9 Things Entrepreneurs Should Know About Managing Teams Worldwide
For many young entrepreneurs, success means being able to expand their business, and sometimes that expansion crosses international borders.
This is obviously great news for business, but it does bring up the issue of managing teams worldwide, which can be a great challenge.
Don’t get me wrong, we’d all be lucky to be in a situation in which we’ve built a business from scratch to the point where we have offices in all corners of the world.
But that business is your baby, and the more you expand and the more offices you have, especially if those offices are in all corners of the world, the less of a hold you have on your business, which is not always easy to accept or handle.
I assume if your business is that successful that you’re at least a little bit of a control freak, right?
The more you expand and the more offices you have, the less of a hold you have on your business
Too many companies lack proper communication methods when it comes to offices overseas, and that leads to quite a few problems.
For instance, 73% of companies surveyed reported slow decision making as an issue they faced working with remote teams.
Nearly 80% of those companies also said they did not have enough time to build relationships with employees.
In fact 41% reported never meeting their colleagues face-to-face, which is not ideal in almost any industry.
73% of companies surveyed reported slow decision making as an issue they faced working with remote teams
Needless to say, a lot of adjustments need to be made when managing teams worldwide, both in terms of your management approach and methods you use to manage your global workers.
Like I mentioned earlier, such a scenario would have sounded like a dream when you were just starting out, but now that you’ve actually built a global company, you need to know how to run one.
To help you out, here are nine things you should know when it comes to managing teams worldwide.
1. Learn About Cultural Differences
One thing you should always do before you expand your business into another country is learn about the culture in that country.
This can actually be a fun activity, as some of the cultural aspects of foreign countries can be downright fascinating.
If you want to get creative, turn learning about new cultures into a team-building activity at your base office by having people bring in food from the country where your company is about to expand or see who can find the most interesting factoid about that part of the world.
Activities like that can be a good way to have fun and learn important information at the same time.
Of course, learning about the culture of a place before opening an office there is important for business reasons.
For starters, you need to know about any holidays in that country that may interfere with your workers being available.
Also, different parts of the world have different attitudes and methods for how they conduct business. Some countries are more laid back, some are scrappy and hard working, and some have laser-like focus when it comes to their job.
Knowing this kind of information about your workers in different countries will help you to manage teams that work halfway across the world.
2. Acknowledge Time Zones
Technology closes a lot of gaps when it comes working internationally, but technology can’t alter time zones.
Even if you have to hang multiple clocks in your office the way newsrooms do (at least on television), always be aware of the time difference and act accordingly.
Do your best to avoid scheduling Skype meetings or conference calls during non-working hours for international offices.
I mean, how would you feel if someone did that to you, right? No one wants to stay three hours late for a five-minute meeting.
If inconveniencing someone is unavoidable, then perhaps take turns on which group has to alter its schedule. This is the fair way to do it, and it should keep your world teams happy.
3. Use Technology
Even if you can’t alter time zones, technology is still your friend when managing world teams.
The trick is using different types of technology for accomplishing different goals. For instance, use online communities or message boards if you want your employees to brainstorm ideas.
This allows everyone to have their thoughts heard even when you can’t all be in the same room.
Along those same lines, you can also use online polling sites if you want feedback from offices that are scattered in different parts of the world.
Google Documents is another useful tool that can help ensure workers in different offices are on the same page.
Documents can be shared amongst the entire team, and the history of that document will show who made what changes and when, so everything can be tracked.
Using Google Documents can help create the allusion that everyone is working together in the conference room even when team members are half a world away.
4. Minimize Emails
Nothing turns off workers more than a long drawn out email that goes off on tangents and provides little substance.
Of course, none of us have ever done that, right? Anyway, when you send an email to your teams overseas, keep them short and to the point.
Online chat functions or apps like Snapchat can be less formal alternatives to email for short and to the point communication with overseas employees.
You may also want to limit the frequency of the emails you send, saving them for the most important message.
I know you want to be on top of everything with your team on the other side of the world, but too many emails from you will make them feel like they’re being micro-managed from thousands of miles away, and they won’t be happy about it. Instead, just trust that your workers can get along fine without an email from you every hour.
