In today’s multi-national business environment, many companies have teams that are working together but physically scattered around the world.
An article in the Harvard Business Review notes that global teams have the potential to help organisations reach new markets and provide a seamless experience for customers across the world. But for global teams to work, the article suggests team leaders need to make sure all members feel connected and engaged, regardless of their location or culture.
The article’s author, Professor Andy Molinsky, points out that life on a global team isn’t necessarily equitable. Employees far away from headquarters often have less access to the team leader and, as a result, they may have a harder time getting their concerns noticed and attended to.
Molinsky also notes that more peripheral members of global teams are often forced to speak in a language that’s not their own and communicate in a style that’s not necessarily second nature. He gives the example of someone who comes from a culture where polite turn-taking is the norm when talking, while the rest of the team uses a more assertive style and dominates discussions. This person’s points may get overlooked, which could lead to poor decision making.
Logistics can also be an issue for a global team. Professor Molinsky notes that the most remote members of a global team usually have to adapt their work schedule to what’s convenient to those in the core. This will often mean for instance doing conference calls very late in the evening or early in the morning.
Molinsky states that when team members face these types of challenges, particularly those most distant, they can feel out of the loop, disrespected and ignored. Such frustrations can hurt the entire team’s performance.
The article has several suggestions to ensure a global team can run smoothly from rotating time schedules for calls, or at least trying to make them the least inconvenient for all would help, to regular offsite meeting to help build communication and make everyone feel part of the team. Lastly, Molinsky suggests the team leader try to make reasonably regular visits to all regions.
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