Focus on these essential skills and best practices to effectively lead a diverse, remote team of employees.
With the rise of online work, there have been more and more global teams. And managers had to adapt to leading teams from different cultures and time zones while having them function as a single, cohesive unit.
Leading a team onsite is 1 thing, but leading a global team of people sets up a whole different type of challenge. We’ll explore the 5 essential people management skills you need to have to lead a global team effectively. Let’s start with communication skills.
5 people management skills necessary to lead global teams
The following 5 skills will help you and other managers solve the challenges of leading global teams.
1. Sharpen written communication skills to manage teams effectively
Dr. Mehrabian’s rule of communication — the 7-38-55 rule — states that people communicate only 7% of their message with words, 38% with tone of voice, and 55% with nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and body language.
When you’re managing a team onsite, you can see the nonverbal communication of your team members and understand what they want to communicate in its entirety.
However, now, you may be leading a global team. If so, you’re conducting most of your communication via email or written memos with occasional group calls.
This makes communication a lot harder because it’s much more difficult to decipher the nonverbal cues from an email than it is by looking at the person.
So when you’re communicating with your global team, you need to make sure that you write your emails with clarity. Remember that it’s better to over-communicate things than it is to under-communicate them.
Also, don’t assume anything. Always try to get confirmation from your team members that they know what needs to be done and that they know what their specific tasks are. Have them write it out if necessary to ensure that they understand it completely.
Having excellent written communication skills is a must if you want to successfully lead a global team.
2. Respect all cultural backgrounds and understand cultural differences
Even when you have excellent communication skills, you need to take into account the cultural aspects of every individual on the team. For example, a business dinner that starts at 8:00 p.m. will mean different things in Germany and in Brazil. In Germany, you can expect the dinner to start at 8:00 pm sharp while in Brazil, it’s a bit laxer and it will probably start an hour later.
So when you’re communicating with individuals from across the globe, you need to know their cultural background to understand what their assumptions are about work, communication, and their general roles on the team.
Make sure that you’re inclusive in your approach and that you stay respectful of different cultural backgrounds. Ensure that everyone on the team is on the same page when it comes to workload, responsibilities, and team rules.
There’s a massive advantage to having people from different cultural backgrounds on the team. They provide different perspectives on problems and challenges. As a result, the team can innovate faster and come up with different solutions.
3. Lead global teams with patience and trust
When leading global teams, you need to have a lot of patience and trust.
The first challenge that will happen when leading global teams is time zones. It will be quite difficult to get everyone on the same video call if they’re halfway across the world. So you will need to have a lot of patience to come up with a solution that will work for all of your team members.
Ensure that all of the programs and apps that you’re using are “global-friendly” and that all team members have access to them.
You can have rotating hours when it comes to meetings so that all team members can have the meeting at their preferred hours. There can also be logistical issues when it comes to programs and applications that are being used across the globe. It’s important to ensure that all of the programs and apps that you’re using are “global-friendly” and that all team members have access to them.
When you’re leading a global team, you will need to have a lot of patience to get things right. It’s vital to trust your team members that they will pull through the challenges and accomplish the set goals that are in front of them.
4. Manage global teams with emotional intelligence
When you’re leading an onsite team, you can simply leave your door open and have an “open-door” policy. This enables your team members to come to you for a conversation, complaint, or feedback.
When you’re leading a global team, you will have to approach the open-door policy a bit differently for obvious logistical reasons. You should have regular 1-on-1 meetings with your employees and let them know when you’re available. That way, they can jump on a quick call with you and discuss their problems and concerns. This is a way to still have an open-door policy even though you’re leading an online, global team.
On top of that, you should provide emotional support to your team members so that they know they can approach you in their time of need. This will be different for different managers and teams. Some will arrange a special chat function in one of the communication apps where team members can write to the manager about their challenges. Others will prefer a video chat option with their team members to discuss issues.
Whatever the form will be, it needs to be discussed, acknowledged, and approved by all of the team members of that specific team.
5. Provide support to global teams via mentoring and feedback
Last but not least, people management skills are all about mentoring and feedback. Even though you’re leading a global team, you can still provide support via mentoring and giving/receiving feedback.
When it comes to mentoring, you will need to be a lot more intentional. You will need to prepare topics and ways the team member can develop themselves (personally and professionally). Then, schedule a regular time when you will meet with them.
The 1 thing you shouldn’t do is to leave the mentoring meetings as an ad-hoc situation. That won’t be productive for global, online teams.
When you incorporate an open-door policy, your team members can communicate with you about any feedback, needs, or concerns. Listen to their feedback and see if there’s a way to incorporate their concerns and adjust processes.
Make sure that you solve the logistical problems such as equipment necessary for work, access to applications or workspaces, etc. as soon as possible. That way, your team members can work in their full capacity.
In addition to that, you should look into the process of how the team works together. There will be a lot of changes when it comes to leading an onsite team and leading a global team so adapt your team-leading process accordingly.
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Learn these 5 people management skills to lead global teams
Learning these 5 people management skills will help you lead your global teams and help them succeed in accomplishing goals, tasks, and objectives. If you need additional information on how to do so, read our story on 5 Tips for Managing Remote Workers in Other Countries.