Top 5 tips for managing teams across different time zones

The expansion of a company is a healthy indicator of a successful business, but can also brings challenges. One of the most pronounced of these can be the task of having to manage employees across multiple time zones

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The process of managing teams across a variety of time zones can be complex. But, the use of technology and a focus on clear communication can make the task more straightforward

Managing a company is a complex and time-consuming task, even when your teams are located in one central location. But as teams grow and expand across multiple time zones, the challenge becomes even more intricate. With an increasing number of companies transitioning into international business, and remote working becoming more and more accessible, a growing number of leaders are facing new logistical challenges.

With an increasing number of companies transitioning into international business, a growing number of leaders are facing new logistical challenges

Like many leaders, I’ve had to grow and adapt as our business expands and our teams increase in size, while still striving to maintain engagement, efficiency and unity. With teams now located across Europe and the US, we’ve encountered many of the challenges faced by business leaders across the globe. So, what have we learnt along the way? Here are my top five tips for leaders looking to empower their teams, and build a successful global business.

Have a plan when remote working
The nature of leading a global company means that you will inevitably lose days to travelling and jet lag. While it’s possible to work on the go, and even on flights, eventually jet lag will catch up with you – so have a plan in place, and don’t overstretch yourself immediately after travelling. It’s also important to make sure you communicate your travel plans with your senior team so they can plan accordingly and know when you’ll be uncontactable.

Dedicate time to meeting new teams
When meeting international teams for the first time, or forming a team in a new location, it’s important to immerse yourself and get to know everyone on both a professional and personal level. Although this will initially mean longer trips abroad, establishing strong rapport and implementing clear reporting structures will help you communicate more effectively, and work more efficiently, when in different time zones. With key relationships formed and the right structures in place to support you, you can make your working relationships far more efficient.

Utilise communication tools
From instant messaging apps; to emails and video calling tools, the technology needed to stay connected is now easily accessible to businesses – regardless of their size. When you’re first managing a global business, the time difference can easily catch you out, particularly if you’re re-joining a conversation after 12 hours’ worth of emails.

However, with a well organised calendar, and a properly structured email inbox, it becomes easier to manage. It’s this effective use of technology that helps to create open channels of communication between you and your teams, allowing key decisions to be made quickly and efficiently, regardless of where you are located.

Always stay present
While staying connected is important, being present is even more crucial. Rather than constantly checking your emails, and attempting to complete multiple tasks at once, it’s important to balance your responsibilities and remain present and connected with the people in the room. This is particularly important if you are only getting to visit your international teams once or twice a year.

It goes without saying that the same applies when it comes to your personal life; sometimes the best way to deal with a challenging work-related task is to step back and return to the problem with a clearer mind. It’s also essential to take time to look after your physical and mental health, and make time for the people that matter most to you.

Trust in your team
One of the most crucial elements of managing a global team is learning to delegate responsibility, and trust in your team’s experience and expertise. You quickly learn that you can’t always be as hands on as you’d like to be when managing a global team, but this doesn’t mean you become out of touch – you simply have to readjust.

Always be aware of the subtle differences between your teams, the individual challenges they face, and how they communicate so you can alter your management style. Working cultures will vary between countries and bearing this in mind is key. Delegating some aspects of responsibility and encouraging international teams to embrace the challenge, can be a great opportunity to empower and motivate them.

Managing multiple teams spread out across the globe is a complex and challenging task. However, by making use of the latest technology, trusting your teams, and staying present, the role not only becomes more manageable, but also more rewarding.