Remote work is becoming increasingly common and technology is making it ever easier to collaborate from anywhere in the world. While this allows multinationals to bring together global teams with the most relevant skills, it can be a real management challenge for leaders.
Facilitating meetings between remote workers can be particularly testing, with communication and cultural differences, not to mention logistical complexities, to navigate.
The skills bar on global teams is higher. You need to have a high-performing team that you trust to make the right decisions while you are asleep. In addition to high skills, you need people with the right attitudes and values. Working on a global team needs people who are open, adaptable, inquisitive and quick to learn. If they simply believe that their way is the best way, they will not succeed.
In shared workspaces, colleagues have numerous opportunities to chat “off the clock”. These informal conversations play an essential role in building rapport and trust between co-workers, and even boosting productivity. While teams in different offices miss out on these casual encounters, leaders can still create “water cooler” moments in virtual settings by starting each conference call or video conference with five to 10 minutes of small talk.
Most of my experience has been in Asia and Europe, and the biggest challenges I’ve encountered here relate to language and culture. APAC is such a large and diverse region, the difference in social and business culture between, say, Australia and Thailand are really profound, and it certainly keeps life interesting!
Unless you grew up in South Korea or Japan, you’ll never truly understand all of the cultural nuances, so every day is a learning opportunity. I’ve learned that you need to be respectful and adaptable to unfamiliar situations and approach things with an open mindset.
In some cultures, you can show anger; in others that’s disastrous. In some you should always challenge; in others you never “give the boss bad medicine”. There is no culture that is universally right or wrong. But, if your team is going to succeed, you need to have a common understanding about what sorts of behavior you all subscribe to. Consistency and predictability are key. Within your team you need a culture of adaptability and of positive regard: everyone has to assume that others are working with good intentions.