Five tips to manage international teams

Basic tips for working remotely

Remote and international teams have been on the rise for several years, with a range of benefits from boosts in productivity to saving money widely recorded.

With the coronavirus outbreak forcing many organizations to adopt remote working, it looks like this trend is only set to continue and accelerate as the future of work rears its head.

Whether you manage a new remote team or an established international workforce, these five tips will help streamline your workflow and increase productivity whilst boosting morale.

Find the balance between control and freedom

One of the challenges of remote teams can be a lack of immediate oversight. Impromptu check-ins that ordinarily occur on a daily basis in an office environment simply aren’t possible with a remote team.

This may seem daunting and potentially problematic, but with the right balance between control and freedom, it is easily solved.

The structure is even more important for teams that don’t meet every day. Clarity and transparency are likely going to be crucial factors in the success of your remote team and should be adopted from the start during onboarding and training processes and built into all workflow and internal practices.

Individual expectations, roles, and responsibilities should all be outlined to remove any level of doubt or miscommunication across teams.

However, leaving room for adjustments is almost as important. Always ask for feedback so you can get the best from your people and keep an open-minded approach. Don’t assume that because the system works for some, that it works for all. Check-in regularly and listen to your thoughts.

This will not only increase your team’s respect for you as a leader but also lead to a rise in engagement and productivity. Once you’ve found the balance, other things will start to fall into place.

Embrace the technology

The tools available for remote teams can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of an international organization. Optimizing your digital communications early on is going to be one of the most important steps you will take.

Again, it is a case of finding the right balance, the right combination of emails, instant messaging, and virtual conferencing that will unlock your remote team’s potential.

To get the most out of your communications, it is also worth considering the opportunities they present to increase participation. Setting out some digital guidelines or house rules for video calls, for example, can increase engagement by rotating meeting roles or establishing patterns of inclusivity, such as daily round-ups for input and personal updates.

If you want to keep these out of video calls, then create a dedicated messaging channel in Teams or Slack for all the bits of communication that might normally be casually thrown around an office.

Nurturing this side of your team’s relationships will help boost and maintain morale and is an easy win. Try virtual coffee breaks or after-work happy hours with matching virtual backgrounds to build relationships that will make for strong teams.

Learn about cultural differences

When working with multicultural and even multilingual teams, taking the time to research and learn about people’s backgrounds is vital in understanding their individual needs and cultural expectations.

A simple example would be to check national and religious holidays for the countries you have employees working from and input them into the shared calendar.

Discuss this with your HR representative or consult experts for advice to make sure you’re doing the right thing. Steps you take to show that it has occurred to you will be highly valued and inspire others to do the same.

Personal touch

Managing in-office teams often involves soft skills that are hard to translate into a remote working environment. Vary team meetings with the occasional one-on-one to check in and make sure you’re up to date with an individual’s needs and concerns. If your teams are too big to do this all yourself, make sure you have people engaging with everybody on a personal level.

Only interacting in large group forums can lead to isolated patterns and whilst people may rarely meet in person, it is possible to get to know people from across the world and there is really no excuse not to make the effort.

Avoid the temptation to micromanage

Linking back to the first step of finding the balance between control and freedom is the important point of micromanagement. The downsides to micromanaging are fairly clear to see: a decline in trust, lack of transparency, reduced responsibility, etc., etc. If the lines of communication are good and there is clarity of responsibility and purpose, then micromanaging shouldn’t feel like a temptation in the first place.

If you feel the urge to constantly check what other people are doing, first check your own communications with them to see if you gave clear instructions. In short, micromanage yourself before chasing up with others.

Going fully remote – as many companies have been forced to in recent months – can feel like a step into the unknown, a leap of faith into a world of zero accountability and lack of contact. This doesn’t need to be the case if these five steps are followed and adapted to your internal structures.

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