Effective Global Communication

How can I build and maintain virtual team spirit?

HHow should I address cultural differences?

Paul Hill


Paul Hill is energetic, intellectual and enthusiastic. He brings a wealth of experience to our team and he is very popular with our clients. Paul is an expert in the following Business Writing, Presentation Skills, Voice Coaching, Interpersonal Skills and Speaking at Events.

Today’s global teams more often than not meet via telephone, conference calls and video conferencing so it’s very important that these teams communicate effectively. Our spotlight this month focuses on effective global communication. Paul Hill has kindly agreed to share some useful tips on how to run effective global meetings.

Click here for information on our Effective Global Communication course. If you are interested in organising a course please contact our global logistics team; their contact details are below.


PAUL:

Here are some tips based on the wisdom we’ve gleaned from our clients on the Effective Global Communication course over the years.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Establish how you as the team leader want to communicate

    • Assume nothing: define your communication style for your team members: set the rules and conventions for your team and lead by example.
  5. Have regular, effective meetings (see below)
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. Give praise where it’s due.

    • Knowing that your work is recognized and appreciated is a powerful boost for anyone, but for virtual team members it’s especially motivating.

PAUL:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Assume nothing
    • 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!

PAUL:

  1. 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.
  2. 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, focusing 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Respect time differences
    • Remember that people may be dialing in from around the world, at different times of day. If it’s 10pm for some of your participants, let them speak first!
  5. 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 at tangents) and of encouraging quieter participants to contribute.
  6. 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.

Effective Global Communication Videos

Effective Global Communication Resources

The Culture Map

The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business

- By Erin Meyer

Whether you work in a home office or abroad, business success in our ever more globalized and virtual world requires the skills to navigate through cultural differences and decode cultures foreign to your own. Renowned expert Erin Meyer is your guide through this subtle, sometimes treacherous terrain where people from starkly different backgrounds are expected to work harmoniously together. When you have Americans who precede anything negative with three nice comments; French, Dutch, Israelis, and Germans who get straight to the point (“your presentation was simply awful”); Latin Americans and Asians who are steeped in hierarchy; Scandinavians who think the best boss is just one of the crowd–the result can be, well, sometimes interesting, even funny, but often disastrous. Even with English as a global language, it’s easy to fall into cultural traps that endanger careers and sink deals when, say, a Brazilian manager tries to fathom how his Chinese suppliers really get things done, or an American team leader tries to get a handle on the intra-team dynamics between his Russian and Indian team members. In The Culture Map, Erin Meyer provides a field-tested model for decoding how cultural differences impact international business. She combines a smart analytical framework with practical, actionable advice for succeeding in a global world.

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