You and Your Team Series
Working Across Cultures
Beyond scheduling, keep in mind other opportunities to level the playing field. For instance, schedule periodic off-site meetings to increase connection and collaboration, and, if your budget allows, make an effort to have these meetings in different locations around the globe. At these events, it’s particularly important to mix business with bonding to create opportunities for live connections. Remote employees on global teams can often feel lonely, like they have no personal connection to the team and that people don’t really have a full sense of them as a person. Knowing individual personal characteristics is critical for building bonds and discovering areas of connection and similarity with the rest of the team, and building these connections at off-site meetings can help your team feel less psychologically detached once everyone returns to their usual locations.
Make your virtual communication count. Build personal check-ins into your communication and conference calls to maintain engagement among your most remote team members, and if you can, use video. Video provides a richer personal experience of the team and, combined with periodic off-sites, can be a great way to build a sense of connection and camaraderie.
Additionally, create norms that increase the chances of participation from everyone on the team, especially if your most remote employees are non-native speakers or from deferential or indirect communication cultures where it might feel inappropriate to voice concerns to the group or in the presence of a leader. Teams might also consider being explicit about feedback — whether, for example, more direct or indirect feedback is preferred and why that particular style is valued on this particular team. The overall point is to develop a clear set of agreed-upon standards that bond the team together and enhance effective collaboration among all team members.
Take a trip. Of course, leaders can make most remote team members feel particularly welcomed and included by paying them a visit. Simply making the effort itself sends a strong message about their importance to you and the team. Additionally, when you actually see what the working conditions are in a particular location or how it feels to be on a 10pm scheduled conference call, you may recognize that concerns you had brushed off as minor are really legitimate problems you need to address. You can also appreciate first-hand the effort your team is putting in and can thank them for their contributions.
Assess yourself. Finally, check your own style of leading for cultural bias. What assumptions are you making about what “good” participation looks like? For instance, how do you expect people to deliver feedback? What would be an appropriate and expected level of assertiveness among your team members? Do you see any patterns suggesting that your style might inadvertently favor one side, or that you might be excluding or alienating one group? Is it possible team members have been communicating with you, but you just haven’t heard their points because they’re not delivered in the way you’re accustomed to hearing? It’s your job to be hyper-vigilant for ways your own cultural biases may be clouding your leadership and reducing the effectiveness of the team. A trusted coach can come in handy here to assist with understanding cultural perspectives and enhancing your global dexterity.
It’s not easy to manage a team of people scattered around the globe. But if you invest the time and energy in following the tips outlined here, you’ll catalyze the energy, commitment, and insight of all team members, and in doing so, better realize the benefits of globalization.5LikeSave