To succeed in leading an international team, use these specific skills

Management is an art, not a science, especially when you’re leading an international team. It’s also when one specific skillset becomes invaluable.

Management is an art, not a science, especially when you’re leading an international team. It’s also when one specific skillset becomes invaluable.

Managing one person can be hard enough, but as your team grows, so do the complexities. Managing a large international team across multiple time zones, with different social and business norms, presents new challenges. And with unforeseen pressures like COVID-19, it’s easy to see why many say managing people is an art, not a science.

How do you unite and motivate a diverse, international team at times like these? There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer, but I believe these insights will put you on the path to success.

1.   Use shared values to unite your team

There can be many obstacles and barriers that divide people. One of the best ways to overcome differences is to promote fundamental principles that can unite everyone.

A great place to start is sharing and defining the core values of your company – its vision, mission and promise. At Kaspersky, for example, we “bring on the future.” Each of our employees is empowered to embrace this forward-looking approach and know their work is building a safer world.

While building a team around a common purpose, a successful manager must also demonstrate strong ethics and zero tolerance for any kind of insensitivity. Motivate your people to acknowledge, accept and respect differences.

2.   Communicate informally to build trust

Building trust can be difficult and time-consuming. But once earned, it is priceless.

You can only earn emotional connection and trust within a team through constant inclusive conversation and mutual respect.

Informal communication is common in an office environment but becomes more challenging with a geographically separated team. Think about opportunities to initiate such conversations – for example, casual chats before video conferences start, where all participants can discuss recent news or life events. This lets your team get to know and understand their distant workmates.

3.   Be clear and precise when you share information

Strong and timely communication brings colleagues up-to-speed and lets them share experiences. It also helps you see opportunities and issues early.

Clarity is especially important when your team members have different first languages or are in different time zones. Promoting precision in communication means fewer misunderstandings to slow your team’s progress.

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Achieving clarity and precision is easier said than done. For some pointers, try MindTools’ guide to writing effective emails and Workzone’s 15 simple ways to improve team communications.

4.   Engage those on the ground in decision-making

Those who do the everyday work of your company know the ins and outs, especially what works in their region or country. They may also have a detached view of decisions coming from above.

Head office and senior management should always involve people on the frontline in their decision-making. Hearing multiple viewpoints can significantly improve business results. It also motivates team members to share ideas that benefit all and share responsibility for the outcome. They take processes to heart, which means more understanding, acceptance and better implementation of the decisions that have been made.

5.   Set goals, track performance and give help when needed

Planning is important. Interim targets help an international team understand and synchronize to achieve company-wide goals.

Managers should make sure everyone understands their performance indicators and how to reach them, but avoid micromanaging – give your team freedom to approach tasks in their own way.

Let people on the ground know you have their back. It’s a powerful way to unleash their potential and talent.

6.   Lead by example

Team members tend to align with their leaders. Setting an example is one of the best ways to implement good habits and unite people around them. If you want to encourage your staff to use a digital sales tool, you must use it. If you want everyone to respond promptly to emails, act in a timely way and be honest – show the way.

Successfully managing an international team means developing and using soft skills: Communication, listening and empathy. It’s getting your points across, but also listening, being flexible and showing your appreciation. Using these skills, you can turn the daily work routine into a day that employees are eager to engage in, and where they feel respected and valued. And in doing so, you and your business are also destined to succeed.

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