How do I work with team members located in different parts of the world?
I want to work effectively with team members located in different parts of the world. How do I ensure that location, time difference, culture and beliefs and personality will not affect my work with the team?
Whether your team members are across town or across the world, creating a Communication Plan fits the build. Your communication plan includes but is not limited to:
1) A directory of your significant members, a preferred method of communication, telephone numbers, email addresses, skype id, time zones, etc.
2) How you plan to convey regular Status information (daily meetings, weekly meetings, emails, phone calls, etc)
3) How you plan to convey Critical or High Priority information (phone call? text?)
4) Your Service Agreement or Response time expectations (respond by EOD, within 1 business day, within 2 hours).
5) What is expected when someone misses a meeting. Are you going to have the meetings recorded?
6) Where you are locating your shared meeting minutes, presentations, audios, or other materials. Will you be recording your meetings and placing them in a shared location for people to refer to, etc.
7) Incorporate weekly or twice-a-month one-on-one meetings with each team member. Regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings (via phone or in person) eliminates much confusion that email may cause.
8) Supply templates and checklists to assure the work gets completed the way you way, each time. Consistency eliminates confusion and errors. If people are getting your status, in the same way, each week (and vice-versa), they know what to expect and how to respond.
The important thing is to have these expectations known and agreed to upfront. Outlining the way you plan to communicate with your team will help tremendously.
Key things to consider when working with a remote team
- Keep things focused. It is important that you focus on the goals and plans so that everyone has matching expectations.
- Communication – over communicate any vision, plans and goals.
- Keep it polite and real. There are people in every transaction and remote workers are no less real. Even though you are working through tools and technology – be human about expectations and reality.
- Find people that fit well with your culture. Hiring is the most important aspect of remote work to align team skills, value, and the overall culture. One bad apple here can spoil it for everyone so hire slowly and fire quickly.
- Meet often and allow for social connection. That is why tools like Slack have become popular as they allow for interaction at various levels and remove the feeling of isolation. BUT a caution is to respect different choices. Some will respond to “water cooler” chatter and some won’t. It is not personal it is how that person prefers to work.
- Time differences can be an advantage and actually cut down a projects timeline if the communication and responsibilities are clearly laid out and communicated. Because they may complete tasks while you are sleeping and then you can hit the ground running sooner.
- Technology is wonderful, but try to get together often – if you can’t meet in real life then use video chats to actually get to see the person. We all rely on body language to help with communication and it is one drawback of remote working.
And a final note is to be non-judgmental. Different biases come out in remote working, just as they do in a real office. Accept that everyone is doing the best they can with the information they have available and work together toward solutions if needed.
I worked for over20 years in Multi-Nationals with teams across the globe and sometime my managers were in a different time zones and countries.
This is one of the most challenging tasks that management faces in any multi-nationals and is not easily overcome. Here are some tips:
Sensitivity to Cultures
You need to understand different cultures and their responses. For example, when Swedes says “Ya, Ya, Ya” to every point you make, it does not signify agreement but only signifies they have heard you. To assume they mean “Yes, we agree” could send you in the wrong direction! In South East Asia, employees never disagree or challenge their boss as it is consider as disrespectful and rude. It is the good of the collective (team, company, the nation, etc.) that matters and the chase for personal glory is frowned upon. In Spain family time is family time, so do not assume just because you are the boss you can send a message or call at any time. You are not number 1 out of working hours, as family and children trump you every time.
Be aware that nothing alienates your colleagues or subordinates when you utter the words “In America....”. They may not say it but they are thinking “You are not in America” (and that is the polite versions of it).
High Touch, Low Touch (not in a physical sense)
What works in US and Northern Europe does not work in Southern Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia (I have covered all these areas!). USA and Northern Europe are “Low Touch” business which means they are more formal, things are done in writing, and process is the king. In Southern Europe, Africa, and Middle East, the opposite is true as they are “High Touch” which means personal relationships are the king. Trust, familiarity, and personal history determines business and personal relationships. Contracts are for when we fall out, and process is for when we can't think of another way of doing it! Asia is somewhere between the 2 as they are stickler for process.
This manifests itself in marketing and sales where in Middle East, Africa, Southern Europe and Asia most businesses rely on “Agents” than official Distributors or Resellers. Agents own the relationships and have access to the market and control and influence the buying process. Advertising and marketing is just about brand awareness, which supports the Agent's activities. Cold calling, mailshots, etc. are not as effective in these cultures as they are not from people consumers trust.
Meetings & Timing
This will be very challenging as attitudes to time is very different in US and Northern Europe vs Southern Europe, Africa, and Middle East. That can drive you nuts but relax otherwise you will have a heart attack, as one of my colleagues reminded me in South Africa “Relax, TIA” (This Is Africa). We now have our version which is “Relax, TIS” (This Is Spain). You will have to adjust your expectations and manage your bosses expectations as they are too far away from it to have empathy! You will feel you are being pressed by both sides and if you do not manage upward and downward, you will end up in an asylum!
Also remember to be fair in your meetings. We had a rota in my team for conference calls as I had teams across the globe. Some poor person had to be on a call at 3am, so rotation meant sometimes it was me but not the same person all the time.
