Building convergence : taking the stress out of working globally

Business today is global and many executives must meet  the challenge of delivering results through global teams spread over different geographies and time zones. Team members often speak different languages, have different mindsets, lifestyles, professional and personal values and expectations. And let’s not forget the tug-of-war between global and local objectives.

Leading such teams is indeed very challenging. The project leader has to create convergence towards a common goal  when everything seems to encourages divergence: different geographies means little direct contact between team members, different time zones reduce windows of availability for team discussions, different languages increases communication problems and different mindsets means potential disagreements in terms of what, who, how, when and why.

In my opinion, 3 key challenges must be met by the global manager:

·         Trust: the key ingredient in all team success is mutual trust which comes from knowing one another.  Local teams build this trust through day-to-day contact, a luxury often denied global teams. Global team leaders have to be even more attentive to building trust in the team.

·         Cohesion and clarity of purpose: team members dispersed geographically are more vulnerable to fragmentation because they are often caught between the hammer of global objectives and the anvil of local objectives.  The global leader must therefore make special efforts to bond the team to the common goal.

·         Communication: distance and dispersion creates a communication gap which makes global teams more  vulnerable to confusion and misunderstanding. Global leaders must therefore constantly make special efforts to maintain clarity of purpose.

Trust, cohesion/clarity of purpose  and communication are the key ingredients in making the “glue” which the global leader needs to lead his/her global team. So what pragmatic, concrete steps can a global leader take to build trust, cohesion and clarity of purpose? Here are some suggestions:

Trust:

·         Celebrate diversity: diversity is positive so always be open and listen before you speak. Team members will feel more confident and willing to contribute when they feel they are listened to and all are included and can contribute.

·         Trust but verify: Give your trust first but reserve the right to check. People respond to trust positively but organizations sometimes get in the way of individuals meeting commitments.

·         Lead by example: say what you do and do what you say. Team members will recognize that you deliver on commitments and respond positively.

·         Be honest: don’t have any hidden agendas and be up front. Team members will accept mistakes, not being misled or tricked. Always be open and clear.

·         Think win-win: team members will be more willing to contribute when they feel there is a win-win spirit and it’s not all one way traffic. This means understanding that team members have also other commitments which require attention.

·         Demonstrate respect: demonstrate respect at all times. Anger, frustration, behaving emotively contributes little and alienates team members

Cohesion and clarity of purpose:

·         Plan: setting overall objectives with clear individual and shared goals for all team is critical in managing global teams. If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t get there!

·         Prioritize: global leaders need to work with team members to manage the balance between global and local objectives and be flexible when local needs to take precedence over global.

·         Monitor performance regularly in a constructive way: a project dashboard capturing collective and individual objectives is even more necessary for global teams so that all can constantly monitor team progress and all can provide mutual support.

Communication:

·         Build a communication plan with your team: decide together on how you will communicate as a team within the  team and to the organization.

·         Use Technology wisely : the global project leader needs to lever all the different technologies at his disposal to communicate with team members: email, webex, visio, internet, blogs, etc. At the same time, technology is only a support. The global leader must always be available and not rely only on collective meetings via webex. One-on-one discussions are also important.

·         Keep it simple: whatever the communication format, never use slang, never presume others understand, communicate clearly in simple unambiguous words, always reformulate to check understanding and always add personality, enthusiasm and warmth. Remember that spoken words are forgotten, written words remain!

·         Recognize cultural diversity: different cultures have different but complimentary ways of getting things done. Be alert to cultural diversity and adapt your communication style accordingly. Some cultures are more task-oriented than others. Some are more relationship oriented. Work with your team to understand the cultural profiles within the team so that all can interact more effectively.

These are only some tips for leaders working globally. However, once the global leader focuses on the 3 key ingredients in bonding his/her team together: trust, cohesion & clarity of purpose, communication, he/she will be well on the way to building an inclusive team culture  and the convergence vital to obtaining global success.

 

 

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