Global teams bring perspectives from various cultures and mindsets, but they also bring obvious challenges: different time zones, language barriers, social norm differences, and communication styles.
These are common challenges for nearly any global team, so it's important to be empathetic and consider how your coworkers around the globe may be experiencing a certain challenge -- and how they may not have the same resources as you
That's easier said than done, though.
One of the biggest challenges for global teams is conducting effective meetings. Specifically, how you can consistently and effectively bring everyone together, talk through action items, and build rapport while everyone is so far away from each other.
Read on to explore some of our best tips for running more effective meetings with your global colleagues.
5 Ways You Can Run More Effective International Meetings
1. Consider Each Team's Time Zone
Trying to schedule a meeting across multiple time zones is difficult, but leaving out team members from other regions due to a scheduling conflict is never the solution.
One way to approach this is by sending out a quick survey to figure out each team's time preference. You might discover that your team in Singapore prefers calls later in the day, whereas your team in Ireland likes to meet earlier in the day. Involving each region in planning will help you make sure that your meeting is at the best time possible for all parties.
If there isn't a convenient time that'll work for every team, try rotating your meeting time to accommodate each team every few meetings. If you need a meeting scheduler tool that can pick the optimal meeting time for all your global teams, try using Time and Date.
2. Use Technology to Your Advantage
One of the biggest challenges for remote teams is how the difference in time zones can delay productivity.
For example, if you're based in New York and send a blog post to a coworker in Dublin for edits, they're actually five hours ahead of you and have most likely stopped working by the time you send your post to them.
Time zone delays like this can lead to simple projects taking three or four times as long as they normally do. But if you leverage the technology listed below, your global team can be agile and efficient.
Instant messaging apps are a great way to communicate with your team. You can use them for one-time requests and even every day banter.
Slack, the most popular team collaboration software, is the most widely used instant messaging app for a reason -- it allows you to see what time zone your coworkers are in, update your status, and catch up on group conversations.
Whether you're halfway across the world or only 10 miles away from each other, you can always communicate with your teammates through video chat. Video chat enables global teams to facilitate relationships and work directly with others who do not share an office.
But be sure to communicate that a meeting will include video so you don't catch a remote employee off guard. Another video chat idea your global team could implement is mounting a monitor that live streams another team in a different location to your office's wall. By seeing your international teammates faces everyday, your global team will feel more connected with each other.
Shared, real-time editing in Google Drive eliminates a lot of back-and-forth discussion when you work on projects with your international team. The editing feature is also one of the best tools for easily collaborating on content and seeing what changes your teammates have proposed.
Even though project management is the core of all content and product teams, any type of team can use project management software. Tools like Trello can keep your global team moving fast while staying nimble, allowing anyone to jump into the tool at any time and learn about the recent changes to all your projects.
Shared calendars offer your team the ability to see what's going on with each employee, team, and office. Knowing each team's specific calendar also lets you know if another location may have a national holiday or if a team member is out of the office, without having to ask them.
3. Build Your Cultural Competence
The first step towards developing your cultural competence is awareness. Being aware of your own perceptions, culture, background, and biases is essential to understanding how you view other cultures. To strengthen your awareness, start doing some self-reflection and try understanding how your upbringing and culture have shaped the lens through which you see the world.
You should also try to learn more about other cultures. Set up time with a team member from another part of the world to simply get to know them and learn about their culture. If you have time, consider traveling to each team's specific location to learn about their way of life. Additionally, you could read books written by authors who have the same cultural background as your teammates.
When learning the nuances of different cultures, you also have to consider other things like how each of your teams perceive vacation time, remote work, and professional communication.
According to a survey conducted by Owl Labs this year, which explores how Americans and Europeans perceive vacation policy and vacation guilt, U.S. workers take an average of 15 vacation days per year while European workers take an average of 22 vacation days. Americans also are 50% more likely to feel guilty when they go on vacation compared to Europeans.
Even though Americans and Europeans are right across the pond from each other, there's still big differences between their perceptions of work and vacation. And if you make a concerted effort to understand how different cultures and regions think about these important topics, you'll be able to shape the tone and approach of your communication and become a better teammate.
Plus, by immersing yourself in other cultures and staying humble about your own, you'll not only be able to work better with your global teammates, but you'll also grow and develop as a person.
4. Do Team Bonding Activities
Global teams need team bonding as much as single region teams do. When your team feels connected, they are able to work better together. Even if your team is scattered around the globe, you can still promote cross-team and cross-continent bonding through the internet. Here are some fun and effective digital bonding strategies you can use today:
Set up virtual coffee chats with team members from each office.
Encourage the use of Slack or other messaging platforms to casually communicate on a daily basis.
Have each office pick a day where they can share their culture with the rest of the team, where you can do the following:
Order lunches that are native to each team at every office and set up a virtual hangout during breakfast, lunch, or dinner, depending on each team's time zone.
Elect a representative from the office who is sharing their culture that day to do a short presentation about their culture.
You can set up these virtual events during holidays like Thanksgiving, Holi, Boxing Day, or St. Patrick's Day.
If international team members are able to travel to your office, make sure you set up fun and engaging team bonding activities like escape rooms or scavenger hunts.
Global team bonding doesn't have to be complicated. As a global team manager, all you have to do is encourage your team to communicate with other offices, ask them to help with other teams' challenges, and think of the whole team as one group.
5. Ask Your Team What Their Preferences Are
Working with global teams means you have to deal with a lot of different opinions and values. If you try to assume what each team is thinking without getting their feedback, you'll never have productive international meetings and won't be able to build trust with your global team.
If you are creating, joining, or managing a global team and want to learn what your team members' preferences are, try sending out an anonymous survey to them, with questions like:
What is your preferred communication style?
Are there any holidays or local events that we should be aware of and add to the team's calendar?
What software programs do you use?
What are your preferred times for team meetings?
What are your preferred times for individual meetings?
What, if any, challenges have you faced while working on a global team?
Directly asking your team members about their preferences is the best way to improve team bonding and collaboration. To collect this information, try using a tool like TINYpulse, Survey Monkey, or Google Forms. Afterwards, share the data with your team so they can understand how everyone feels about the same issues. Just make sure the answers are anonymous, so you'll get honest answers.
Build a Global Team that Can Actually Collaborate With Each Other
Diverse teams are the most successful types of teams. But they're also more challenging to manage. Fortunately, these actionable tips for running more effective international meetings will help you improve your global team's collaboration and culture.
Originally published Oct 4, 2018 7:30:00 AM, updated February 15 2019