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Develop Your Global Outlook

As the world continues to become more connected, global and virtual teams are becoming increasingly prevalent. According to a recent Economist report, 78% of us work or have recently worked in a global team.

And as more of us start to work in global teams, we start to run into unexpected problems.

Global teams can span multiple countries, cultures, languages, and time zones, which can bring lots of new opportunities and challenges to the table.

So what can you do to make sure that you’re taking advantage of those opportunities and avoiding those roadblocks?

In this lecture, I’ll share some tips to help you work effectively and happily with your colleagues–even when you’re an ocean apart.

Develop a Global Mindset

It’s important to be open and aware of the differences that can arise between different countries and cultures–even ones that speak the same language as you.

Being globally aware will help you build a stronger working relationship with colleagues who are from a different background than your own, which can then help you all be more successful.

It’s important to be open and aware of the differences that can arise between different countries and cultures–even ones that speak the same language as you.

Being globally aware will help you build a stronger working relationship with colleagues who are from a different background than your own, which can then help you all be more successful.

According to the Harvard Business Review, having a global mindset requires:

  • Intellectual capital: Global business savvy, cognitive complexity, cosmopolitan outlook
  • Psychological capital: Passion for diversity, quest for adventure, self-assurance
  • Social capital: Intercultural empathy, interpersonal impact, diplomacy

In simpler terms, you can foster a global mindset by actively looking for opportunities to spend time communicating with colleagues and trying to understand their cultural point-of-view.

These opportunities will help you develop and master the soft skills required to be an excellent global team player.

1. Be Thoughtful of Their In-Office Time

When you’re working in a global team, chances are you’re working with colleagues in different time zones than you. Most likely, they also observe different public holidays to you.

Be thoughtful of these differences and make sure you don’t impinge on your colleagues’ personal time.

Here are a few ways you can prevent yourself from disturbing your global teammates:

  • Most laptops have a World Clock widget that allows you to display multiple time zones concurrently. Set yours up in accordance with your colleague’s locations to ensure you don’t try to engage them at inconvenient times.
  • Use a team calendar to keep track of all the public holidays across the different team geographies, and send a reminder to your fellow team members the day before the public holiday.

Basecap Team Calendar layout

2. Minimise Cultural Nuances

Our day-to-day language is usually peppered with cultural idiomatic sayings and colloquialisms that can simply get lost in translation or create a communication break-down amongst global team members–even amongst people who are from different countries but speak the same language.

For example, if your U.S. colleague says they need a project completed “from soup to nuts,” you could be forgiven for thinking they are reading a menu rather than saying they want the project to be completed “from the beginning through to the end.”

Likewise, when your Irish colleagues talk about “having the craic” they aren’t suggesting anything illegal–they’re merely proposing having fun.

Be conscious of these sayings, and avoid them if possible. Instead, use language that is simple and cannot be misconstrued or misinterpreted.

Similarly, be aware of differences in units of measurement. If your colleagues use the imperial system while you use metric, try to include the conversion rate if possible i.e. 1 km = 1.6 miles.

These nuances, although small, can create further divide when not managed correctly.

3. Pay Attention to Small Details

Working with people from different cultural backgrounds usually means we’ll encounter first names and surnames that we may not have come across before.

So invest some time in learning how to correctly spell and pronounce the names of people you will be working with.

Paying attention to this small detail will help build your relationships with your teammates, bettering your whole team’s morale in the process.

If you’re not sure how to pronounce a name, don’t be afraid to ask the individual for the phonetic spelling. Chances are they’ll be delighted that you made the effort.

4. Make Virtual Meetings Visual

woman attending virtual meeting
Source Freepik

Much of people’s communication is non-verbal, so it’s important that, whenever possible, you try to make your virtual meetings more visual. Thankfully, nowadays, there are a myriad of tools at our disposal.

Global teams should insist on a visual video meeting wherever possible rather than just audio to help build up a team rapport and minimise miscommunications.

5. Recognise Success

Not everyone likes to be praised and rewarded in the same way. Some people prefer to be congratulated in private whereas others are more comfortable with the public accolades and attention and this may be further complicated by cultural norms.

So be aware of these differences and reward people accordingly. Don’t allow distance to be a barrier for saying “well done.”

6. Celebrate Culture

When people work together in the same geographic location, celebrating national holidays is par for the course. But in global and virtual teams, this becomes a lot more challenging.

It may sting a little when remote team members get copied in on emails about the office party or photos recanting the fun had. So try to build team spirit by acknowledging each other’s national holidays and attending remote parties to mark the occasion.

It also helps educate fellow team members about your traditions, culture, and holidays which can help with developing a global mindset, too.

7. Socialise Together

It’s often said that the team that plays together stays together. So, whenever possible join a group chat, run a Slack channel or hang out in Campfire.

In Summary

Being a part of a global workplace brings many benefits to those that decide on stirring their careers in this direction. The diversity and the variety of backgrounds of the members of online teams are just some of the things that make online work amazing.

However, they also mean that you need to change and grow in order to better fit into such environment. You need to respect other cultures and be careful not to impose yours.

You need to mind the time difference in communication and be ready to communicate as frequently as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should you use local slang or colloquial speech?

a. Yes. It’s fun and colourful and boosts the morale.

b. No. Not everyone understands it and that can alienate people.

2. Do you need a webcam for the meetings?

a. Whenever possible. It makes meetings more personal and resemble face-to-face meetings.

b. No. Talking is enough.

3. When should you call your colleagues?

a. During your office hours.

b. During their office hours.

c. It’s best when your office hours overlap.

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