Collaborating with people from different countries can be both successful and fun at the same time. More importantly, international teams can truly perform at a high level if they keep a few crucial tips in mind. The following guide will teach team leaders and members some important ground rules. How does your team fare when it comes to these factors? Let us know!
TIP 1: SOCIAL FIRST!
For successful international team collaboration, your employees should be enthusiastic, capable of working in a team, open to other cultures and tolerant of different approaches! I personally would pay more attention to soft skills than hard ones when setting up the team. After all, your team will only bring their expertise to fruition if they communicate with as few problems as possible.
When it comes to team composition, the following applies: the more diverse, the better – i.e., bring as many different cultures together as possible. This will ensure that heavily represented countries don’t form their own subgroups and thus exclude others.
TIP 2: DISRUPTIONS BELONG ON THE TABLE, NOT UNDER THE RUG!
Watch out for disruptions and/or discrepancies within the team! Don’t ignore them! Are deadlines not being met? Are mutually agreed-upon procedures being disregarded? Are two colleagues angry at each other? Very few conflicts get resolved on their own – they usually grow. So intervene, and do it quickly!
TIP 3: LANGUAGE IS KEY!
Effective communication can only be successful if all the team members speak at least good English. This may sound trite, but it’s not always the case in reality. If certain members of your team can’t properly express information and socialize, this will have a seriously negative effect on communication, efficiency and the cohesiveness of the team.
Of course, speaking English fluently can be learned, but you should be aware that this is a top priority. Until this goal is achieved, written summaries – for people whose language skills could be improved – will be an important factor for working productively.
TIP 4: MAKE IT PERSONAL!
In a lot of cultures, effective work can only be done through personal relationships with colleagues. For this to be possible, language skills are essential, as are time and opportunities for personal conversations. Besides, time invested in the maintenance of relationships pays off with interest – through increased engagement within the team.
TIP 5: FIND OUT YOUR TEAM’S EXPECTATIONS!
What are the team leader’s expectations? What do the team members expect from their manager? What do the colleagues expect from each other? To find a common foundation for collaboration, the topic of expectations should be given a lot of attention! But please discuss this at a time when you’re not rushed.
Best practices from our customers: New employees should fill out a questionnaire when they’re hired! This could show you how they like to receive feedback, what’s important to them and what means of communication should be prioritized for them [email, telephone, chat, etc.]. Write this information down and make it accessible to all the team members as a kind of “user manual”.
TIP 6: KICK IT/OFF LIKE BECKHAM!
Put a lot of thought and effort into your kickoff! You’d be best off getting external support – for instance, from a dedicated team coach who’s well acquainted with different cultures. In general, it’s very important to meet as a team face-to-face at least once per year – to foster personal relationships. This is essential for new teams when they’re just starting out, not only to build relationships, but also…
TIP 7: …TO CLARIFY GOALS, ROLES AND TASK ALLOCATION
Everything that’s not defined will almost inevitably lead to inefficiency and confusion during collaboration. So, clarify as many things as possible, and clear them up unambiguously!
In the process, it’s also important that…
- …project goals and tasks are formulated simply and in writing; this will ensure everyone’s mutual understanding.
- …project progress is constantly and transparently available for all team members to see; your employees always have to be aware to what degree goals are being achieved.
TIP 8: COMMUNICATE REGULARLY
Whether during jours fixes, weeklies, dailies, virtual coffee breaks or agile stand-ups, all communication is good communication. In the process, talk about personal topics as well, and don’t forget written summaries [for team members who don’t speak perfect English]! If the team is spread across different locations, regular communication is all the more important. In this case, the colleagues should talk on the phone every day!
TIP 9: AGREE – AS A TEAM – ON HOW TO HANDLE TIME!
How far in advance should telephone calls be arranged? Should meetings always be aligned with the time zone of the majority? [Hot tip: NO!] How long can a team member take to respond? How punctual is punctual?
Best practices from our customers: The following online tool will make it significantly easier for you to plan meetings across multiple time zones: https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/meeting.html.
TIP 10: EMPHASIZE COMMONALITIES!
Focus on what unites you! Diversity in teams is fantastic, but different approaches are also a challenge. We recommend emphasizing commonalities/common goals as often as possible.
Apart from that, you should utilize your team members’ strengths! Are your German team members the most punctual? Then they should be the ones to make sure the schedule is adhered to. Maybe you could put your detail-oriented Japanese team members in charge of quality control, while your agile Americans would be suited to any position focused on moving the project forward. The more employees can play off their strengths, the more satisfied they’ll be and the more the team will consequently benefit.
TIP 11: INCREASE YOUR TEAM’S CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE
Stay mindful of cultural differences! Your employees will contribute a variety of values, expectations and approaches to your team. In the process, it’s particularly important to create a common/unique team culture that all the team members identify with. Since this rarely occurs without any friction, this process should be [externally] moderated as early as possible. On top of that, all the participants should know how to deal with cultural differences in the team’s internal communication.
WE CAN SUPPORT YOU ON YOUR PATH TO BECOMING A HIGH-PERFORMING TEAM!
With more than 200 experts active all over the world, we can support your teams in a number of ways – whether it’s moderating your kickoff event, holding team-building workshops, conducting cultural intelligence trainings, developing a common team culture, etc. We’re looking forward to tackling your challenges together!
You can learn more about practical strategies for VIRTUAL international teams in this article.