When you work in a truly global organization, it’s only a matter of time before you will work on a global team. I mean a team spread across a variety of time zones representing multiple countries, ethnicities, religions, languages and cultures.
I spoke with the leader of a global team recently who was struggling because they are spread across the UK, the US and China. To get everyone on a single call/meeting, someone had to be online at 5:30 a.m. and someone else had to still be working at 9 p.m. This is the reality of a truly global team. It’s really inconvenient at times.
Yet the insights which can be unlocked, and the learnings which can be gained from one another are unmatched. The challenge is figuring out how to work through all of the obstacles.
When you lead a global team, ensure you apply strategies of inclusion to bring out the best in everyone on your team. If you are a team member, recommend or suggest these alternatives if needed.
Find a Common Vocabulary
Everyone naturally relies on the interaction style and the language typical to the region where they live.
Find a way to bring a common vocabulary to your team to bridge the differences. This can be accomplished through a shared experience. For example, go to or through training together (in person or online). Or read the same book. This works best with leadership training (e.g., effective teaming topics, trust, or change leadership).
Then you can interact with one another using the vocabulary with which all are now familiar. You each know what the other means when they say things like “I’m going to talk straight” (from Speed of Trust) or “This is an example of see/feel/change” from (Leading Change).
Rotate – Including You as the Leader
There is not always one person who is up and on a call at 5:30 a.m. If someone is inconvenienced for a call or a meeting, rotate. This tells the team no one team member is more important than another.
Bookmark the site World Time Zones and use it frequently. Don’t schedule meetings based on when you see an opening in your own calendar. Consider who else should be invited and calculate the time zone difference for all parties.
In addition, learn when the public and religious holidays are on the calendar in the countries where your employees reside. Actively avoid scheduling meetings on those dates. It matters … a lot.
Leverage Technology … to a Point
So much technology is in place now that it can and should be used to help break down many of the barriers to working virtually. Don’t let it intimidate you.
At the same time, don’t over-use it. Remember those time zone differences. Just because it is your work day, don’t assume someone else should be online the same time you are.
Seek Feedback Frequently
This may or may not be comfortable for you, so you may need to establish a new habit. Some cultures are more comfortable providing feedback than others. As the leader, you need to make it clear to your team that you are serious about seeking input and feedback from your team members.
When they provide it, you do not have to automatically do what they say. However, you should explain why you didn’t if you go down a different path. Otherwise, you will likely not receive it again.
Nothing replaces the importance and the value of time together in person. But when you work on a global team, that face time may be VERY rare and it’s always very expensive. Maximize your team’s interactions in the meanwhile using these strategies to ensure everyone’s contributions are included to drive performance.