Managing an international team: Six tips for success
Whether you’re leading a team spread across different countries or working with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds, effective international team management is essential for achieving success. Gaelle Şahintekin, a Senior International Resource Manager, manages Oban’s network of Local In-Market Experts – made up of over 450 people in over 80 countries – which gives her an in-depth insight into the challenges of global team management. Here, she shares six tips for success.
#1: Facilitate clear communication
Effective international team management depends upon clear communication. Misunderstandings stemming from language barriers or cultural differences can impede productivity and potentially result in challenges that need resolution. Ways to ensure effective communication include:
- Detailed briefs and processes: We ensure that LIMEs receive precise and comprehensive written briefs and project instructions to streamline collaboration.
- Establish communication protocols: Set out clear expectations regarding communication procedures, including expected response times and preferred channels.
- Leverage technology: Use tools like video conferencing, chat platforms, and project management software to facilitate streamlined communication. Sometimes a face to face chat via Zoom is much quicker than a written message and irons out any potential misunderstanding.
#2: Embrace common platforms
Relying solely on email communication can be risky, especially when managing global teams. Project management systems streamline document organisation, communication, accounting, and data storage, preventing valuable information from being lost in the clutter of emails. At Oban, we use:
- A LIME portal, which serves as a central hub for essential resources and to which all LIMEs have access. It includes information on UK bank holidays and company closure days, crucial documents, a feedback mechanism, industry resources, a LIME community network, and videos that foster camaraderie among team members.
- A talent management system, which serves as a project management tool. All projects are set up and trafficked on this system from start to finish. All written LIME communication on a client project takes place on this system, with a full audit trail of everything that has been discussed, to minimise scope for misunderstandings. The platform is also used for invoicing.
- A central repository for insights. Using a shared document management system or collaboration tool with tagging and keyword features helps to organise insights based on geographic region, market trends, or other relevant criteria. Keep this up-to-date to ensure it remains a valuable resource for the whole team.
#3: Build team cohesion
Fostering a sense of camaraderie and unity among geographically dispersed team members can be challenging. Here’s how to cultivate team spirit:
- Recognition and appreciation: Regularly acknowledge and appreciate individual team members’ contributions, even a simple ‘thank you’ message goes a long way. At Oban, we often spotlight a ‘LIME of the Week’, to highlight noteworthy LIME contributions.
- Shared goals and values: Emphasise shared organisational objectives and values to create a sense of purpose that unites the team. Oban often features LIMEs in our marketing activity – for example, we have a regular ‘Meet the LIMEs’ video series on our social media, and LIMEs are regularly featured on our blog.
- Virtual team building activities: Organise virtual team building activities and social events to facilitate bonding among team members.
#4: Show cultural sensitivity and awareness
One of the cornerstones of international team management is cultural sensitivity and awareness. Understanding the values, beliefs, and communication styles of team members from diverse cultures is paramount. Here’s how to approach it:
- Self-education: Take time to understand the cultures represented on your team, including customs, traditions, and communication norms. For example, an understanding of the difference between high context and low context cultures or Hofstede’s theory of cultural dimensions can help.
- Promote inclusivity: Encourage an inclusive environment where all team members, regardless of their cultural background, feel valued. Encourage open discussions about cultural differences.
- Cross-cultural training: Consider providing cross-cultural training to team members to bridge cultural gaps and create better understanding.
#5: Be mindful of different time zones
Managing different time zones poses a challenge for international teams. Effective time zone management is essential to maintain productivity and collaboration:
- Flexible scheduling: Where possible, accommodate team members in different time zones by allowing flexible working hours, ensuring that everyone can participate in meetings and discussions.
- Shared calendars: Promote the use of shared calendars that display team members’ availability in their respective time zones to prevent scheduling conflicts.
- Regular check-ins: Conduct routine team meetings at times convenient for all members, periodically rotating meeting schedules to distribute the inconvenience of late or early sessions.
- Be aware of how different cultures perceive time: You might find Oban’s article on this subject useful to read.
#6: Establish clear expectations and goals
Clearly defined expectations and objectives form the bedrock of international team management. Ensure that each team member understands their role and responsibilities by adopting the following practices:
- Detailed job descriptions: Provide comprehensive job descriptions and performance expectations for every team member.
- Regular goal setting: Define clear short-term and long-term goals, regularly reviewing progress toward these objectives.
- Feedback and performance reviews: Conduct consistent performance reviews, offering constructive feedback to team members to aid their professional growth and skill development.
In summary, managing an international team is a layered but fulfilling task. By prioritising cultural sensitivity, effective communication, time zone management, clear expectations, and team building, you can effectively lead a team that transcends borders and consistently delivers exceptional results. Our LIMEs are kind enough to share feedback with us regularly – there are many testimonials we could conclude with, but here is a representative one from an Australian LIME called Alex:
“Oban is a dream to work with – the work is interesting, the briefs are always very clear, and the Oban team is extremely friendly, responsive and communicative, which makes working with them a stress-free experience.”
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To find out how Oban and its unique LIME network can help your business achieve international growth, please get in touch.
Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion.
Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.