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Tips on managing a multi-cultural, de-centralised workforce

May 26, 2010

Something I wrote for Marketing Donut

I currently find myself in the fantastic city of Chennai, India. Sadly it’s a strictly business trip. I’ve flown in for six days to spend time with the Actinic team and hire a new team member. Hiring outside the familiar waters of the UK has been a very interesting process. Sometimes it’s a little frustrating, but it’s been a masterclass in managing a distributed team.

So, while it is fresh in my mind here are my top three tips for managing a diverse, dispersed and multi-cultural team:

1. Communication is key

Of course it depends on the roles and responsibilities within your organisation, but having everyone well-versed in a common language is the essential requirement for any team. However it’s also important to remember that you may not be talking to someone in their native dialect. So take care on phrasing, be patient and understanding.

2. Encourage questions

If someone hasn’t understood something you have communicated, it’s easy to put your head in the sand. Some cultures find it embarrassing to ask questions, especially to supervisors. So my tip is to actively encourage queries and questions as much as possible. Also, put yourself into situations where you have to be the one asking the questions – it’s empowering for the others involved.

3. Boots on the ground

Nothing beats getting together. If you are willing to employ people in far-off lands you need to be ready to get on a plane and visit. The Internet has given us hundreds of different ways to communicate, from Skype to Twitter, but nothing compares with talking face-to-face. You learn more about a team and its dynamics over a five-minute coffee break than you would ever do over the phone or by email.

Posted via email from Benjamin Dyer

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