Candidates, Clients, Executive Search

Effective Team Management Across Continents: Lessons for European Subsidiaries Expanding into the US

In an increasingly globalized world, businesses often find themselves expanding their operations across continents to tap into new markets and opportunities, which require them to find a niche executive search firm, like DSML. There are now more than 370,000 subsidiaries from leading international companies, many of which are found in fast-paced economies such as the United States.

In fact, many European companies have shown a growing interest in expanding into the US, which is a vast and diverse market offering plenty of opportunities. However, expansion to the US also accompanies unique challenges, including team management and direction across continents and cultures, which we often see when we are recruiting for European companies in the US from our offices in Chicago and Boston.

Successfully managing teams across continents is a crucial aspect of ensuring the success of your subsidiary. This guide can help you accomplish this goal by exploring essential lessons for European subsidiaries expanding to the US, including robust discussions and professional recommendations for effective team management.

Best Practices For Cross-Continent Team Management: Expanding Your European Subsidiary To The US


European companies expanding to the US should know how to manage and instruct their new executive hires. There are typically five areas that require consideration:

  1. Managerial Balance
  2. Frequency of Communication
  3. Rate of Travel
  4. Approaches to Miscommunication
  5. Expectations for Vacation Time

Let’s take a closer look at each.

1. Managerial Balance

The US and Europe take very different approaches to accepted managerial styles. When it comes to feedback, European managers are typically straightforward, especially if the feedback is negative. American executives, however, tend to smooth out any negative feedback and be less direct about its delivery.

On the other end, Americans generally favor shorter meetings with clear messaging, while Europeans may conduct longer meetings (from the American’s perspective) with outcomes that are not necessarily clear for an American.

There is also a delicate balance to find when it comes to workplace autonomy. European headquarters should not micromanage their US leadership, but they can’t be completely hands-off, either.

Myriam Le Cannellier, co-founder and director of DSML Executive Search, suggests taking a methodological approach. “European leaders really need to adjust their practice to manage the American Executives who lead their subsidiaries,” she says.

2. Frequency of Communication

Successful subsidiaries have no room for misalignment in accepted communication frequency. You may want to set up weekly meetings or even daily check-ins through a communication medium of choice.

Frequency of communication also applies to travel. “Have executives come from Europe to the US office, especially in the beginning,” Myriam says. “They need to visit US customers to better understand local expectations, even if they have selected high-level American executives.”

3. Rate of Travel

If executives in Europe must visit their company’s US subsidiary, American hires should also expect to visit their headquarters in Europe. This doesn’t just apply during the onboarding process — timing and frequency are paramount to success.

Just keep in mind that regular international visits do not need to last for weeks at a time. The rate and frequency of visitation are heavily based on the executive’s role. However, multi-day visits twice per year may be a good benchmark in the beginning.

“Traveling abroad helps you better understand each other’s challenges and realities,” Myriam says. “When executives work remotely, they can easily visualize what the other has to deal with daily within their department.”

4. Approaches to Miscommunication

Miscommunication can also be a challenge both verbally and nonverbally. The US and Europe share different communication habits, so it’s a good idea to approach conversations with humility so you can better clarify meaning and intent.

For example, you may want to summarize previous conversations in writing to clarify communication for both US and European executives. If both parties don’t have previous cross-cultural experience, it may be helpful to go through some specific cultural training.

One of the best things you could do for your European subsidiary is hire an executive with an understanding of cross-cultural communications. “The less knowledge you have about the US market, the more cross-cultural your executive needs to be,” Myriam says.

5. Expectations for Vacation Time

Even expectations for vacation time differs between the US and Europe. For example, leadership in Europe may take vacations for up to a month at a time, working hard to stay completely disconnected and truly take a break. This is not a part of American culture, which often expects leaders to stay connected while on vacation.

Subsidiaries in the US and Europe must set clear expectations for vacation and PTO, then ensure C-suite executives on both sides of the Atlantic understand vacation norms.

Taking The Right Approach To Cross-Continent Team Management

Expanding a European subsidiary to the United States presents exciting opportunities for growth. However, success hinges on effective team management both across continents and across cultures. By understanding cultural differences, leveraging technology, and aligning goals and expectations, European companies in any industry can navigate pressing challenges and build high-performing teams.

Subsidiary success also greatly depends on finding the right talent acquisition partners. With the proper approach, European subsidiaries can harness the rich talent pool and vast opportunities that the US has to offer. The professionals at DSML Executive Search have decades of experience helping subsidiaries find a suitable match, serving organizations in multiple industries with a boutique approach to executive search.

You can learn more about DSML Executive Search by calling our office at +1 312 268 6166. We invite you to submit a contact form to discuss your needs in greater detail.

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