Here at Tempo, we’re very familiar with the challenge of managing a global team; we have almost 100 employees divided between Sweden, Iceland, Canada, and the U.S. Even with Jira resource management software, there are many difficulties that arise in global teams: cultural divides, time changes, isolation, and more. That’s why it’s crucial to hone your leadership skills if you find yourself leading a team of international employees.
“Think of the job as a combination of being in several marriages at once and being a parent at the same time,” says Tsedal Neeley, an expert in global teamwork and professor at Harvard Business School, in an interview with the Harvard Business Review. “You’ve got to constantly work on your relationship with every member of the team. You’ve got to schedule date nights with each of them. And never, ever take your relationships for granted.”
So what should you know if you’re going to be managing a global team? You need more than Jira resource management software. Here are Tempo’s tips:
Create unstructured time with employees
A global team doesn’t get the opportunity to chat around the water cooler every day. There are no chance meetings or impromptu conversations in the elevator. Because team members don’t ever meet face-to-face, there is the very real possibility of isolation. Leaders can resolve this problem by creating space for employees to engage spontaneously with each other during online meetings. Neeley calls this practice “structuring unstructured time”. For instance, a manager might allocate seven or eight minutes at the beginning of a call to check in with employees and chat about what’s happening in life and work.
This practice of structuring unstructured time gives people room to discuss their thoughts and feelings and promotes connection across the team. Managers should model the desired behaviour by sharing some of their own personal stories. Ultimately, having informal conversations improves working relationships and can decidedly boost work results.
“Without a sense of connection, it is very difficult for co-workers to get on the same page about their work, whether they’re determining how to accomplish a task or thinking about a process for doing a task,” Neeley explains.
Make sure everyone speaks in meetings
Employees from some cultures may interrupt each other frequently over the course of a conversation or speak without having prepared notes. Other employees may behave very differently.
“In Thailand and Indonesia people learn that you wait for the person to clearly have stopped speaking, you wait a couple of seconds and then you speak,” says Erin Meyer, professor at INSEAD and author of The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business.
These kinds of differences can inhibit open conversation in cross-cultural meetings and unexpectedly quash diversity, but a few useful tricks exist to fix the situation. Leaders can manage global meetings by setting up an agenda so that everyone speaks in order, or create a process where every person is clearly called upon to speak in turn. A few days before the meeting, managers can inform team members that they’ll be looking for their input on a particular topic and afford them some time to prepare.
Continue to reassure employees
When you’re far away from your employees, the anxiety of the team tends to run high. People always look for reassurance that their work is respected, whatever the working arrangement; but in a global team, team members are especially vigilant for clues about how their leader feels about them. Members of your team will carefully watch what you say in meetings and note how quickly you respond to their emails. So, take special care to be supportive and responsive in your communications.
“Even when we’re co-located, the tone of a text or the formality of an email is left wide open to interpretation, to the point that even our closest friends get confused,” Neeley explains. “These misinterpretations create an anxiety that can become costly, affecting morale, engagement, productivity, and innovation.”
Use digital tools to your advantage
For teams that are dispersed around the world, using the right tools is a crucial part of staying connected. Of course you can start with Jira resource management software from Tempo. Tools like Tempo Timesheets are also great to keep time tracking simple and integrated for everyone. Also be sure to use regular video conferencing calls to stay in touch and employ an advanced instant messaging tool so everyone is in sync. With collaborative tools like Jira, you can make sure everyone on the team can track progress and follow the comments of team members.
There’s a lot to keep in mind when managing a global team. The job comes with a significant amount of responsibility and power, and the skill of the leader in managing the team is crucial.
Says Neeley: "I can’t emphasize enough how important the leader is to the success of a global project.”
Jira resource management software from Tempo, also known as Tempo Planner, can help you plan for your global team, whatever the time zone. Learn more about how Jira resource management software from Tempo can help improve the management of teams.