The current global economy is at an exciting stage for cross-border work. Cross-border work projects are dependent on remote teams and remote communication for their success. While cross-border work can be confusing, frustrating, and time-consuming, it is also rewarding and exciting. The organizations and individuals who conquer it will dominate much of tomorrows world.
By Jappreet Sethi
Many, if not most, international or virtual cross-border teams are project teams: they exist to accomplish a particular purpose in a given period under the direction of project manager or leader. As a team leader, you need to remember that leading remote international teams requires creating new ways to work together. These tips will help you in deciphering the complex task of leading a remote international team successfully.
- The first step is to ensure that all team members are aware of cultural differences and prepared to try to understand and adapt.
- Successful cross – border team leaders have the knowledge to recognize cultural phenomena, the ability to observe and interpret subtle behavioral cues, and the skills to adapt their behavior to the needs and expectations of people from different cultures.
- There are often characteristics or work practices of other cultures that will have to change if the team is to reach its goals. A team leader needs patience and persistence to effect these changes.
- Leaders of international virtual teams must adapt the way they manage as well as the way they lead. Dividing the work up to minimize the need for collaboration and create a sense of local ownership is critical. Also key is providing multiple communication channels, translating complicated directions, using the visual explanation as much as possible, and using frequent progress checks and reviews to make sure all teams outcomes are on schedule, compatible with the shared goal, and done in a way that supports integration.
- Educating team sponsors and the team leaders supervisors on the challenges and skills of cross – border virtual work is often critical to the team leaders survival.
- Building relationships with the supervisors of foreign team members is a precursor to success in high- power – distance cultures.
- The members of all cultures value leaders who have a positive outlook and provide support and encouragement.
Much time and money have been spent identifying the characteristics of high-performance project teams and the leadership behaviors necessary to develop those features. Experts have identified these characteristics of high-performance project teams. These characteristics would seem to be equally predictive of high performance of project teams working across borders, and your goal should be to create or manage a cross-border team along these facets.
- A common purpose should be uniting the team, and each member should work hand in hand with other team members for achieving the project objectives.
- Individual talents and expertise is identified and recognized by the team members and used depending on the projects needs at any juncture. The team members readily and happily accept the influence and leadership of a team member whose skills are utmost necessary to complete the project milestone at any given point.
- The team roles are subtly balanced and shared to drive task accomplishment along with feelings of oneness while keeping the morale of the team members high.
- The team loathes interpersonal issues or competitive struggles; they focus their energy toward problem-solving rather than using the energy negatively for personal gain.
- The team encourages sharing differences in opinion freely without any fear of retaliation.
- The team treats mistakes as opportunities to learn rather than reasons for punishment, thereby encouraging risk taking and creativity.
- The team members out of their free will set high personal standards and positively encourage each other to complete the project successfully.
- The team members identify themselves with the team and see it as an important source of personal and professional growth.
As a remote team leader using these tips, you must find a way to convert a group of people on a conference call to a team of individuals committed to a common goal. That is never an easy task, but it is one that successful leaders have mastered.
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