How to best manage an international team

In today’s digital landscape, managing an international team seems easier said than done. Ric Shadforth, State Street's head of international marketing, and Scott Stockwell, Propolis’ Strategy and Evolution Ambassador, discuss the tips and tricks you need to know.

“There’s never a perfect time for everyone”

With over a decade of working internationally, Ric stresses the importance of being mindful of timezones. Although team meetings in Australia are generally later than their UK counterparts, try to avoid making this a constant, he states: “it does get annoying when meetings are always booked to suit the UK headquarters.”

“Try to take turns in who is joining a call at the ‘less than ideal’ time,” Scott agrees. Distribute your calls to get a wider range of employees who can join or simply have more of them - the latter requires more effort and doesn’t necessarily bring your team together at one time, Scott cautions.

Take full advantage of digital platforms

Ric cautions against email dependence when contacting your international team members. “There is nothing worse than waking up every day to +100 emails from HQ in your inbox,” he states. Make full use of other platforms instead, such as a Teams message or a quick phone call at the start/end of your day.

For Scott the key is to “work the ‘asynchronous’ working.” As he outlines, shared spaces should house work materials - those who can’t attend calls can still access documents and provide feedback. With apps like Loom, employees can leave recorded messages for their international peers which both explain any tricky sections and allow them to ‘see and hear’ each other. 

Virtual whiteboards such as Mural are handy when it comes to getting the team contributing ideas and comments across time zones. As Scott states, these also act as your pre-call homework: “a lot of the thinking has been done already and includes members who might not have been on the call.”

In a similar vein, virtual breakdown boards also prove useful in getting your team on the same page. For instance, Scott uses Trello boards as meeting agendas: “I make sure the team knows who owns which cards - it’s not me managing all the cards myself,” he explains. Other apps are also available.

Surmounting linguistic and cultural barriers

It goes without saying that language barriers make it harder to bring employees into team conversations. However, that’s not all. As Ric maintains, “be mindful of different cultures where it’s less socially acceptable to speak up or question superiors. In these cases you need to actively encourage and embrace their contribution.”

To remedy this, Scott recommends having 1:1’s with team members to find out what works for them. He opts for visual rather than oral responses in meetings, such as voting or emojis. As he outlines, this approach “minimises the more ‘forward’ cultures/speakers and makes sure everyone’s opinions are heard.”

Run ‘retros’ with your team, Scott continues, where you talk about “how the work was done - not what work we did.” Although giving rise to some ‘awkward’ moments, they act as a safety valve, “help[ing] team productivity and morale generally.”

Scott’s final piece of advice is clear: sharing is caring. Encourage your team to share personal perspectives from what life’s like where they are to different office cultures.

This conversation is an extract from a longer discussion in Propolis, B2B Marketing’s exclusive community for B2B marketers to share insights, learn from industry leading marketers, and access our best content.

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