5. Encourage Voice-to-Voice Communication
Virtual management is obviously the main method when it comes to remote work, but don’t be afraid to place phone calls or have Skype conversations sometimes so you can have actual voice-to-voice communication with overseas workers.
Skype may be the perfect technology for voice-to-voice communication, as it also allows you to see the person’s face.
This can be important from a teamwork perspective, as it can help remind your international offices that you’re a real person and that you’re on the same team.
Think about how important it is to hear the voice of your loved ones every now and then and not just text or email back and forth.
Well, it’s also important with your workers when they don’t see you on a daily basis. It may not seem like it, but voice-to-voice communication can help build your business.
6. Get to Know Your Workers
Find a way to get to know the people working at your global offices.
Take off your boss hat for a little while and have a conversation with them that’s not work-related, whether it’s by phone, Skype, or instant messaging.
This is another instance where you can have a little bit of fun by learning about how people live half a world away.
It’s easy to form a bond with the workers in your base office who you see every day, but you have to try a little harder with your international employees, so make that effort.
Take the time to learn a little about each of them and you won’t see them as just another worker, and more importantly, they won’t look at you as just the faceless boss, which is win-win!
7. Rack up Frequent Flyer Miles
Along the same lines of getting to know your global workers, don’t be afraid to let them travel to different offices every now and then.
I mean, if your company has grown to the point of having offices in all corners of the world, you can surely afford some international travel.
So just pick an airline you like and start racking up those frequent flyer miles.
You shouldn’t always be reliant on HR software or virtual management. Sometimes face-to-face contact is essential for the sake of your business.
Flying your employees to different offices to meet their peers and bosses face to face is perfect for trying to get to know your workers better and forging a meaningful personal connection.
It’s also a nice perk for the employees to enjoy. If you think about it, wouldn’t you be willing to work hard for a company that just flew you half way around the world at their expense?
I thought so; just think of your travel budget as an investment in the company.
Perhaps most importantly, you’d be amazed at how remote work and digital relationships can be improved when you’ve actually met the other person face to face and spent time together.
Taking the time to let your workers visit other offices is sure to have a positive impact on the teamwork within your company, which can be hard to build between offices in different countries.
8. Give Frequent Feedback
In the average office setting, it’s easy to stop by someone’s office or send a quick memo to tell them what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong, and what could be done differently.
Of course, this is not so easy with remote work, so you have to make more of an effort to provide employees with the feedback they need to thrive.
One of the most important things is to be consistent with how you give feedback when managing teams worldwide.
That means, if you want to give feedback to some employees via Skype, you need to have a Skype meeting with everyone.
If everything is equal in this way, no one will feel left out or unappreciated, which can happen with remote work.
The frequency of feedback is also important. You don’t want to do it too frequently or you’ll make your employees feel like you don’t trust them to do their job without micro-managing.
At the same time, you can’t go too long without providing some kind of feedback, either positive or negative, because then employees will feel like they’ve been forgotten, and no one wants to feel that way, right?
Try to find a good balance and then be consistent with your feedback.
9. Bring Groups Together
This is another example of turning virtual management into something that can be fun and enjoyable.
Brainstorm with your team and try to think of creative ways that global teams in different parts of the world can bond.
Maybe you can set up webcams in the office so you can keep an eye on one another throughout the course of the day.
Perhaps your HR software can set up a virtual break room for workers in all of your offices to come together.
Maybe you can come up with a game or a friendly competition that can involve employees at every global office.
Remember on The Office when all the different branches competed to see who could lose the most collective weight?
A friendly competition like that could help forge a bond between teams that operate half a world away.
Regardless of what you come up with, it’s important to find a way to include everyone and make them feel like they are part of the company.
This can be a challenge, but it’s a necessary part of continuing to build your business and successfully manage overseas offices.
Managing Teams Worldwide
As an entrepreneur, learning how to manage larger groups of people as your business expands is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face, especially when you start to open offices in other countries.
As you can see from our list, there are a lot of adjustments that you must be prepared to make when managing teams worldwide.
Above everything else, make sure there is open communication with workers overseas.
If you have this, you should be able to solve any problem that should arise 🙂
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