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Finding Your Groove to Successfully Lead Global Teams | A Day in the #FuzeLife of a Modern Worker

September 13, 2016 by Amanda Maksymiw

Join us this month as we walk through “A Day in the #FuzeLife of a Modern Worker,” a blog series focused on how people communicate and their day-to-day experiences with technology in the workplace

As global corporations increasingly expand their footprint, restructuring in ways that support their teams’ ability to collaborate regularly and seamlessly has never been more critical. The prevalence of global teams has forced managers to reevaluate effective leadership styles and approaches. How do we define sound leadership when it comes to managing global teams? What do they do in practice and how do they nurture a healthy work environment without every team member present in the office?

We’ve got some ideas to help today’s new crop of global managers be successful, as well as some advice for the more seasoned leaders to sharpen their skills:

Be a team player.

Tsedal Neeley recently wrote an article for Harvard Business Review, “Global Teams That Work” that introduces the SPLIT framework. SPLIT – structure, process, language, identity, technology – provides guidance on how to successfully manage global teams today. An enterprise’s hierarchy – or organizational structure – shapes how responsibilities are distributed among teams. Structures that support lateral team management assure direct reports that team leads will make decisions based on a concrete understanding of the needs of the team as whole.

A team’s structure is important when it comes to communication because it affects the degree to which employees working in different locations feel involved in the conversation. Picture a team where three quarters of its members are based in the US, with one teammate in Germany and one in India. To prevent global team members from feeling alienated, leaders must balance input from groups from all locations so everyone feels heard and included. What that type of collaboration looks like may vary by region.

Take control of mastering technology that can truly connect team members regardless of their preferences and competencies. Set up trainings and model behavior that emphasizes peer-to-peer collaboration. Use this time to demonstrate that you’re a team player. This will set you on a course for success and help you and your team be more effective from the beginning.

Emphasize relationships.

Neeley’s research also reveals a critical success factor for global teams: reducing social distance, or rather, increasing “the degree of emotional connections among team members”. Actively encourage bonding by carving out time for relationship building exercises and productivity training. After all, time spent establishing rapport shouldn’t be sacrificed on account of productivity alone. 

Everything has a time and a place. The best managers recognize the value of showing their willingness to understand the unique needs of their distributed teams, first by emphasizing the importance of relationships. Taking note of individuals’ communication preferences enables you to initiate more productive conversations using the platforms they enjoy most. It’s a personal touch that can make a world of difference. You’ll also discover you may get more accomplished while learning about the strengths and weaknesses of your team.

Face time via video conferencing is an essential part of successfully leading a global team, but you have to commit to it. It can take some time before using video becomes a part of the normal routine, so help your teams develop this habit by scheduling recurring 1:1 video chats. Doing so facilitates informal, intimate conversations where managers can see nonverbal cues otherwise missed via IM or phone, and it’ll help instill the practice of adding video to conversations so that stronger relationships can form over time. With continued use, teams will become more comfortable with hosting one-off exchanges via video in the hopes that more dialogue will flow beyond the video screen. A single platform that enables you to move effortlessly between modes of communication encourages more frequent interactions,  helping you monitor team development, improve results, and get closer to your team. Seal the deal with the right collaboration tools by providing real-time feedback and positive reinforcement of critical thinking as well as process over outcome.

Be culturally aware.

From holidays to time zones, R-E-S-P-E-C-T is the name of the game. If you’ve recently started a global manager position, it’s time to refine your emotional IQ and be sensitive to differences in work style. By understanding regional norms and preferences, you can show you care about your team members on a personal level and begin to build a stronger level of trust. Set calendar reminders and establish “after hours” standards for completing projects so programs can keep moving forward without risk of teams feeling over worked. Be open and forthright with these values so nothing is left to question. Exercise a degree of compromise across your global team. If needed, defer to chat tools to help clarify questions quickly while respecting individuals’ time spent working outside of their normal schedule.

Technology is the glue that keeps global teams together. As such, adoption shouldn’t be taken lightly. The right communication either makes or breaks the experience, and this is only exacerbated by distance. The right technology is the boost you’ll need to help your team find its groove and to help you make your mark. As a manager, take extra steps to make communication a top priority.

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Amanda Maksymiw
Amanda Maksymiw

Amanda is responsible for setting and managing the Fuze content marketing strategy including creating, producing and publishing engaging content. Throughout her career, she's worked with fast-growing tech companies and VCs on developing content marketing, influencer marketing and social media strategies. Amanda received her BBA in Marketing from the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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