Whatever line of work you’re in, it’s no surprise that running a successful company is hard work. Many business owners get overwhelmed by the amount of hours they have to put in because they can’t afford to hire help, can’t find the right help, or are simply unable to delegate. But loosening the reigns and assigning tasks to the people who are most suited to carrying them out is vital. Especially if your business is online and your employees are spread out over multiple geographic locations.
While it’s true that the Internet has revolutionized the way we work, giving us access to global talent, international markets, considerate cost savings and maximum productivity; it’s also made it easier for cross-cultural misunderstandings, skipped deadlines and missed warning signs when an employee is failing to pull their weight. Learning to manage your global team effectively will not only ensure that your company is successful, but will help you keep hold of your sanity as well.
Remember to be positive and passionate above all. If you don’t love what you do and remain enthusiastic about it, it’s hard to transmit that feeling to your employees, especially when you can’t see them face to face. It’s easy to get frustrated when working with people from different cultures, sometimes with limited infrastructure, varying necessities and outlooks, and attributes that seem, well, foreign to your own. Accept that there is more than one way of doing things, that there will always be Internet blackouts, and that communication will probably break down at some point. That’s just part of the package. Energy and enthusiasm at all times will help you overcome the bumps in the road.
Use the right communication tools for your business, such as Skype, Asana, Invision, Slack, or Trello, and try to get face-to-face on camera from time to time. Remember that it’s very easy for the tone of voice to be misread when you’re reading – instead of listening to – someone else’s opinion on Skype or G-Chat. Try to use animated gifs occasionally to convey emotion and avoid using sarcasm, teasing, or local jokes and idioms, as they can easily be misunderstood. If you communicate with people in various languages, make sure that everyone involved understands and isn’t guessing at what’s being said.
Take the time to ask your employees how they are before launching into the day’s to-do list and be as available for them as possible. Working from home can be an isolating experience and it can make all the difference to your employees knowing that they’re not alone. Be flexible regarding meeting times when you’re dealing with workers in different time zones. If the last meeting was held late at night for your staff in Australia, then make sure that the next one is adjusted accordingly, so as not to create resentment.
Hire the "write" people
Because a very large percentage of your business communications (in some cases all) will be via email, chat, or project management software, it’s essential to hire people who know how to write well. They don’t have to be Shakespeare, but if they’re not capable of displaying professionalism and politeness through their words, or enthusiasm and support for other team members, then you’re just asking to upset the apple cart. When hiring new employees, don’t allow the formality to slip just because your communications are by email. Ask for a resume and cover letter. Check for spelling. Detect eagerness. Remember that how they write to you is how they will write to your clients. It’s essential to keep your corporate image in mind at all times.
This is probably one of the hardest things to achieve when managing a team of people you can’t see, who are working their shift when you’re not online. It’s impossible to be on top of everyone all of the time and it’s also not healthy to make your employees feel like they’re being constantly watched, or that you don’t trust them. Their results will speak for themselves. Hire new staff for a short trial period before offering a long term contract.
Create a sense of belonging to the company by letting them know that you care about their ambitions and career goals; that you can offer them a long term position with room for growth. Get feedback from other team members and decide on the right hiring method that works for you. Do you prefer contractors who work for short periods, complete the job and then leave, or do you want full time employees with a higher level of involvement and commitment on both sides?
If you’re a type-A personality, then it can be hard to accept that all people work at different paces. Don’t create an unrealistic sense of urgency for every task because, when everything is urgent, nothing stands out and therefore effectively nothing is urgent. Set realistic goals. Make people accountable. Use project management software, hold progress meetings, provide incentives, make sure people have a deadline and that everyone is on the same page. Not only will your team have a clearer sense of what everyone else does, but each employee will know when their part has to be completed.
Rome wasn’t built in a day
While starting up an Internet start-up, or expanding an online business is undeniably faster than a traditional bricks and mortar setup, keep in mind that it takes time. You need to establish a reputation for your company, get in good stead with Google, promote your name on social media, build alliances and grow your client base. Building up an international team that you trust isn’t going to happen overnight, so be patient and stay positive; remember you’re in it for the long run and you want like-minded employees who feel the same way.