Remote CEOs: How to Manage a Global Team For Better Productivity
The pandemic brought about a huge upsurge in remote work and remote communications technology. And it’s brought a lot of opportunity with it. CEOs are no longer restricted to a workforce within commuting distance of their offices. Instead, they can pick the very best talent from around the world, and work with these people no matter where they are.
However, managing a global team does have some issues. From cultural differences to communication problems, it’s not always easy to keep things on track.
So, to help you out, here’s our guide to managing remote, global teams for better productivity.
Use the same platforms
Clear, coherent communication is essential in any team project. But it’s even more crucial when your team is largely remote. With people spread across countries and time zones, there is more potential than usual for messaging to fall through the cracks or (sometimes literally!) lost in translation.
So, it’s important that your communications systems are optimized for total clarity.
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The single most important thing you can do to ensure this is to make sure that you’re all using the same platforms and tools.
There are hundreds of remote working platforms and tools out there. Everyone has their favorite. But, for truly effective collaboration, you need everyone to be using the same ones. Otherwise, you risk a lot of confusion as people try and flip between (for example) Google and Apple calendars, or OneDrive and Dropbox.
So, pick a set of tools and platforms, make sure everyone knows how to use them and stick with them!
Scheduling communications can be a problem with remote, global teams. This isn’t just because it’s hard to find a time that works for everyone when you’re scattered across timezones. It’s also because many people who work remotely choose to do so because they like being left alone to quietly get on with their work.
You may find that you need to do a lot of coaxing and cajoling to get even the bare minimum of communication – let alone to increase those communications!
However, it really is worth scheduling regular communications. Even a weekly ten-minute team catch-up makes all the difference.
Why? Well, mostly because projects live or die on the quality of their communications. But there’s more to it than that.
Regular meetings can be very grounding. They are an opportunity to strengthen your team bond and dynamic. They keep you connected and remind you who the person behind the email signature is. This is very important, as we’ll get to it in a moment.
That being said, do consider the kind of communication that is necessary for each purpose. Sure, video meetings are great for team building – but do you really need to call a meeting to make a couple of simple task requests?
Scheduling a video meeting that could have been an email (or even a Slack message) could be perceived as a frustrating waste of everyone’s time. So, be sure to tailor the type of communication to its aim.
When you’re all flung far and wide across the world, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that everyone on your team is a human.
When you regularly see your team members in person, you’re constantly reminded of their humanity in numerous small ways. You hear them laugh, pick up on their moods, see their mannerisms, listen to them do things like hum or tap their pen as they work. Small things – but very humanizing.
We’re not saying that you don’t get any of this humanizing stuff through remote communications. Video chat in particular is great for getting to know your team members on that essential human level. But you’re not immersed in their humanity in the same way that you are in an in-person working environment.
LuxuryRehabs.com is one business helping leaders and executives find treatment and rehabilitation for a variety of mental health conditions. Olivia Marcellino, VP of Research explains that “It’s common for CEOs to be portrayed as energetic, in control, and collected. But executives and people in high-level positions face demanding challenges and workplace-related stress that can take a toll on their mental health. With so much going on, you may not notice signs of addiction or addictive behavior until it negatively impacts your career or life at home.”
The same can be said for your team. So, when things come up, if you aren’t someone who experiences negative mental health, it can sometimes be hard to have the necessary compassion. If a team member has a family emergency, or falls ill, or is struggling with their workload, or has to take time out for rehabilitation, this can feel more like a frustrating glitch in the system than a situation that deserves sympathy, compassion, and flexibility.
To combat this frustration, it is vital never to lose sight of the fact that your remote team are all people, with complex lives and needs.
How can you do this? Well, it may help to set aside to get to know your team members on a personal level. You don’t have to plan entire team building exercises for this (although you can if you want!) – something as simple as maintaining a friendly tone, asking team members how they are at the start of messages, and thanking them for their hard work will work wonders.
You may find that it helps to build extra flexibility into your system. That way, people can take time off for unexpected emergencies at short notice without damaging your workflows. This will remove the element of frustration for you, and help you to treat these events with the compassion that they deserve.
Be sensitive to cultural differences
On a related note, it’s important to be aware of cultural differences with global teams. For example, religious or cultural festivals may mean that certain team members need certain days off.
Similarly, people from some cultures communicate in ways that come off as blunt or even rude to people from other cultures. For example, Dutch people are typically very direct and to the point, while British people add a lot of polite qualifiers to their language.
So, when asking for something to be done, a Dutch person would say “This task needs to be done today” while a British person would say “Please could you complete this task by the end of the day?” Both have exactly the same feeling and intention behind them, but there are significant cultural differences in the phrasing which could cause upset and confusion. A British person receiving the Dutch communication may feel like they are being very peremptorily ordered about, while a Dutch person receiving the British communication may feel that the task isn’t that important and doesn’t need prioritizing.
All in all, it’s important to be sensitive to this kind of thing.
Have a good project management system
It’s very tempting to get through projects on the back of one good meeting and a decent brief. But we strongly urge you to put a project management system in place.
A project management system keeps everything on track. It ensures that everyone knows what they are responsible for, when tasks are due, what the project’s overall goals are, who they report to, how to raise issues, and more.
They also help you to organize important project documents and make them easily accessible to those who need them.
A project management system doesn’t have to be complicated. For a small team and a small project, something as simple as a shared Google Calendar with task dates and deadlines could be enough. However, there are plenty of more sophisticated options for more complicated projects. Platforms like Trello and Asana let you create detailed, highly organized workflows that help everyone on your team to work at their best.
Building the best team the world can offer
There’s a lot of great talent out there. And, with remote technology, there is no longer any need to entice that talent to your location. You can work with the best talent the world has to offer, and none of your team members will ever have to commute.
However, managing a global remote team has some challenges. By following the advice in this article, you can keep your remote team happy and productive, without anything getting lost in translation.