Western culture has a lot of nonsensical rituals of setting the scene, context, buy-in, etc. Forget it. Just get to the point. At 3am, I really don't care what people think in Arkansas or Texas, I just want you to get to the point so I can go to bed! Brevity and completeness may sound oxymoron but they are skills you have to develop and breakaway from the norms of Western Culture.
Laws are different in different countries so you cannot assume universality of practices and laws.
- Clarify Objectives and not Methods of getting there. What works in Texas does not work in Toledo
- Ask about their barriers so you understand their challenges (cultural or legal)
- Work as a team and not "Follow the Leader" as you don't live in their reality
- Use the opportunity to learn new ways of doing things rather than telling people how they should do things. (Again, you are not living their reality).
Above all enjoy the ride and experience. It will enrich your life, your mind, and your attitude to everything. Exposure to different ways of life makes you realise there are no “Right Way and Wrong Way” of getting from A to B. Life is shades of grey and not black-and-white.
Good Luck :-)
A few tips from leading large global teams:
Build trust, then relationships - do not demand or expect trust - build it
Dont let your culture/beliefs lead the conversation
Respect their time difference and share the burden (too many US companies make remote team members deal with US time zones, volunteer to meet at ungodly (US) hours that are convenient for them - share the burden
Be focused on the goal of the meeting, the agenda, and what the next steps are on exit - nothing worse than a pointless 1am meeting
Video conference helps with visual cues - while some cultural phrases may not be easy to understand at first, visual cues can be helpful.
Learn something about the other people's language and customs - meet them part way.
Establish who key "personalities" are before the meeting and meet with them for a 15 min "chat"
Respect is universal, do not make demands, influence outcomes
I would recommend skype or some other form of video-conferencing or even a teleconference. Find out about the culture within the different countries you are working with. Be clear about the objectives of the meeting and set an agenda. Take minutes and email these after the meeting, asking everyone to confirm they are correct. Ensure everyone's objectives are met and that each team member is given the opportunity to participate.
I used Go-to-Meeting when we were doing presentations. Skype is another good way to have a meeting so all people can get a chance to see each other. I tried to schedule times so not every site was either getting up in the middle of the night or staying into the week hours of the evening. While this not only works, it showed that we cared for the employees time and family commitments. I also needed to get buy-in from some customers which I positioned as being beneficial to them as we were covering topics to assist the success of their job.
This is a great question on developing global teams. I would suggest considering finding what each person at each location values. With that knowledge and understanding work to align shared values and show how they parallel the culture values within the organization.
What I have found over the years is that when I discussed organizational values first I could see in the eyes of the audience immediate disconnect. Only, when I learned to first start with understanding personal values first I was able to earn engagement and create discussion among the people of the team I was building. That team became the guiding coalition for helping to align personal values and organizational values so that the business value could flow horizontally, virtually unrestricted.
Recent observations of millennials finds they seem to be improving the concept of shared business tools. These sorts of shared office environments the millennials are engaging in; are showing up all around the globe. What is interesting they are finding how to share values. This seems to be supporting some of the most interesting entrepreneur creative thinking.
You might consider establishing 4 pillars that are free of any and all bias: safety, efficiency, quality and ethics. Great teams embrace change because they see a new vision they can engage as the next opportunity. Teams that do not engage in success but do engage successful behaviors win world class titles.
Firstly I'd start with accepting that location, time difference, culture and beliefs, and personality WILL affect your work with the team and with the team itself. Once that's understood then you're forewarned (and forewarned is forearmed). I'd then suggest you adopt the a methodology usually used in software development, 'Agile'. The tenet is to ensure the best possible collaboration tools and methods are used.
A) Clearly communication your vision to everyone
B) Decide in small intervals (say two weeks 'sprints') what as a group you are going to achieve
C) document these fortnightly elements with a clear a definition as possible for all to understand and discuss jointly
D) use the best a tool that allows for instant communication, e.g. MS Lync, Instant Messenger, etc. and encourage its use. The best communication is face to face, followed by verbal/visual, followed by verbal, and only then written. Encourage communication in this order of priority.
E) Find a time of day that suits all time frames and hold a daily meeting (Agile 'standup' called such as its short, sharp and directed and so doesn't require people to sit down. Within this each person advises what they did the day before what they are going to do and their issues. This is NOT a report to management, it IS a sharing of detail and collaboration.
F) measure what has been achieved in the two weeks, measure what has worked, what hasn't and adjust to what's working best. If you are going to 'fail' then fail fast and resolve fast.
Take into consideration culture, certain cultures are more hierarchical that others, some encourage a greater level of autonomy, a greater level of independent thinking. Also some are more likely to put a more 'glossy' view on things when perhaps there are issues, for fear of being seen as failing (especially if they are providing a service).
Hoping this helps but please feel free to reach out if you would like more information.
First of all as a team, we have to pen down the each team members engagement expectations to make aware each other of roles and responsibilities each person have had to take care off, during offsite assignment
Second comes the scenario where you have hired people from different geographical locations or the team members belong to same group / organization
The better team collaboration using various online tool such as Google Calendar, GoToMeeting, EeventBrite to make the things centralized and focussed. In short automate the complete ecosystem
For offsite engagement culture and belief does not make any difference
All the answers here a great and valid. I add one more thing, you also need the right tool to work effectively with your remote team and collaborate with them. Skype, Google Chat, Google drive and a collaboration software specifically designed for working with remote teams like Binfire.com can help greatly.