Teamwork, one of the oldest buzzwords in business, is critical not only for the growth of a business, but also for achieving key objectives of a business. As a manager, you are an important cog in the wheel. To be able to achieve targets, it is necessary to have a team of skilled and driven individuals who work in harmony towards a single goal.
However, the problem arises when one has to handle a team operating in different geographies. Managing an overseas team can be challenging for even a seasoned manager.
The most common problems faced by geographically dispersed teams are cultural differences, lack of knowledge transfer, isolation and lack of communication. If not handled well, even the most specialised and well-trained teams can fall apart. To ensure that the overseas team works like a well-oiled machine, the manager needs the right tools and the right approach to accomplish his objectives. In this article, we will be sharing some thoughts on how to keep geographically dispersed teams in together.
1. Have A Roadmap Of The Team’s Goals
Teams often underperform due to lack of coordination. If team goals are not well defined or communicated clearly, it becomes difficult for the team to work as a unit. Thus, for a manager or a team leader handling an overseas team, it is essential to establish a concrete roadmap. Having a roadmap not only helps enhance productivity, but also ensures completion of targets within the stipulated timeline. The best way to define the team’s purpose and increase team efficiency is to create a team charter.
A team charter is a “roadmap” for your team. It ensures that all workers are aware of the objective from the start. You can use a team charter to state your team’s mission, clearly define everyone’s roles and responsibilities, identify key resources, and decide how the team operates. Most team charters set goals and objectives using the SMART framework (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound).
Team charters are also a great way to put things in focus for the team. For example, the challenges of working in different geographies may stress your team out, and members may lose their focus or end up working towards conflicting goals. In such a scenario, a team charter can help everyone get back on track.
2. Define Individual Roles Within The Team
For managers of geographically dispersed teams, it is a must to spell out individual roles within the team. Clearly defining individual roles as per proficiency and aptitude helps a team to perform better. Defining the responsibilities according to one’s skill sets also ensures that the task completed will be thorough and error free.
3. Planning & Communication
Behind every successful project lies great communication. However, this doesn’t mean having too many calls or Skype chats on a daily basis. Instead, it is important to communicate with the right teams at the right time. Sharing notes and regular feedback is a great way to enhance a team’s productivity.
A good manager communicates clearly about the targets or objectives in a transparent, clear and empathetic manner. The team leader must also have great communication skills to keep the team motivated and coordinated. For instance, a joint project between Indian and German teams could suffer due to language barriers and cultural differences. Inputs from a German team member may seem irrelevant to a team member in India, thereby leading to friction between the teams.
Introducing the two teams to each other over Skype, briefing them about the project together, facilitating regular team calls over Skype and creating a friendly atmosphere among the team members in both geographies are great ways to ensure the project’s progress, as it helps to familiarise the teams with each other and forge better bonds.
4. Invest In Project Management Tools
Project management tools and templates not only add to the team’s productivity, they also enhance the efficacy of the project. Using the right tools required for a project allows people to handle alterations that are inevitable to high-impact projects. A good CRM, the right LMS system or a reliable conference system are some of the key requirements for the effective functioning of overseas teams. Nimble, an excellent CRM tool, collates relevant prospects and customer information. It is best to present all the details in a clear and precise manner.
Project management tools ensure that the team performs well. They are also helpful in managing analytics and business intelligence. WorkMarshal, Trello, Wrike, Clarizen and Asana are some of the most popular project management tools that help bring teams together and ensure proper dissemination of information to all the teams.
5. Communicate Openly With Your Teams
Using good communication tools for teleconferencing is a good way to communicate with the team. Make sure you have a set of planners that help everyone know the way forward. This will enhance the team’s productivity. Additionally, creating an open line of communication between overseas team members fosters a positive work culture within the team. In order to boost team morale, it is important to have employees approach you with questions, for support or problem-solving. Also, it is essential for a manager to keep the door open for feedback, thus making sure that the teams’ concerns are taken seriously. This helps to build trust and boosts the morale of the team.
Team Colony (Email) is an excellent tool as it sends an email to all employees at the end of the day. It acts as a reminder where the team is expected to reply and update their day’s work. The whole thing is automatically converted into a daily report and emailed to the team leader. The subordinates are requested to use hashtags which eventually convert into an emoji, thus telling you how the members are feeling. An excellent feature, the app allows leaders to plan work accordingly. Another excellent tool to get honest, anonymous feedback from the team is 3sixty. It allows the manager to add objectives to the profile, so there is continuous feedback from employees on whether the goals are being achieved or not.
6. Make Work More Fun
Team happiness not only spurs productivity, but it also makes the work environment a happy place. For managers, who are handling overseas teams, it is important to make work more fun. It has been observed that workplace happiness impacts productivity the most. One way of doing this is by acknowledging the good work of your team members. This can simply be done by taking all the members on a con-call and congratulating them for their efforts. Appreciation always ensures that the team works harder, stays longer, and contributes their best.
Depending on the budget, you may want to get your team together once a year or more for dinners and team-building activities. If budgets are tight, you could set up an intranet team page with photographs of team members. The page can be used as a forum for suggestions, or exchange of ideas. Build a virtual team room where team members from different locations can engage in friendly conversations and catch up during breaks.
7. Give Feedback & Rewards
For the manager of a geographically dispersed team, it’s important to maintain the team’s morale, and feedback and rewards go a long way in achieving that. Schedule regular telephonic calls, or video calls to share feedback with your team. Make sure you are fair and consistent while providing feedback to overseas teams. Also, ensure that your team is equally rewarded so that they do not feel demotivated or isolated.