Alignment is essential to the creation of effective, high-functioning global teams. When colleagues are spread across cultures and time zones, it’s important to meld individual team member’s personalities, demographics, cultural expectations, and communication styles to build a strong team that works together to help reach company goals.
As a starting point, we’ve listed ten questions you should be asking to ensure global team alignment. Based on our Global Team Effectiveness Model, these questions are proven to be critical in achieving maximum performance, despite limits imposed by culture and geography.
The likelihood of global team members’ roles and responsibilities overlapping is often high, potentially leading to confusion over who should do what. To help reach clarity, ask all team members to define their jobs, activities they carry out, and any results they may be responsible for. Ask colleagues if they agree or have a different perception. It may become apparent that there are disconnects, indicating that team members’ roles need to be redefined for the benefit of the team.
Ensuring that goals are aligned and explicitly understood helps the teamwork toward business objectives. Work together to create team goals and ensure that they are visible for the entire team and discussed during meetings.
Trust is challenging to achieve and maintain in a global team but is a key ingredient in reaching alignment. Trust can take time to develop and happens when colleagues establish credibility by showing their abilities and competencies. Provide team members the opportunity to engage in tasks that demonstrate their skills, and introduce team members to each other by highlighting past experiences.
Meeting facilitators must understand the cultures and individual personalities of global team members. Promoting balanced participation during meetings by using a range of techniques can help draw quieter or junior-level participants into dialogue. For example, a colleague from India may be more indirect than a team member from the U.S. and, therefore, have a more difficult time openly sharing personal ideas during meetings. Ask team members what type of meeting style they prefer. Successful globally-dispersed teams create their own “third culture”, which is a hybrid of the team members’ contributions and styles.
When receiving critical feedback, assume good intentions from the start. When giving constructive feedback, be mindful of cultural expressions of conflict. Train as a team in how to give and receive feedback to one another constructively, taking into account varying cultural backgrounds and personalities.
It’s important to note potential technology proficiency challenges of your team and to ensure no one is at a disadvantage. Conduct a needs assessment to determine what technologies are available and appropriate. Recognize your team’s time zones and work together to schedule and coordinate meetings in a way that maximizes everyone’s availability.
Communicate at the onset team goals and individual responsibilities. In order to strengthen commitment, involve all team members in creating a process for effectively translating team goals into tasks and deadlines.
Cultural and language differences within a global team can potentially lead to misconceptions and miscommunication. Take, for example, a global team that includes Germans and Japanese. Germans tend to provide more direct, unfiltered feedback, whereas the reverse is typical in the case of Japanese. Making note of these differences can help the team anticipate and resolve challenges. It’s important to have an open mind and a non-judgmental attitude toward others’ ways of thinking and communication styles.
Cross-border teams have great potential for rich creativity and innovation that exceeds purely domestic teams. Leveraging the diverse backgrounds and skills of global team members and trying new perspectives presented by people from varying cultures can increase team effectiveness and provide more productive solutions to solving problems. Attention must be paid to drawing out the meaning of the speaker and exploring new ideas and communication patterns.
Ensure that goals are agreed upon at the onset of team development. Enabling and motivating the team to reach performance objectives by maintaining positive personal relationships is important. Establish effective intercultural communication practices and find common ground among team members to help foster personal relationships.
Global team leads will benefit from being mindful of the key areas represented in the Global Team Effectiveness Model and their team’s responses to the questions posed above.
Learn more about the Global Team Assessment, a popular tool among our clients for analyzing team strengths, weaknesses, and priorities.