There are many difficulties with managing a remote team. There are even more difficulties when you have an international team covering more than two time zones. Here are some ideas on how to engage your international team and keep them engaged.
The development of a team charter by the international team is critical in defining the team, the purpose, and the team responsibilities. Moreover, it should also answer the questions “What does being a member of this international team mean? What is required for strategic growth of the organization? Why is the success of this international team important to the organization?”
The charter should also outline the team norms, team values, team goals, decision making process, and each team member’s role and responsibility to the team as outlined in the previous link. By developing this charter as a team, you are able to build buy in, commitment, and accountability up front.
The development of the team charter alone should initiate engagement for the team, and now it’s your job to keep them engaged. Admittedly, this is easier said than done and frequently requires even more energy and focus to achieve.
As outlined in the post on Team Charters, it’s imperative that you, as the leader, show the team the discipline and consistency that is required to attain team success. In addition to running meetings, tracking actions, holding team members accountable and noting forward progress, it’s important to constantly address challenges as well.
Address the Challenges
For an international team, the difference in time zones are typically the first barrier. It can get very complicated to find a meeting time that doesn’t require someone to participate in the middle of their night, if you have more than one time zone. So it’s important to have the conversation as a team.
- Will team members work to be flexible and move other meetings so that the international team can meet without horrible working hours for other team members?
- Can the team block time on their calendars now so that other priorities won’t bleed in later?
- Will team members make it a priority to connect after they miss a meeting to ensure they are aware of what was discussed and agreed upon?
- Alternatively, will the team hold regional meetings more frequently followed by the international team bimonthly or quarterly?
There are numerous ways to address the challenge. Let the team determine what will work best.
An additional challenge may be other priorities and accountabilities of the team members. In other words, they have day jobs too. As the leader of the international team, what can you do to mitigate this challenge?
- Have realistic expectations and obtain commitment from the team members for the tasks assigned to them.
- Keep your team member’s supervisors informed of the work they are doing, and your appreciation for their efforts.
- Find ways to acknowledge your team members and their work on the team.
- Ask your team members how they think they should be held accountable to the team. It’s amazing what you find out, just by asking the team members themselves.
Lastly, your international team members may not understand clearly how their position on the team contributes to their own success. In many cases, these kind of teams are seen as an extra-curricular activity which isn’t measured against the goals of their day to day job. Make it as easy as possible for them. Include specific individual expectations of each member of the team and where and how their expertise is being utilized. Make sure you show how the success of the team is aligned to the goals and strategies of the organization. When you show the team how their actions and deliverables make a difference, they will be more committed to creating a successful outcome.
Tools and Resources
When working with an international team, tools and resources become even more important. How will you share and archive documents? What modes of communication will you use? We’ve gathered a few resources that we’ve found helpful:
For remote teams, it can be even more important to utilize video calls so that there is some face to face interaction. Of course, live, in person meetings are always the most productive. When you can’t do that thought, video is the next best thing. Check out these products to see what might work for you best:
Microsoft Teams has additional advantages in that your team chat rooms exist even outside of the meeting, so ongoing communication is captured.
In addition to face to face interactions, it’s also important to share documents in real time so you don’t have various versions floating from person to person. In order to do that, you need a place where you can store your documents and all team members can access. Check out these products to see what might work best for your team: