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Top tips for managing a global team through the pandemic
It has been often said in recent months that the Covid-19 pandemic is a global problem which requires local solutions. But what do you do as a leader if your remit is global – and therefore local solutions can mean very different things? Managing a global team has always brought challenges of this nature, but in the times of change and enforced restriction it has thrown up new obstacles for those leading from the front. Although advancements in technology has removed the obstacles caused by great distances and different time zones, whilst enabling teams to stay connected, an agile approach is required when managing global teams through this period.
To get some fresh perspectives on how these challenges can be overcome, we spoke to global leaders within our business for their take. This is what they said:
Revise the plan
Things have changed, so it is time to adjust the existing plan. Focus on short-term outcomes and set clear objectives from the outset so the team knows what to strive for. As a business, know what is relevant for your customers and act to support that. Do not stop there – map out an interim plan that allows your team to flourish and deliver the company’s objectives under the current enforced government conditions.
In other words, you need to face the challenges head-on. Andrew Millard, UK Marketing Director, Michael Page comments: “One of the biggest challenges when managing a global team through a pandemic is keeping the pace and momentum going. Maintaining that sense of purpose and alignment while making sure that silos don’t creep in.”
Be mindful of resources. Someone in your team might have been furloughed, or domestic restrictions might affect another member of your team. Find out which countries have schools and non-essential shops closed, travel restrictions and curfews in place, and which members of your team will be most affected by these changes? Such measures can impact the day-to-day productivity of your team, so check in and get clarity on everyone’s individual situation. Be aware of the cultural barriers, e.g. languages too.
Focus on team wellbeing
While working remotely, the work life balance of your team could be severely disrupted, so ensure that they do not burn out doing overlong hours. It is widely recognised that there is a link between job insecurities and employees over-compensating with their working hours, so identify those that may be at higher risk due to facilities, space or family responsibilities. Workplace disruption can take time to get used to and conditions during lockdown can be a strain on mental wellbeing and create unwanted additional stresses. Show empathy and let your team be flexible rather than micro-manage, and increase the frequency of catch ups with them.
Give people space and room to be successful, and be transparent with your communication
Lead the line with clear communication
Now more than ever your communication needs to be clear. Unclear communication muddiess the waters, so be prepared to have answers for unexpected situations. Learn how to communicate with your global team in a way that suits everyone. But be aware of different locales and cultures as well as times zones. These three considerations alone can play a big part in how your message is received.
On this subject, Andrew advises: “Set the tone and what your expectations are, whether KPI based, sales, leads, but provide people with the opportunity to develop their approach.”
Leaders should be visible when addressing their global team. They also need to listen well, so that they can more quickly understand the issues that may be stopping a team member hitting their targets. Andrew adds: “Leaders shouldn’t be overly concerned about how their team get to their outcomes. A flexible approach is required, so let teams choose how to make it work. Give people space and room to be successful and be transparent with your communication.”
Collaboration should be instilled in people, not enforced.
Have the right hardware and software in place
For teams to work effectively, they need to have access to the correct hardware and software. There needs to be a uniformed approach, so any differences in IT capabilities must be addressed from the beginning. The team needs to be working with the same platforms, with the same tools. Everyone should be in sync with their calendars and schedules, because effective project management will require that all teams are working from the same programmes and seeing everything in real time.
Understand the various working styles of your global team. This is especially important during the pandemic, and if managed correctly can really be an effective way to drive productivity. Encourage the team to collaborate and work in ways that suits them. Andrew explains: “Collaboration should be instilled in people, not enforced. Encourage staff to problem solve and dig into any existing issues.” This is a good point because existing issues can block the progression of the project and lead to discord. He added: “Identify the pressure points and understand when and how to communicate your message so that you don't go overboard.”
Remember, during lockdown, your team will not be able to pop across to a colleague’s desk to discuss a matter, so let them choose their preferred communication method to collaborate with each other. Overall, try not to over-communicate your message and be clear of what the outcomes you are looking to drive.
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