30 August 2018 - Managing Global Teams

The great thing about the cloud is that you can work on it from anywhere, literally anywhere in the world. This gives both companies and employees freedom to operate. For the business, they may not restricted by office locations in order to attract the right talent. For the employee, they can experience a nomadic lifestyle with their only requirements being a reliable internet connection and some overlap on timezone with the mothership to liaise with colleagues.

But as we become more flexible with our working arrangements how does a manager actually manage their team effectively? Here at Funding Circle we have offices in many timezones and embrace remote working for our colleagues. Here's some tips on how we are trying to make managing our globals teams efficient.

Firstly, the managers are responsible for their team performance. The goal is to have high performing teams. When you have a working group with high competency, coupled with consistent behaviours and shared values then this brings trust within the team, aiding improved delivery outputs. 

But how do you get to that winning state when your people are scattered around the world?

You need to be mindful of the challenges that managing global teams can face:
  • The social distance
  • Timezones 
  • Cultural differences and common understanding
  • Lack of informal meetings, infrequent interactions
  • Selective and filtered information
  • Rogue behaviours
  • Lack of mentorship
  • The perception of the power zone
Some of your team members may never meet each other face to face so trying to build a bond with them virtually is very significant. Planning and keeping team meetings where everyone connects via video and talks about their projects helps to build a bond. Its a time when they can share their experiences. Seeing a person's face while they talk can help to remove any misunderstandings in tone or communication, especially when there are cultural differences to negotiate. 

For those team members who are physically separated from the rest of the team and their manager, they may feel that they do not benefit from the informal watercooler moments, when you can grab a quick conversation or ask a random question. Messaging tools can help with this, by taking a remote first approach, keeping 'chat' on a virtual network brings all the team together to see the news, share the laughs, stay informed. It reduces the Chinese whispers affect when you communicate a message to the whole team at the same time. 

(OK, so I totally stole this image from the Ohana Coffee gang to show how you can bring people together using video chat technology. You can share stories, jokes and see the faces of the people you are connecting with.)

Team members who are remote from their manager can sometimes have a perception that the best projects are given to people in the physical locale as they are in the 'power zone' of the business, close to mind. There is also a risk that people's ability to shine is reduced when they are not seen in the office, nor have the connection for personal development through mentorship. 

There are of course times when a manager needs to convey feedback, including sensitive messages. Its always better doing this face to face as you can judge the reaction of the individual. Again, the video connection can help to gauge the emotion and help the conversation stay professional.

When it comes to recruitment, if you can't physically be there in person then you have to rely on local support to get the information, meet the candidates on your behalf and gauge if the salary expectations are realistic for the locale, if job titles are suitable, any other cultural influences to consider and to be cognisant of local employment laws. 

So here's some top tips to help with managing global teams:
  • Think 'remote first' and standardise your communications
  • Schedule regular team meetings and 121's with your team members
  • Invest in personal connections, be prepared to travel
  • Be clear with expectations on what the team rules are 
  • Be transparent with calendars so people know when/where to contact you
  • Promote collaboration and shared purpose within the team and wider groups
  • Build relationships with your team through the good times, bond with them
  • Plan ahead to involve everyone to reduce the power zone perception
  • Focus on goals and outcomes as a team
  • Hire people with the right attitude and experience
As a manager to a global team these are elements that take time to filter through and make work for all. There is always an adjustment period for any manager coming into a new role and then working to make a connection with the people in their group. We are human after all and each take our own path to trust an individual, to listen to them and understand what you can learn and gain from them. Technology has helped to make the global work-style a reality but it will never fully take away the importance of human presence and face to face connection. 


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