Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Communications Tips for Global Team Leaders

I provide consulting services to global team leaders.  Often the leader chosen has never led a global team before. They were assigned the task because of their expertise and passion around the group objective.  Global team members are located in regions all around the world.  In addition to basic team dynamics during team formation, these teams have additional team challenges regarding time zones, English as a second or third language, communication technology, trust, and expectations.

Many times leaders are concerned about the lack of team member engagement as their team is forming.  During discussions with team leaders regarding the reasons for lack of team member engagement, I noticed a trend.  What the team leader called a lack of engagement turned out to be issues unrelated to the team member’s interest or energy around the team purpose. One common issue that leads to a false assumption of team member disengagement is differing communication styles. Rather than being discouraged regarding team member engagement,  find solutions to enhance team member communication.

Even if team members come from English speaking countries, there are cultural sensitivities and differing communication styles.  A global team leader can raise his level of awareness regarding team communication by following these tips.

Ten Communication Tips for Global Team Leaders
  1. Know the mix of cultures of your global team members
  2. Study the communications preferences of these cultures
  3. Send pre-meeting/call information so members can prepare
  4. Create visuals and flow charts - these are easier to understand
  5. Invite members to share and participate (some may be waiting for your lead)
  6. Speak slowly, and keep sentences short, concise, and clear
  7. Avoid acronyms, colloquialisms, and slang
  8. Avoid dry humor, metaphors, and irony
  9. Embrace silence – this allows time for members to think
  10. Confirm understanding through repetition and questions
Understanding the cultural differences of your team members is key to international business success. Keep in mind that communication preferences are cultural but also individual.  Generic country communication styles and behaviors may not always be accurate.  There are several websites that provide reference information on cultural differences.  One link I use is World Business Culture: ( 

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