Going Virtual inUncertain Times
With no end in sight for the outbreak of coronavirus, a number of a global companies have began to restrict business travel and many countries have asked citizens to work from home. For remote work productivity, as well as teaching online, you can already find a lot of good information and lists of tips. However, best practices for dealing with the travel restrictions seem to be much more scarce. For this reason we decided to publish our five key factors to keep in mind when working virtually in a cross-cultural environment. These factors are derived from our experienced, online facilitators and are primarily geared towards managing global virtual teams, but can also be applied to SMEs , meetings, negotiations, trainings and workshops.
What time would you like to start a meeting? Would you prefer 9AM, 7PM or as early as 4AM? In global virtual meetings you can have them all in one meeting.
It may sound obvious that time zones can play a significant role in global teams, but that’s also why it can be so easy to forget and simply think, “it’s just time difference, we’ll deal with it,” until all of a sudden you quickly set up a call for 9AM in Berlin, which just happens to be 7PM in Melbourne and 4AM in New York.
Time difference should be kept in mind with all communications. If possible, try to rotate calls; schedule in a way that is evenly spread and that it’s not always the same people suffering from awkward call times.
If team members are scattered all over the globe, the convenient window of time for a call might be very narrowand you may find yourself sending a lot of emails. Remember that even if you email someone first thing in the morning, the recipient might have just finished his or her workday and will not even see the message until the next day.
Can you really trust someone you’ve never met? How do you know they’re doing what they said they’d be doing if you never meet them in person? Building trust can be a challenge even in face to face encounters. A virtual environment and a mix of cultures both add an additional layer to that challenge. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Trust as a topic is complex enough to warrant its own workshop , but below you will find some of the most crucial factors to keep in mind when building trust in a global virtual team.
- Speak the truth clearly and appropriately
- Clarify and align intentions and expectations
- Keep your word and honour commitments
- Practice consistency between speech and action
Due to the time differences, you have an evening meeting scheduled. You join on time, just to find out that two out of five people have not yet joined. After a few minutes it turns out that the missing team members are having technical difficulties. After about 20 minutes of trying one of them finally manages to join. The other one will not be able to attend because of the security restrictions at their office.
You won’t find many virtual teams that have never had any technical problems. Nevertheless, you should do your best to minimize them.
It’s also a good idea to have someone specifically providing technical support if needed at the beginning of the meeting. This person should also have the phone numbers for each of the participants because if someone is unable to join, there needs to be an alternative way to contact them quickly.
Already by reading this far you may have noticed how different it is to lead a global virtual team than a co-located one.
When you manage a global virtual team, you need to be visible all the time. You need to reach out to people between meetings and make sure things are going as planned, there aren’t any unexpected problems and that people know what’s expected of them. You will have to invest much more time to this than you would in a co-located setting.
The cultural element enhancing the importance of this is that you also have to know how to approach this. In some cultures, the manager is expected to follow up closely. Inspecting the subordinates’ progress is seen as a sign that the manager has interest in what is being done and lack of inspection seems like they don’t really care. However, in other cultures constant follow-ups may seem like a sign of distrust. Therefore, you should know who you’re dealing with and approach the situation accordingly.
“It is important for a manager to have at hand precise answers to most of the questions that his subordinates may raise about their work.” Do you agree?
This statement is often used in demonstrating how the leadership preferences can vary quite a bit based on the culture. In many cultures managers are expected to focus on managing the people and make sure they have what they need in order to be effective. But in many other cultures a manager is expected to be an expert on the field he or she operates in.
We hope this guide has helped you. For further information & consultation contact us firstname.lastname@example.org
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