I was reading through a couple chapters in Managing Cultural Differences, a couple review, but also some skipping around due to interest. I stumbled on a section in one of the later chapters, exploring virtual teams from a global standpoint. My interest immediately was peaked given the current circumstances we all face and the reality that globally diverse teams is the norm. Before diving into the text and sharing a couple points that I found useful and interesting, I thought I would give a little background on why this caught my attention.
At moment, most of us are stuck at home and furthermore, some are having to explore a new work life of doing everything remotely. This is not a huge change for me, my position has always been home based but with lots of travel. With business impacted, my company made the choice early that we should catch up on internal training and projects that was outstanding. This is where things have gotten interesting, I have personally participated on more global based teams formed for these projects then I can remember. Interesting timing, a lot of the concepts that we have covered in this course have been on my mind as I engage with these teams.
One of the very first challenges I recognized had more to do with the leadership rather than the diverse individuals on the team. One of the first teams I was put on, and still working with, has had very poor leadership. There are two directors from different country’s trying to lead a rather complex initiative. I found an older article from 2010 on Forbes that list the following points that global leaders need: (Staff, 2010)
- You must lead differently
- You must arrive at decisions differently
- You must build trust differently
- You must communicate differently.
I bring up these points because this article was written ten years ago now on Forbes. Today these are still very valuable and even 10 years later are still a challenge to achieve. The very first point is fundamental, leading a global, virtual team means that you can’t approach like you would your local teams. Not only are you dealing with the challenges that virtual teams bring, you are working with individuals that have different values, behaviors, and approaches to business. If we walk away from this course with anything, we should have a grasp that different cultures approach business differently.
Bring this back around to the section I read that was specifically exploring the virtual team aspect I found following very helpful: (Moran, Abramson, & Moran, 2014)
- It is hard to follow what is happening during a virtual meeting.
- People don’t get feedback when working over a distance
- People forget who is attending the meeting
- It is harder to build a team when we are not face-to-face
- It is tough to sort out email communications
- It is harder to reach agreement over a distance
- Small empathetic gestures go a long way with those who usually suffer the most with time-zone differences.
A bunch of these probably seem like common sense but I can attest to a couple of these that happened is the recent past. I specifically remember one, two-hour virtual meeting, with members from three countries that I attended. We took the time to do introductions and explain our roles in the beginning. About fifty minutes in, two members started to talk about how they need to pull me in, and it would have been really helpful if I was invited to this call… Worse, I had done a bunch of talking before this point. I only bring this up, not to fault them, but these are the challenges that we face with the global world we live in. Worse, almost all business is being conducted remotely at the moment which as just magnified these challenges.
Moran, R. T., Abramson, N. R., & Moran, S. V. (2014). Managing Cultural Differences Ninth Edistion. Oxford: Routledge.
Staff, F. (2010, August 19). The Four Keys To Success With Virtual Teams. Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/2010/08/19/virtual-teams-meetings-leadership-managing-cooperation.html#4b2a12e530cc