Communication Tips for Global Teams

17 April 2014 | Articles

“If you don’t communicate well, you don’t get to do anything that’s fun.” – HBR article, Drucker on Communication.

Great communication can make or break a global business.  More and more, developing strong skills to communicate across office locations can make a difference between a team that thrives and one that struggles.

By LZ Nunn, Director of Management Programming at Boston Global

So what skills should global teams have in place to help manage people, projects, and processes? Leaders at e-Core recently enlisted Boston Global to help managers develop the skills and tools to foster effective communication across teams and time zones.

Initially, Boston Global helped managers develop clear goals and priorities and guided the team members through task audits to make sure that activities were aligned to the strategic goals of the company.  Special attention was paid to align interconnected tasks and projects that needed to be executed by multiple teams distributed across locations.

Then, Boston Global provided new frameworks to help managers run more effective meetings.  A meeting toolkit with structures for planning, executing and meeting follow up helped team members design productive meetings.  With a focus on discussion skills, e-Core managers learned how to get full engagement from the team and get results from group meetings.

Once goals and tasks were aligned, leaders at e-Core looked to find ways to enhance team participation and performance. Boston Global helped team leaders to establish communication norms, including applying positive feedback and group brainstorming to encourage divergent thinking.  In targeted ways, recognition and rewards motivated team members and helped stimulate ideas and drive implementation. During an Innovation Day event in early February, managers presented projects that could develop new revenue streams for the company and presented awards to the winning projects.  In these ways, leadership at e-Core cultivates an atmosphere in which team members feel recognized and comfortable making contributions.

Critical to developing these new processes in e-Core’s team environment was creating communication channels that replicate the richness and informality of a single location. “In a single location, a shared context—cultural, organizational, functional, and technological—makes it easier to discuss complex ideas and resolve problems informally,” writes Keely Wilson and Yves L. Doz in a recent HBR article “10 Rules for Managing Global Innovation.” While email, Skype, instant messages, video conferencing, web platforms and other tools of technology are vital, nothing can replace a face-to-face meeting to build rapport among team members. E-Core puts a premium on in-person communication to drive projects forward, share information and reinforce trust.

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