These days there are more and more companies selling and using products in different countries. Companies today wish to expand in new markets and countries, and they are also more open to having parts of their operations shifted or outsourced to other countries whether it be through a third party or starting their own operations offshore. But what does this mean for a manager today? Now, more than ever before, managers are finding themselves having to manage globally dispersed teams, businesses and suppliers.

Creating a top performing team can be a challenge for any manager, and how much more when managing people across different geographic regions with different time zones and cultures?

In this week’s blog post we discuss cultural challenges for managing multiple teams in multiple locations and share some tips on how to tackle them.

With the help of globalisation, outsourcing and of course, the advancement of technology, managers today are able to take on these challenges of leading multiple teams in multiple locations no matter how far apart. However, an added dimension to managing in this model is to understand and be sensitive with cultural and language differences. Not only do you often have more employees to keep track of, but also each location has its own culture and have its own needs based on the clientele from that area.

Here are some tips to help you

  1. Get acquainted. To start with, it’s great to have a person on the inside. Learn from someone who is knowledgeable in the local customs, business practices and laws of the country or place that your team is based in.

  2. Be prepared. A good way to approach cultural differences is to learn as much as possible about the culture. Being prepared and making a good first impression will send positive signals to members of the other culture and will signify intentions of commitment. For example, knowing that Aussies’ can be known for a direct way of communicating, or that Filipinos’ can be known to be a bit more elusive when it comes to getting a direct or straight forward answer for some things as it is a way in their culture. Being aware and sensitive to these cultural nuances could help adjust a manager’s approach or style to dealing with their teams in Australia and in the Philippines, and help reduce conflicts or tensions between team members.

  3. Create a plan. To lead a global team requires careful planning, as the saying goes ‘’If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail’. You need to have a plan for your team resources and ascertain things like, what type of people will you need on your team? How will they work? How will you manage them? Hire for them? Since this team will be in another country, how will you adjust your current plans to fit both your local resources and your global team? Once you have created a plan you can fine-tune it as you go on but this will save you a lot of time, not to mention headaches.

  4. Be Respectful. You can demonstrate this by learning how to pronounce people’s names correctly, both the members of your team/s and also of their country’s leaders and other prominent members.

  5. Communicate. When speaking with a non-native team member try avoiding the use of jargon, colloquialisms or slang in your speech. Furthermore, managers need to provide frequent, fair and appropriate feedback to everyone. Even if the team can’t meet in person frequently, managers should try to occasionally visit remote team members so they will feel valued, this will also keep each team member engaged.

Geographically dispersed teams can offer huge benefits including efficiency, cost savings, and the ability to choose team members with the best skills, regardless of their location. To be successful in leading these teams, managers need to choose the right team members and have strong communication strategies and technologies.

Do you manage teams in multiple locations? What are your tips to making sure everything runs smoothly?

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