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How to Effectively Work with Global Teams

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At my last company, I managed a team that included members located in Asia Pacific (APAC), Europe (EMEA), and South America. The team was made up both of colleagues within my company, and employees of the PR agencies we worked with.

Global teams can be great because you may working with people who are experts in their culture and know the local partners, and because they provide you with an “on call” resource 24 hours a day. However, it can be challenging to work in a global team because of differences in language, culture, and of course time zones. In addition, it’s more difficult to collaborate on content when you are working with people who are more than a shoulder tap away.

When global teams are working well together, individuals see the benefit personally and professionally, and companies are able to be more competitive in new markets. Here are some best practices that I’ve learned go a long way in getting your global team on the same page:

Clearly Communicate Goals and Expectations. It’s important that everyone understands what deliverables are expected of them and that they agree to a timeline. There should be no assumptions about how everyone is spending their time. Using Google Spreadsheets is a great way to share goals in a place that everyone can update.

Meet in Person as Early and Often as Possible. It was amazing to me how much better I was able to work with our team after meeting them in person and having a chance to get to know them socially. This is the single most important thing you can do to pave the way for a working ease that cuts down on miscommunications and makes everyone feel more connected and motivated. Connecting online through social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram helps keep the relationship strong after the trip.

Schedule Meetings Sensitively. Team or one-on-one meetings should rotate times so that they are doable for everyone, or at least no one is inconvenienced more than anyone else. When you work on a global team, there will be times that you will need to work outside of a traditional 9-5 schedule, but try to make that the exception, rather than the nor

Listen Carefully for Cultural Insights. Ask your colleagues to let you know when their holidays are, what hours they normally work, how they would like to communicate with you, and of course, how the company can present itself in the most favorable light locally. Try to learn as much as you can about the local culture, and encourage your team to take an active role in training you in the best ways to work with them.

Leverage Technology for Collaboration. Set up a knowledge base where you can share materials, ask and answer questions, and reporting documents. Get everyone on the same IM provider and make sure they download it to their phone as well – we use HipChat. Take advantage of video for calls and meetings whenever possible so that everyone stays focused and to make them more personal.

When global teams are managed effectively and sensitively, they become a differentiator in a competitive marketplace. Following these best practices gave me a head start in building a team that worked together seamlessly, bringing forward new opportunities that benefitted everyone.

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