Top 3 Tips: How to Manage an International Team

Matthew MacLachlan

23 Mar 2016

For the last 15 years Pablo has worked for a global oil company. He has travelled extensively for business across the Middle East and North Africa and regularly works with colleagues from many different nationalities. He’s just starting a new job with an international management remit. Suddenly things are not working out. He’s starting to ask himself if he is able to manage an international team?

Can you manage an international team?

Pablo is starting to doubt whether this will actually ever work….

Pablo is now experiencing difficulties in communicating with his new team members. There seems to be no clarity around deadlines. His Dutch team members seem to get really upset when he keeps postponing or moving deadlines.

Meetings are also problematic with his German colleagues surprised and unhappy with the lack of structure to meetings with no clear agenda or outcomes. Pablo is starting to doubt whether this will actually ever work….

 

The evidence is overwhelming 

A multicultural team more creative and effective than a mono-cultural one

This experience is not unique and is more common than you might think according to a recent Harvard Business Review article.

So are there any benefits of working in an international team? Is Pablo’s experience unique? What is he doing wrong?

Research shows that harnessing the diversity, different ideas and perspectives that international team members offer can actually make a multicultural team more creative and effective than a mono-cultural one.

Here are three key tips on how Pablo can improve his international team management skills and get the most out of his diverse team.

1.Who are you?

The first question Pablo needs to ask himself is what he finds ‘normal’.  He needs to spend time recognising his own values and attitudes so he can become aware of his own preferences. When Pablo sets up a team meeting at 10 in the morning, it is not uncommon for him to arrive 15 minutes late because he bumped into someone in the corridor.

His attitude to time is flexible and priorities can change easily. Pablo also finds that he places a high value on strong relationships.

2.Who’s on your team?

The next step would be to determine who is on your team – what are their values, what is their attitude to time and do they find relationships as important as you do or are they much more task-focused?

Pablo needs to realise that his team members are actually products of their own cultures and that they might have a different value system.

3.Create a third culture

Open communication lines are crucial

Knowing yourself and your team has no value unless you are prepared to take the next step: creating a third culture for your team.

It is important to take time for this and spend some days together building strategies and best practice around areas such as decision making processes and meeting protocols. It is crucial that everyone on your team has a mutual understanding of what trust means and that it is clear what you understand a deadline to be.

Guidelines around emailing can be very useful as well: who will be in cc and when do you change the topic of your email.

Finally open communication lines are crucial. This will all add to the effectiveness of your international team.



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