How to manage your global team

Elizabeth Jenkins-Smalley

Elizabeth Jenkins-Smalley

Editor In Chief at The Executive Magazine

Top business leaders share their tips with The Executive Magazine on how to manage a multi-national organisation more effectively.

It’s not uncommon for organisations to have multiple sites across the globe, but in any case it can be difficult to manage different people, who speak different languages, in different time zones and often with different cultures. We spoke to some of the top business leaders to see how they manage, and thrive in the demanding global market.

Addressing the working culture differences

Jennifer Watkiss, head of marketing communications, Adestra

I manage the US and UK teams, and the main cultural difference I have noticed in the work place is the way we manage each other expectations. In the UK a much more careful and considered approach is taken when it comes to asking a colleague to do something, we often feel obligated to take that as a last resort, whereas in the US it’s much more acceptable to ask with a expectation of a ‘no’. This becomes tricky when someone in the States asks for help from a UK colleague with a task, and it perhaps could be tackled a different way. The UK colleague finds it difficult or feels worried to say ‘no’.

Georgiana Verdonk Sim, VP, The B2B Marketing Lab, Asia

In many Asian countries it’s more culturally acceptable promote a worker based on their age, often over skills or experience. It’s a mark of respect to the elders, but difficulties arise when someone much younger comes along that is far more advanced in their skill sets and experience. I am a firm believer that once someone has been given the chance to prove themselves they can overcome these barriers, even if it does upset a few people.

Sarah Donnelly, strategic marketing director, Atkins

In the UK people are much more proactive when it comes to pitching their ideas and thoughts to senior management, without fear of being knocked back or rejected. Conversely, in our Asia offices it is unheard of for a college to report to anyone other than their direct line manager, and will only offer their opinions when directly asked. It’s important to recognise these cultural difference, and that people need to be managed differently.

Utilising technology

Guillaume Roques, VP marketing EMEA, Salesforce 

I’m a big believer in using modern technology to help manage your global team, especially when it comes to communication. I use a social networking application to keep in touch with my team in a more informal way, and a collaboration tool to automate workflow across departments, teams and even countries.

Rob Gorby, VP SMB Business, SDL Managed Translation

I use Skype to keep in touch with my team. It’s a great tool for arranging face-to-face meetings, as well as conference calls. Some difficulties can arise when conferencing with lots of different people with lots of different accents, so it’s important to all speak slowly and clearly. It’s also a great idea to have an agenda set out prior to the call, so that everyone know’s what needs to be discussed.

Global leadership challenges

Stephanie Robotham, VP of corporate marketing, Optimizely

Dealing with different time zones is definitely the biggest challenge for me, especially when it comes to time sensitive deadlinese, or any unexpected marketing emergencies. My advice is to have a contingency in place for any scenario imaginable, and having clear directives on what should happen in any conceivable event.

Consistent branding is also a constant challenge, and I have to ensure that the message and tone of our marketing campaigns are right for each market. Different countries respond in different ways, so I always have to be mindful of that.

Jennifer Watkiss, head of marketing communications, Adestra

Jet lag is one of my biggest problems when it comes to managing my global marketing team. I have found the best way to manage it, especially with long haul flights, is to avoid alcohol all together, drink plenty of water and try to stick to your regular sleeping pattern. Your body uses cues like sleeping and eating to manage your internal clock, so trying to keep that activity consistent will definitely help.

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