Successfully working with international colleagues

Cynthia Dearin
Founder and Managing Director
Dearin & Associates

LinkedIn Profile

Here at Dearin & Associates, we spend our time helping other companies scale internationally, which means that we end up working with a lot of international teams. It doesn’t hurt that our own team has been international since 2016. We have people from Australia, the Philippines, the United States, India and Jamaica in our core group and others from Vietnam, France, Singapore, and Dubai in our satellite team. 
The experience of working with people from all around the world has taught us so much about how to create a happy, productive global team.

Here are five top tips on making your global team a success, starting today. 

Realise that everyone has their own lens
It’s easy to feel as though everyone should look at the world the same way you do … and that your perspective is the ‘right’ one. But the truth is that each culture sees the world slightly differently … and no-one is 100% right. 

As you start working with people from other countries and cultures, it’s important to acknowledge and accept that people will have different views and ways of doing things … and that is ok. 

Stand in the other person's shoes
If you’re working with colleagues overseas, putting yourself in their shoes builds trust, loyalty, and momentum.  

Perhaps you have team members working alone or at home day in, day out. Recognise how long-term solitude might affect their mindset and productivity. Find ways to engage them and to connect them with your team at headquarters. 

Will a 9am meeting for you mean a 4am start for colleagues overseas? Take time zones into consideration when you set meetings and schedules to make sure that your international team members aren’t being subjected to inhumane hours on a regular basis. 

When you make the effort to stand in your international colleagues’ shoes and adjust things to benefit them, you get engaged, productive team players, rather than folks who feel isolated and demotivated. 

Meet daily
I can’t stress this enough.  

It’s no good connecting with your international colleagues once a week, or once a month. Out of sight is out of mind … you’ll struggle to build camaraderie and momentum that way.  

On the other hand, there is nothing like a snappy daily meeting, with people showing up on video from all over the world to produce momentum and a sense of purpose. The meeting doesn’t need to take long, it just needs a purpose, opportunities for people to share, and action points. 

We theme our daily meetings and have slots for measuring metrics, celebrating wins, and thinking through challenges. 

Leverage technology
As well as video calls, there are many many pieces of great tech available that make collaborating across continents a snap. 

We use Slack for instant messaging to groups and individuals, and Trello for workflow planning. With these two tools plus Zoom, we can keep everyone focused on our top projects for the month and their most important tasks for the week and the day. 

Celebrate community and diversity
Diversity is beautiful and research confirms that diverse teams are the most successful (when they work well). I love seeing the rainbow of faces in my team. 

You can strengthen your team’s bond by highlighting and celebrating diversity. We do this by getting people to share stuff about their home cities, traditions, and lives during team meetings, and you can also do this by celebrating national holidays, virtually or in person. 

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Cynthia Dearin is an international business strategist, advisor, keynote speaker and author of Business Beyond Borders: Take Your Company Global and Camels, Sheikhs Billionaires: Your Guide to Business Culture in the Middle East and North Africa. With 22 years of international experience, as an Australian diplomat and management consultant, she is the Founder and Managing Director of Dearin & Associates and the International Business Accelerator, helping companies to scale internationally and amplify their impact in the world. 

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