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Communication Tips for Leaders of Global and Remote Teams

TristamBrown_200Today's guest post is by Tris Brown, CEO of LSA Global. Download his white paper, "10 Simple Steps for Successful Virtual and Global Teams."



Managing teams across multiple time zones and cultures isn’t easy. If you get it wrong, you can be plagued by everything from high turnover rates to low profitability. Although sometimes CEOs decide to rein in remote teams, that’s not always an option. Managing remote and virtual teams is an issue that’s only going to grow in importance. Consider the following:

  • According to a Forrester report, 34 million Americans work from home; this
    number is expected to expand to 63 million (or 43 percent of the US workforce) by 2016.  (US Telecommuting Forecast)
  • A poll conducted by Cisco revealed that 29 percent of college students believe that the ability to “work remotely with a flexible schedule” will be a “right” once they enter the workforce. (Cisco Gen-Y Study: Mobile Devices Valued More Than Higher Salaries)
  • More than half of respondents in a global study said managing virtual teams will be a vital future competency, but only 36.5 percent believed their managers had mastered the necessary skills required to manage virtual teams effectively. (Developing Successful Global Leaders)

When global teams hit the headwinds, they must rely on trust and commitment to stick together. So how can you build trust and commitment across time zones? One of our global-team clients has put together a set of guiding principles on how team members will interact with each other. The client says this framework helps keep the team focused, as well as more mindful of other virtual-team members.

Here are some questions to distribute to your team members to get them thinking about how they’d like to work together.

  • What constitutes a timely reply to an email?
  • Do emails with certain subject lines get priority response times over others?
  • What is the definition of “the end of the day” for teams working in different time zones?
  • What are common expectations around any of the following: deadlines, next steps, and instructions for follow up?

Working collaboratively, team members can agree to some common (yet powerful) definitions around these very simple communication practices. They can also come up with templates to respond to their peers when they feel communication is starting to go off track.

Above all, this exercise gets the point across to your team that you don’t want anyone to get bogged down by vague, ill-timed, or incomplete communication. When all members know that they have a manager who supports improved communication, they’ll be more open to bringing issues to your attention – before they become a habitual problem.


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