Many companies have embraced the power of a global workforce. Having team members from different national and cultural backgrounds brings a variety of perspectives and approaches to solving problems, eliminating obstacles, and achieving goals. But leading global teams brings a unique set of challenges along with the benefits. Whether you are outsourcing an aspect of your business or managing an internal team with international members, your management approach makes a big difference.
When you look at how to manage international teams, there are several potential pitfalls. However, the benefits of working in a global team make the work of circumventing those potential issues well worth the effort.
Why Take Your Team Global?
There are several reasons you may find yourself managing a global team. As previously mentioned, the diversity of thought that comes from team members that emerge from different cultures can ensure you don’t get trapped only approaching a task from a single direction.
Leading global teams can also help your budget. Depending on exchange rates, you may be able to pay team members a competitive rate while saving money in the long run. And with time zone differences, you could potentially have your team work on a task for 24 consecutive hours without forcing anyone to stay past their normal work hours— saving a bundle on overtime without missing deadlines.
When you open yourself to managing an international team, you also open yourself up to a massive talent pool when you look for new team members. Instead of restricting yourself to candidates in one location or who are willing to move to your location, you give yourself the opportunity to hire incredible team members that you would otherwise never hear from.
Going international with your teams also opens up new markets to you. Once you have a presence in a country or region, it’s just a short step to expanding your offerings into that area.
How to Lead a Successful Global Team
In many ways, leading global teams is not that different from managing a team that is entirely in-office. You just have to be much more deliberate and intentional when using the effective management tools that have served you well in the past.
For example, the most important tool when you examine how to manage international teams is clear communication. But what would qualify as clear communication for an in-office team would likely not cut it for an international team.
That’s because you are likely working with people for whom English is not their primary language, so slang, industry jargon, or something as little as speaking a touch too quickly can derail the message you are trying to get across to your team.
Taking steps to simplify and streamline what you need to say to your team can work wonders. Here are more tips for leading global teams:
Acknowledge Cultural Differences
This is hugely important. When you understand and acknowledge cultural differences, you ensure that every single member of your team feels seen and appreciated. This doesn’t only apply to national or ethnic cultural differences— it also applies to international differences in corporate culture.
Some cultures place a heavy priority on seniority and hierarchy in the workplace. Some foster much more open dialogue between the rank and file and management. By understanding where your team members come from, you can take steps in meetings to ensure that you are hearing from everyone.
Learn the national and religious holidays of your team members and how those days are celebrated. This will help you when scheduling deadlines and distributing tasks. Your team members will really appreciate it if they don’t have to constantly remind you that they have a holiday coming up.
Communication, Communication, Communication
When leading global teams, communication is so important that it has to be mentioned again! Good communication with an international team starts with using clear, effective language, but it goes further than that.
When you have a good understanding of the cultural norms for communication that your team members are used to, you can define team structure in such a way that everyone feels comfortable contributing.
The medium you use to communicate is also important. Don’t only rely on email. Using a project management platform with communication functionality helps ensure that the people who need to know about a project always get updated when progress is made.
Only using email can result in over-full inboxes or excessive reply-all threads. Additionally, if you forget to CC someone on an email, they could miss lots of key information. By making your project management platform your primary method of communication for task completion updates, you keep everyone on the same page.
Of course, you don’t want to fall into the trap of only communicating via text-based application. Schedule video conferences regularly. It helps teams feel more cohesive to put faces to names and engage in a little unstructured small talk before getting down to business.
When scheduling these meetings, take time zones into account. Do your best to get everyone on the call during their normal work hours. It won’t always be possible, but the effort will be appreciated.
Make It Easy to Share Resources
Your team members should always be able to access the materials they need to do their jobs. That includes documents and information tied to current and previous projects as well as information like corporate values and your mission statement.
After all, part of leading global teams is establishing who you are as a company in a way that every team member from every nation and background can embrace.
What About Outsourcing?
Another way your team may expand globally is by outsourcing certain tasks. As an example, let’s look at what happens when you outsource SEO tasks to an international team. Search engine optimization is very important in this day and age, but not everyone has a team that can handle it in-house.
When you find an organization like WiRe Innovation that has an international team to handle both technical SEO services and SEO content writing services, you may find yourself asking how you can manage the team and keep them inspired.
The key is to embrace the unique opportunities that such international SEO services present. You get a team working in several countries to ensure that your backlink portfolio is crisp and clean and that you aren’t presenting any broken links to potential customers. Also, you get to learn a lot of new things that are happening in the SEO sector, for example – programmatic SEO.
You also get a team of writers that are ready to embrace your company’s perspective, values, and style of communication.
Much like managing your own global teams, managing an outsourced team comes down to communication. In this case, most of your communication will be with your account’s manager. However, if you make comments on the draft of a piece of content, you may have the pleasure of talking to a member of the writing team.
But when you outsource your SEO in this manner, the heavy lifting of understanding the team’s cultural differences and structuring inter-team communication is done for you. It allows you to focus on your own teams.
It’s About Results
In the end, results are the most important thing. Whether you are outsourcing an aspect of your business or leading global teams within your own organization, effectiveness and efficiency are always going matter.
If working with international teams were ineffective, it would not be as common as it increasingly is. Your team members from different backgrounds may work and think differently than you, but if the job is getting done and the quality is high, there is nothing to complain about.
As the manager of a global team, your job is to take the different approaches of your team members and bend them toward a common goal. That requires understanding who they are, how they work and where they come from.
And that isn’t so different from managing a team with no remote members. The biggest difference is the number of time zones you have to factor in to your meeting schedules.
Leading global teams requires more diligence and intentionality around how you communicate and structure your meetings. Otherwise, people are people. They want to feel valued and they want to feel understood.
With empathy for team members who may be working in a second language and strong communication skills and structures, your international team will deliver for you.
Remember to put faces to names when you can, understand those cultural differences, and make sure everyone has what they need to succeed and you will be making a world of difference to your team.