The new general manager of a recently acquired, innovative global business asked me if his new staff, which spanned seven countries and four continents, could understand English.
“Yes, they can,” I responded with a smile. “But it doesn’t mean they can understand you, or will follow your direction.”
They had all learned English, as taught in their country of origin. However, serious differences with their understanding of English were evident. It is not only the differences of learning American English or the “King’s English”. Each individual learned English through the lens of his or her own national culture and family setting, the same word in English may take on a different meaning, from person to person.
Additionally, members of his staff will have different cultural norms for inclusion, authority, formality and timeliness.
The advice I gave him was to speak slowly, repeatedly check for clarity and agreement, and spend a lot of time in each of the country’s offices to check that his plans were being followed.
Leading global teams is difficult, whether they are executive teams, functional teams, or innovation teams. But success, as difficult as it may be, generates big dividends!
One of the key findings of the 2017 InnovationOne Global State of Innovation Survey was that well-managed global innovation projects provide one of the strongest advantages for companies, over their competition.
Below are my top 7 recommendations for creating well-managed, global teams.
- Clarify the mission of the team and how the team’s work aligns with the company’s global strategies.
- Put clear operating norms in place for weekly meetings, one-on-one meetings, communications, raising and resolving conflict, sharing data and reports, budget and resource allocation, making decisions, and escalation routes to higher-level management (for when the team gets stuck). Using digital technology to collaborate and share files improves effectiveness.
- Ensure that team members can contribute equally to the team’s discussions, rather than having one or two people who dominate. This generates positive energy that carries over and fosters collaboration, positive communication, and effectiveness between meetings. There is growing research evidence to support this.
- Select or train team members, who can be empathetic and read complex emotional states on people’s faces – especially from other people’s eyes. Use high performance video-conferencing technology for meetings, so that globally dispersed team members can more easily stay in touch. There is growing research evidence to support this.
- Ensure your team has the right balance of cognitive and visual diversity to generate innovative ideas and guard against groupthink.
- If budgets allow, teams should meet face-to-face quarterly to maintain alignment and relationships. Face-to-face meetings are still the best option when complex analysis is required, or difficult decisions need to be made.
- Practice Tsedal Neeley’s “I am here for you” concept and frequently contact your team members to ensure they have what they need to achieve success.
Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and is a Managing Partner of InnovationOne. He consults on innovation, global talent strategies, developing agile leaders and teams, and other strategic initiatives. Questions? Please e-mail Victor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit http://www.victorhrconsultant.com. For innovation visit http://www.InnovationOne.io.