Firstly, there is a need for cultural sensitivity, then there are different time zones to consider, what’s more; making virtual meetings work can require control & perseverance. The ability to manage a global team has become an essential leadership skill.
How to manage a global team effectively:
How Can I Manage a Global Team and Build Virtual Team Spirit?
Meet face to face if possible
Everyone we’ve coached who runs a successful global team remarks on how helpful it is to meet team members based in remote locations. Even if you only spend a few days together, the results can be profound.
If you can’t meet face-to-face, use video conferencing technology
Travel restrictions may mean you can’t meet your colleagues – but an imaginative use of the other facilities available (VC, Skype, etc.) can make a huge difference.
Identify shared goals and make sure you communicate them to the team
All the evidence suggests that remote team members can feel lonely and disconnected. Defining your virtual team’s goals and its purpose within the organization as a whole can make a big difference, especially if people feel that they’ve had a say in setting the agenda. Remember that it’s helpful to keep communicating your core messages about the team, especially to new joiners.
Establish how you as the team leader want to communicate
Assume nothing: define your communication style for you team members: set the rules and conventions for your team and lead by example.
Have regular effective meeting
Learn how to make your meetings more effective by taking our running effective meeting training.
Have regular 1:1 catch ups with your team members
Group meetings are really important, but regular, scheduled calls with your direct reports are really helpful as well.
Encourage inter-team collaboration and communication
Encourage individual team members to communicate with one another by phone or email. This can be formal or informal. For instance, one virtual team we’ve worked with recently has set up a buddying programme in which team members help to train one another up in different business skills. They’re a powerfully bonded team as a result!
Give praise where it’s due.
Knowing that your work is recognised and appreciated is a powerful boost for anyone, but for virtual team members it’s especially motivating.
How Should I Address Cultural Differences?
Recognise and respect different communication styles
Some people may use a very direct communication style (low context); others might be subtler and less direct (high context). One group may appear rude to the other and the other group frustratingly vague. Remember that sometimes you might need to adapt your style for different audiences.
Research using cultural models
On our courses, we explore the low context/high context model devised by Edward T Hall, and the cultural dimensions of the Dutch social scientist Geert Hofstede. There are excellent web resources relating to both models, which can allow you to compare and contrast different behaviours and attitudes in hundreds of different countries.
Remember that meetings don’t work for everyone.
It’s easy to assume – especially if you’re from the US or the UK, for instance – that everyone will be equally comfortable sharing ideas in meetings, especially with their superiors. This may not be the case – and it’s always worth talking individually to the quieter members of your team or emailing them after a meeting to elicit a response.
Remember that yes has various different meanings!
Some team members may be reluctant to say no to a request to carry out a task, especially if it’s asked during a meeting. Remember the value of 1:1 communication and email follow ups to establish action points and potential barriers to the task being carried out.
Never assume that your message has got across, or that team members from different countries share the same assumptions about life or work as you do. Do your research, find out about them as individuals and be prepared to follow up!
How Do I Make Virtual Meetings Work to Manage a Global Team?
Behave as if your colleagues are in the room with you.
If you’re leading the session, use energized body language and facial expressions throughout: it will help you sound more engaged and engaging.
Change your style to elicit a response
People often complain about the lack of feedback on conference calls. So, change your style: ask more questions, focussing on individual team members if necessary. And when you speak, make sure that you’re clear and concise, and that you make your key points as soon as possible.
Set and distribute the agenda beforehand
Create a clear, time specific agenda for the meeting, distribute it beforehand and make sure that you stick to it in the meeting.
Respect time differences
Remember that people may be dialling in from around the world, at different times of the day. If it’s 10pm for some of your participants, let them speak first!
Be assertive in the chair
It’s your job to make sure that the meeting starts and finishes on time – and that everyone who needs to say something gets to speak. Explore ways of respectfully cutting off those who like to dominate (or go off on tangents) and of encouraging quieter participants to contribute.
Follow up afterwards
A clear, concise, prompt follow-up after the meeting should help ensure that everyone’s clear about action points and deadlines. Be prepared to chase up individually if you’re not sure that everyone’s on the same page.
If you’re interested in training your staff how to manage a global team successfully we have online and offline training to suit you. Learn more about our effective global communication classroom course or our culture diversity and ethics elearning bundle featuring the following courses: