The world is changing. It’s more connected than ever before. This connectivity has given rise to teams that work across geographies to accomplish a task, enabling organisations to find the best talent available that’s most suitable for the job at hand. This, however, also generates the need for a leadership team that has the social influence to enlist and aid global teams to accomplish a common task. The main task at hand for today’s leader is to have the social ability to manage teams across geographies.
Global teams offer great functional expertise from around the world, deep insights of the most promising markets, great international diversity, an array of perspectives that help deal with organisational and strategic problems in new innovative ways. However, leading global teams pose a number of challenges. With co-workers scattered all across the world communication is a constant work in progress, and language-based misunderstandings can deteriorate efficiency in a day’s work.
As the CEO and Founder of VIACT Systems Inc. I had the vision to overhaul accounting industry by creating automated bookkeeping software integrated with Artificial Intelligence. My skills in product management combined with years of experience in managing offshore bookkeeping teams helped me gather immense insight. These insights were then further shared with our development and backend teams for implementation. With employees in the U.S., India, and Singapore, I knew leading a global team would be challenging, but I learned a number of helpful management tips along the way.
Here are some key takeaways based on my own experience building a global team which helped us work efficiently, and in sync, allowing us to create solutions when faced with difficult tasks as a geographically diverse company.
1. Definitive Deadlines — Work is all about give and take. If you give a set of directives you will get work based on them. Being open about what is needed is the key, the more precise you are about timelines and the kind of output required, the easier it will be to get the best out of your team.
2. Blueprints — Create a detailed plan that speaks of all the processes involved for a task at hand before giving directives. Laying down a plan in front of the team helps in getting everyone on board the process. This ensures that everyone in the team knows what happens when, paving the way for seamless follow-ups. A blueprint helps eliminate lags since there is no room left for miscommunication.
3. Perfect Processes — Fine tuning a process ensures that a plan can be followed through to the T. The how-to of a process should be ingrained in every team member’s workflow. For example: Enquiries about a product/service should be catered to by a specific team by following a specific protocol. Step 1- Greet the customer and find out what their query is. Step 2- Address the queries by referring to a standard set of FAQ’s that all team members have handy. Step 3- Anything that isn’t a part of the FAQ’s should be directed to the concerned team and dealt by experts. Protocols help reduce chances of error and increases turn around time. Strictly adhering to the process should be stressed, since processes help build perfect work status. Processes should be well thought of and shared with both managers and subordinates.
4. Crisp Communication — A very important part of dealing with a global team is managing team communication, including the manner and frequency of those communications. A particular time frame that suits everyone in different time zones should be decided on and adhered to. A daily huddle or scrum is a must that helps set the agenda for the day, while also bringing to light a snapshot of a project’s progress. It helps initiate conversation amongst colleagues and brings everyone on the same page, thus eliminating any cause for error through lack of communication.
5. Motivational Mondays — Mondays are generally associated with the blues, but I feel that Mondays are when you set the tone for the upcoming week and the goals to be accomplished in that week. I make it a point that every team member is spoken to and motivated once a week at least. A little pep talk helps shake the team out of any hovering thoughts of complacency and boosts their performance.
6. Fair Compensation — A team can concentrate on the aforementioned points when certain prerequisites are met. A leader should be mindful of the salary structure of its global employees and make sure that they are paid on par with the salary standards of their position as well as the country they reside in, taking into consideration regional cost of living variances.
7. Time Zones — Being mindful of the time zones your employees are working in should be taken very seriously. Taking this a step further is being aware of the public holidays that are celebrated in the part of the world your team members work from and respecting them. These public holidays may hold religious and sentimental importance to your team members and being unaware about them could lead to hostility and misunderstanding.
8. Cultural Differences — Your team’s cultural backgrounds should hold significance to you. As a team leader it becomes your duty to manage the cultural difference and make them feel welcomed in the organization. Assumptions regarding cultural values should be avoided at all costs. The aim is to understand where your team members come from and in no way make them feel uncomfortable or unwelcomed. It can help to read books, try cuisines and watch movies from their part of the world to establish an informal way to bond with your team while relating to their culture and providing a safe and open space to discuss their culture and letting them know that you’re aware of the same.
9. Harmonised Work Approach — Processes and work styles vary from country to country. It is always a good idea to gather the know-how of how a particular task is done in multiple ways and then choose the one that works best. This can help bring your team closer, as it helps get the conversation started for the team members to work towards achieving company’s objectives with the best possible approach.
10. Annual Visit– Despite all the video calls, webex sessions, emails and platform sharing, it is essential that senior management establishes inter personal contact with their employees at least once a year. A one-on-one with company leaders helps employees put a face to the names they hear and gives them a sense of belonging to their company. It also helps the management in motivating their employees and making them feel valued as a very important part of the organization.
All these things have aided me in my journey as an entrepreneur and a leader. Most importantly, valuing your team members will result in your organization’s growth and unparalleled success, and being ignorant of your team members could lead to a lot of lost opportunities and would-have-beens. Don’t let success pass you by, go global and grab the bull by the horns.
Delegating tasks and automating processes is the best way to manage a team both locally and internationally