Working with Global Teams
by Dean A. Lippold
Chances are high that in your career you will work on a global team. The team might be composed of people from different countries all working in the same office or it may be a dispersed team with its members spread out across several countries. A global team might involve you working in another country leading a team of local nationals.
These diverse teams can be of extreme value to the organization if harnessed effectively. Conversely, if ineffectively managed the teams may withdraw into themselves, providing little in the form of productive output and causing irreparable damage to the team and to the organization they are meant to serve.
When working with global teams, you must do more than you would in traditional team. The following points should be carefully considered in order to maximize the team’s success:
Communicate Effectively. Over communication may be important to ensure everyone gets the latest information, especially if teams are widely dispersed and time is short. But communicating in the wrong manner will derail a team and cause a loss of time in the end. Consider the following when sharing information with global teams:
- In what form does each individual embrace information most effectively?
- Typically a person from a low context country, such as the United States, Germany and Sweden, prefers to communicate in a direct, transactional fashion. Conversely, a person from a high context culture (ie: Far East, Middle East and South American countries) views relationship building as an important part of the communication process.
- Communication must increase in proportion to the diversity of the team and the distance the team members are from one another.
Appreciate the Values. It is important to understand not just what people do, but also why they find value in doing so. Understanding the value of the team’s customs and approaches will help you discover clues on how to effectively motivate the team, as well as help you establish respect with them.
Team Building. It is important that you encourage and sustain collaboration, especially in a team that is culturally diverse and/or dispersed. The team must not only work with you, but you will also need to ensure they are working effectively with each other.
Establishing Credibility and Respect. You will often be required to participate from a distance or in an environment where you have no previous history. To be effective over the long run, you must quickly build respect and credibility by going out of your way to help, learning from the team, and meeting in person during the initial stages of the team’s formation.
Spending time thinking about and adjusting your individual style to these points will help you become more effective when working with global teams. Often times, just demonstrating to the team that you are serious about these points will go a long way to helping you and the team be successful.
Mr. Lippold is currently Vice President of Research and Development at Dean Foods, Broomfield, Co. He has spent his career working for top companies within the food & beverage industry where he has been responsible for developing new products, packages and processes, cross-functional team leadership, and organizational development. He has held assignments in the U.S. as well as abroad, which have given him first-hand experience and appreciation of the challenges associated with leading multicultural and dispersed teams. Mr. Lippold graduated from Penn State in 1991 with a degree in chemical engineering.