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Best Practices for Working with a Global Team

We live not only in a socially connected world, but also in a professionally connected one. With the frequency of global acquisitions and increases in remote working models, the likelihood that employees will need to work with a global team has increased dramatically. Working within a global team has tremendous challenges like time zones, cultures, and work habits, but adapting effectively to a global work environment is essential in today’s business world.

Having worked with global teams for almost 10 years—either as a US lead and an analyst in India—I I’ve identified four best practices for effectively working with a global team:

Provide relevant examples

As simple as it may sound, being relevant is not just about the content or context, but “content within the context” that the teams can understand. Be it in marketing or any field, relevance is the key to increasing engagement with the user. Facebook, Amazon, and Google are leaders in this space, showing personalized content or recommendations based on what content a person, searches, consumes, and what is purchased. The same applies to communicating with global teams and providing examples that resonate.

For example, when I work with our China team and talk about social media advertising, referring to WeChat makes more sense than to Facebook. It is like providing differentiated messages for different audience segments in marketing. Though learning the business problems an individual is trying to solve is critical, providing the right examples—with relevance—will go a long way in facilitating effective communication.

Recognize cultural differences

Speaking the same language or living in the same geography does not necessarily ensure a similar culture; hence recognizing the cultural differences are key. These can be the result of ethnicity or generation or geography, and they reflect in different working styles. Cultural differences in work habits can be reflected in being outgoing vs. reserved in meetings, being private vs. social, expressions, and communication styles. It is essential to recognize these differences and to adjust accordingly. For example, my manager is American with a work and communication style that is drastically different than mine. However, by recognizing our differences and identifying our similarities, we have found common grounds and adapted to ways of interacting that work for both of us and for business outcomes.

When I work with the China team, I constantly remind myself that its culture is less interpretive and so it’s important to drive conversations and be very clear on the request by explaining in a step-by-step fashion and providing more examples. The China team is great with data and providing data -related examples gives team members a better understanding of the problem.

Leverage technology to build relationships

Communication thrives with more solid relationships, so that conversations are not simply transactional but relational. Not having in-person conversations to build relationships is probably one of the biggest challenges in a global setting. In-person conversation is how you understand the type of person you’re working with, but it also helps to adapt, from an emotional stand point, to what type of conversation works best based on body language.

With advancement in technology, using video calls can help to bridge the gap between in-person conversation and virtual conversation. When you do this often, you start to picture how one would react virtually, and modify the mode of conversation accordingly. I have managed this with our China team and it is extremely beneficial to be able to connect a person’s voice and body language. We have also played team games like Pictionary or word puzzle online via screen share and that has helped in fostering team spirit.

Be patient and get feedback

Working efficiently and building relationship with a global team does not happen in a day or a week. Get regular feedback from the team on what is working and what is not. Always remember you are trying to build relationships with your team, not just communicate. Just like getting a body in shape takes time, shaping a working relationship develops over time as well. It takes persistence and patience—and a diverse and connected working environment is worth it! 

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