Not too long ago, the idea of a ‘global role’ was considered sexy. If you worked with global teams and juggled meetings across time zones, it was glamorous. Perhaps even powerful. But the truth is that it takes hard work, consistency, and genuine commitment to accelerate success in global teams. Here are my my top 5 tips:
1. It’s a relay, not a sprint
Years of working with globally, distributed teams and virtual bosses have taught me that team success starts in realizing that it’s never a solo sprint. In fact, it’s a relay. Sure, there are Fast Starters (in the beginning), Solid Sustainers (middle) and Great Finishers (and end). In reality, you have to play all these roles and much more. The finish line isn’t nearly as close as it seems. It takes much longer, needs great efficiency and stamina to cross that line and still emerge, unscathed.
It is a world of personal, contractual obligations where you pass the baton knowing that you have played your part (for now) and the discussion/product/work is ready for the next round of iteration. Communicating clearly and truly believing the ‘why’ of what you do can help you stay engaged.
2. Trust your comrade
Several years ago, I was unexpectedly asked to lead a key, internal client meeting because my leader was unwell. 15 minutes before the call, I received a metrics slide that I did not understand but was tasked to present, anyway. My team-mate and I are both non-native speakers of English. Add to this, last-minute anxiety and mild panic and it looked like we had a recipe for disaster….or maybe not.
I shared a 3-pronged approach on chat and reassured her that we were going to make this work. She knew exactly when to lead and when to listen. It turned out to be the most beautiful dance. But our success wasn’t an accident. It was the outcome of steady, concerted effort to build trust over time. Hosting a WebEx meeting, sharing my desktop, taking notes, thinking on my feet, coordinating with my team member and all at the same time wasn’t easy for me. Especially when technology was new. We had little or no time to discuss “strategy”. We placed implicit trust in each other. And that was enough.
3. Deepen Cultural Awareness
Cultural awareness is more than simply being respectful and inclusive. That’s basic human goodness and courtesy. It’s really about being curious. Especially if I’m presenting to diverse audiences: Which font colors are appropriate on the digital whiteboard? For example, red is great in China and blue works well in South Korea. How can I ensure that my gestures on the webcam complement (not confuse) with what I say? Which sporting analogies resonate best with my current group of clients? How can I be brave in sharing necessary but provocative examples? How can I handle them with sensitivity?
4. Beware of the danger of e-mail
I’ve learned to never underestimate the power of the written word. Especially after I click on “send”. Messages can easily be misinterpreted. People learn, write, and process information differently. Often, I work with team members who are non-native speakers of English, like myself. I’ve worked with a leader who was dyslexic and we relied more on spoken conversations than e-mail.
5. Care…truly, madly, and deeply
My last tip is about caring. Not just about your priorities or assignments. Not just about outcomes. But about the overall success of your entire team. Be wildly committed. Make a choice to include. Every one. And Every Thing. Not in a disingenuous way. Or to get ahead and promoted. Not at the cost of pulling a team-mate down. But to truly accelerate success and continue to play an integral part of building, strong global teams. Your personal success is at the very heart of that journey.
*This article was originally published by Anitha Aswath in April 2012 on WordPress. It has since been completely updated.*
Anitha Aswath is an HR Consultant and Strengths Coach of Leader Success in the Leadership and Team Intelligence Practice Area at Cisco. She has the unique privilege of meeting Cisco clients from all over the world to serve, teach, and enable the success of their teams.
THIS IS A PERSONAL BLOG AND VIEWS DON’T REPRESENT CISCO’S STRATEGIES OR OPINIONS.