When managing a team, you know that there will be some very specific challenges that come up as people work in close proximity to each other. But what about when they don’t? Not all teams are in one office; some teams are global. Global teams come with needs of their own, as communication is conducted far differently. Employees can’t just walk over to another desk to speak with a team member.

Coordination across time zones or across cultures can slow the process of business and cause frustration and snags. As a team leader, how do you make the most of your global team to not only address these issues, but also thrive as a global business?

They may not be in one place physically, but here are three steps to make sure team members are in sync across the globe.

1.       Building a Strong Social Team

When your team is in the same place, it easier to bond socially, thus gaining not only the knowledge of whose dog went to the vet last weekend, but also how each person communicates and acts, which enhances working on a project together. At the real or metaphorical water cooler, employees can identify what they have in common and know that they likely share a similar background.

But, when teammates are a world apart, it’s a little more difficult to make those moments happen, and to help your team members bond and understand each other. Leadership tip: Purposefully create ways for your team members to talk about non-work matters, says Tsedal Neeley, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Harvard; it brings more humanity to the table.

2.       Defining Strengths and Differences

It may seem better to ignore your team members’ differences when dealing with disparate cultural backgrounds or viewpoints. Yet, it can actually be more productive to get them out in the open and ensure that your team members see each other as individuals with personal strengths and unique perspectives, rather than being left to rely on stereotypes. These types of discussions about each member of the team and what strengths they bring to the table will foster respect and let team members know whom they can go to when they need some help or a new point of view.

Additionally, team members working on a global scale can get protective of their territories and the parts of the world they cover, since the growth of their territory contributes to the growth of the company. However, this might infringe on another member’s job or accomplishments, causing friction. Consultant Howard Guttman advises that you discuss with your team members how they view their roles and the roles of others, and identify where disconnects may be taking place.

3.         Determining Decision-Making Processes

Guttman also outlines three ways of making decisions within a global team, and it’s a very valuable way to consider the type of input your team members have and what is appropriate to your specific team dynamic.

• Will decisions be made unilaterally—by one person with no input from others, for example?

• Will decisions be made consultatively—by one person after soliciting input from the fewest number who will add value?

• Will decisions be made by consensus—by gathering everyone’s input, having the majority rule, and having those in the minority agree to live with the outcome?

Each of these approaches will work differently; what may cause mutiny on one team could be very good for another, and the most important thing you can do as a leader is to listen and to be conscious of what your team needs to be their very best.

Our economy is a global one and if you aren’t already dealing with global teams, the likelihood you will in the future is very high. Both large and small companies are finding it necessary to conduct business across the world that often means managing global teams.

If you lead a global team, what other tips do you have for our readers?

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