Insights on Working with an International Team
I have discovered a new international family at Transfluent that I am excited to be a part of. One of the best parts is interacting with so many different cultures every day!
The first goal of any manager is to establish positive relationships with the team. I’ve found that frequent and regular communication helps to establish the best relationships, expectations, and problem-solving resolutions. It is wondrous that this high-tech age we live in provides us with the possibility of contact across the world at any time. Knowing that you can ask a question about something at three a.m. and still expect an answer relatively quickly is one of the best ways to build a working bond with someone separated by twelve time zones.
Consistency is vital to good customer service. To establish core consistent behaviors I have to temper my expectations with the specific cultural backgrounds of each of the team members that I work with. Seeing how they approach the same question differently than their contemporaries is one of the most interesting things about this job; however, those differing points of reference can also pose the biggest challenges. Almost every issue that arises is solvable by simply communicating with each other, all the time.
Patience and an Open Mind
Having patience and an open mind will help when issues arise. Remember that the language we use varies greatly in meaning, depending on culture. The most relevant quote I’ve read about this was in a Fast Company article by Scott Kirsner, “In every country, you find that ‘yes’ means something different, ‘maybe’ means something different, ‘I’ll do that right now’ means something different. Your management style needs to change.”
Many miscommunications can be mitigated by being thoughtful about what we are saying versus how we are saying it, and being open minded when considering what the other person might actually mean. What it literally translates to in our own native language might not be at all what they intended!
With these variations in mind, specifics and standardization become more important. When we deal with so many different people, countries, languages, and cultures, relying on generalities and assumptions can lead to trouble. Creating standards for things like file names, tabs within Excel, the date and time format is extremely helpful. Speaking of the date/time format. In one recent incident, I was talking to a linguist about something she wrote on May 4th. She was very confused at first because I wrote “5/4” in the email. European date format puts the day first and month second. We could have saved ourselves a few rounds of email if I had been more careful in how I typed the date. So be specific – specific, Specific, SPECIFIC!
Finally, I’ve found that a good degree of flexibility makes this job far easier and more rewarding. Working with an international team has been an especially good fit for me due my personal schedule, needs and habits. I believe that everyone who is most successful in this type of environment IS flexible. Establishing a personal work routine is a good idea, but the ability to work for five minutes here and six hours there will make your life easier. Being responsive, so that you can handle last minute communications when you need to, will make you a more effective manager AND a more valuable employee.
Being part of the Transfluent family, in particular working with my team, has been an exciting opportunity for me that I think is working well for us due to our constant communication, clear and specific language, having an open mind, patience with understanding each other, and flexibility.
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