed the number of heavy industrial
companies in the area, I immediately understood that Trinidad had
a very different economy than Jamaica’s, and that seeing the estate
was very different from reading about it.
The Caribbean Manager yearns for experiences such as this one,
because they help him to understand the deep underpinnings of
business in a particular country. He is never satisfied with an
understanding of his own society, and in fact finds that travelling
to other English-speaking countries in the region help him to
understand his own country.
These experiences cannot be scripted, as trips to different
territories become opportunities to combine markets, suppliers and
products in ways that cannot be determined from merely doing market
research. These unique combinations can only be created by
business-people who understand the region and its needs from
Some examples of unfilled opportunities include the lack of a real
jerk restaurant or patty shop in Port of Spain, and the fact that
authentic Trini roti is impossible to find in Kingston. These are
both waiting to be filled but can only been seen by those managers
who can see the need based on their experience.
Also, travelling across the region in search of these experiences
help to teach a budding Caribbean manager how to manage the people
in each country.
In a recent study conducted by Framework, Trinidadian executives
admitted to being surprised by the degree to which Jamaican
business culture differed from that of Trinidad. They may have
been better prepared if they had simply spent more time working in
Jamaica , managing Jamaicans, before accepting their assignments.
Travelling and working across the region gives the Caribbean
Manager valuable insights into another culture, but they can also
learn a great deal about their home culture. Furthermore, they
can also learn to adapt themselves to the strengths and weaknesses
of the Caribbean management style.
There are too many managers across the region who are, at best,
local managers with very narrow interests. They have not visited
another Caribbean country, do not read regional newspapers, and
are more acquainted with Miami than any of the region’s capitals.
They do both themselves and their companies a disservice.
A Networker Who Builds on Natural Interests
The idea of regional networking fills most professionals with a
feeling of dread. The idea of hob-nobbing with a power-elite
over golf or tennis at the country club seems foreign to everyone
other than the few who are already members.
We have found that the savvy Caribbean Manager builds networks
around areas of authentic interest. They start with what they
are already interested in, and broaden the scope of their interest
to include the entire region, way past the limits of their
For example, a collector of exotic orchids who happens to work in
a bank, could decide to build their network around this particular
hobby. Using this pastime as a starting point, and the Internet as
a tool, they could engage in the following activities:
– find contact information for orchid growers across the Caribbean
– join paper and electronic newsletters and mail-lists
– join or start electronic discussion lists
– travel to attend orchid shows, and pass send around
– become knowledgeable about the laws regarding the import and
export of orchids
Taking these simple steps (based on my absolute dearth of knowledge
in this area,)could enable someone to become a regional expert on
orchids, simply by pursuing their interest in a wider geographic
How does this apply to the Caribbean Manager?
It turns out turns out that developing an expertise in a single
area can be just as effective a networking tool as any other. As
one’s expertise grows and deepens, the likelihood increases that
relationships will be created with other experts in the field
across the region. These other experts will themselves have
connections with professionals in each field, including banking.
All without learning how to serve, and without trying to perfect a
Caribbean Managers have found that the relatively small size of our
societies lends itself to authentic networking, and that business-
people are as likely to be found on the golf-course, as they are
to be found at a local pan-yard, race track or orchid show.
The savvy Caribbean Manager sticks to their areas of interest, and
trusts that their passion for the area will be attractive to
others. Their only duty is to stay true to their heartfelt
interests, honouring their passions while avoiding the dark
thoughts that they should buy a set of clubs in order to meet this
quarter’s sales goals.
The practical side benefit of following an interest are easy to
see. While the banker described in the example above is visiting
Georgetown at the annual Orchid Festival, it might be quite
easy to stay an extra day or two in order to meet the President of
the Guyana Association of Bankers (who just happens to be an old
school-mate of the Vice President of the Orchid Society.)
I benefited tremendously from an extra three days in Trinidad
after recovering from Carnival 1996. After meeting with a few
businessmen, I realized that not only could I do business in
Trinidad, but also that the talk in Jamaica about Tricky-dadians
was overblown — “old talk.”
Willing to Surrender Mind-Sets
A mindset is simply a way of being, or a lens, that
colours the way we see other people, countries or
situations. We, more often than not, don’t realize
they are there, and come to believe that the way we see
life is the way that life is. The problem comes when we
are wrong, and fail to see what is in front of us, or in
other words, what is in our blind-spots.
The talk among business-men in Jamaica about “Tricky-dadians”
and the inability to trust them is still widespread. Today, it
stops some Jamaicans from even attempting to do business in the
Caribbean Managers are able to transcend such limiting mind-sets.
They realize they exist, but they are willing to question them,
and to compare them to actual, first-hand experience.
This process of constant checking is more than just some parlour
trick — it is the key to seeing possibilities and opportunities
where others cannot see them. In business terms, it is the key to
finding new sources of profit.
How does a manager improve her ability to shed mindsets? There are
a variety of commercial approaches that are available for the
individual who is interested in being trained, and the one I most
recommend is based on the work of Byron Katie, which can be found
Companies that are the first to develop a cadre of Caribbean
Managers will gain an undeniable competitive edge. Unfortunately,
I am unaware of any company that has put in place a systematic
programme of training, exposure and awareness to bridge the gap.
While it is clear that not having Caribbean Managers is costly to
regional firms, there is no easy prescription on how to put these
programmes in place. A Caribbean solution is needed.
Perhaps the Cricket World Cup might provide the impetus
we need to develop more than just regional cricketing
The FirstCuts Bottom Line: Start developing yourself as a
Caribbean Manager TODAY.
What are some of the things you are doing to develop yourself as
a Caribbean Manager? Let us know at the Framework blog by following
this link: http://tinyurl.com/y2z9qs
Tips, Ads and Links
Framework’s One-Page Digest has been launched and can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/y9b6ev. It includes a list of links to information that I think is invaluable to Caribbean executives. Subscription details can also be found at the link above.
Update: I plan to release a new issue every 2 weeks
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