Global market expansion usually means working with teams in the new countries. These international teams are integral to the success of your projects and your company, and team leaders need to adjust how they manage their people in order to meet their goals.
1. Choose a corporate language. Most companies agree to conduct business meetings in English, if there are teams collaborating from multiple countries. While team members may not be fluent in English, chances are that everyone will know enough to get by. However, because English is not everyone's native tongue, when teams are on conference calls, the native English speakers need to speak slowly and clearly so that the international teams have a greater chance of following along and understanding what is said.
2. Be sensitive to cultural differences. In some cultures, it is impolite to disagree in public, or to jump into a conversation without being recognized first, or to present ideas that are not fully thought through. If you are leading the meeting, make sure you ask for input from your quieter team members. Explain offline to your international teams what you expect during meetings. Do you do a lot of brainstorming? Do you want ideas to be challenged in the moment? Set guidelines for in-meeting behavior that everyone understands.
3. Expanding on the cultural differences issue, consider bringing in a cultural awareness coach to talk to your teams about the difference in cultural norms between countries, and other business etiquette issues that you and your teams may not be aware of. Undergoing some training in these areas can really boost camaraderie among globally dispersed teams and improve productivity as people gain an understanding of how others work and communicate.
3. If at all possible, send out an agenda the day before your meetings so that whichever time-zone your team members are in, they will have adequate time to prepare. For standing meetings, follow the same format from meeting to meeting so that everyone knows what to expect. In some cultures, employees need to confer with their local management before jumping on a conference call with their global team. Give them the time they need to be prepared.
4. Reiterate what is said on the call. Summarize others thoughts and check that you and the group understood properly. Send out a list of action items after the meeting, and recap conclusions that were reached. Invite participants to ask clarifying questions and to tell you if they didn't understand what was said. Work to create a culture where it's okay to ask someone to rephrase or re-explain their thought.
5. Spend some time at the beginning of each call connecting team members on a more personal level. Give team members a chance to talk about what they did over the weekend, or what they're planning to do. Ask about an upcoming holiday celebration. Even the weather will do in a pinch. If you can re-create a water cooler feeling for a couple of minutes, it will help your team bond.
6. Establish how team members prefer to communicate when not on a call. Tools like Slack can be extremely useful for keeping everyone up to date, but they can also resemble a fire hose. Gain agreement on what should be emailed, how fast you expect team members to respond to email, what should happen in online forums, and appropriate hours for phone calls.
The more aware you are of cultural differences, the more social norms you create that cross country and cultural boundaries, and the more you work to connect team members on a personal level, the more productive your global team will be.