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4 secrets to successfully manage global tech teams

Managing a global tech team is no mean feat, whether its dealing with multiple time zones, scaling language barriers, or overcoming differences in work culture. Here’s how new team leaders can ease their transition into leading a location-independent workforce.

It is said that managing a technical team is more of an art than it is a science. Even though the team is consistently dealing with data, it would prove problematic if companies tried to measure an engineer’s productivity through an agile process. Managing a team is already a challenge on-site, and this challenge is compounded in a globally distributed system. When working as a location-independent force, other factors like time zone, language barriers, and working culture come into the mix. 

While an administrative role is the natural next step for many developers, the job now is a lot more different than it used to be. With companies going fully remote, most leaders now oversee globally distributed teams, often spread across different parts of the planet. 

However, most of us were unprepared for this sudden shift to remote work. 2 out of 3 managers surveyed said that they were untrained for this new transition to managing dispersed teams. Naturally, this proves problematic for aspiring tech leaders or those thrown into the fray in the past 2 years.  

So, if this is your first stint as a manager for a global tech team, or you are looking to take on a leadership role, here are a few quick lessons to help you manage a tech team spread across the globe. 

Make trust-building the first priority

The absence, or lack, of trust within any team is among the dysfunctions that need to be addressed at the earliest. Mutual trust must exist between team members, and on an interpersonal level between an employee and their manager. Without trust, members of the team are more likely to be defensive in their approach and will often work in silos. This curbs collaboration, which is a fundamental element for any team, especially for remote teams. Hence, it becomes the responsibility of the team leader to build trust within the team.

However, considering the shift to digital communication mediums, leaders have to think beyond the traditional approaches of trust-building. A study conducted with 597 leaders found common approaches to not be as effective as expected. Actions that did not have much impact on build trusting were:

  • Giving recognition
  • Promoting complete transparency
  • Focusing on team building

On the other hand, things that did work were when managers:

  • Showed vulnerability
  • Maintained commitments
  • Communicated true intentions behind decisions

This makes sense, as employees interacting virtually need to know that there’s another human on the other end. As such, exhibiting these traits of genuine trust is sure to help you form the coveted trust bond. 

Leverage technology for communication and planning tasks

While it may seem like a no-brainer to manage a remote team with technology, the lesson here is to use all common platforms available to you. Oftentimes, leaders will use a suite of tools for project management, communication, collaboration, conferencing and other such activities, causing a break in the flow. Your goal is to simplify, integrate, and enable teams to efficiently collaborate. Here, popular services like Slack, Asana, Workplace, Zoom, and others are viable solutions. They allow seamless communication and also enable planning, scheduling, and tracking on the same platform. 

In a distributed team, project management is a critical process. With the right tools, giving real-time updates, communicating and planning can, and should happen on one platform. This way, everyone involved has access to crucial information, resources, and instructions, without key details being lost to poor management. Besides project management, effective communication is key for any remote leader. Schedule routine meetings with the entire team to stay in tune and get updates from real-time interactions. 

Pay close attention to cultural differences

More often than not, a remote leader will have to manage team members of different nationalities. This is mainly because remote teams leverage talent across borders efficiently, thus bringing value to the table. However, for a leader, this means having to navigate the delicate rules and boundaries of culture. With members from different countries, cultural differences are bound to exist and being aware of these is crucial. 

For instance, the concept of collaboration may differ based on cultural context. Some team members may be more accustomed to a passive approach, while others may assume a dominating, loud role. Expecting either to act like the other would prove problematic. Additionally, some nationalities may have working culture norms that must be respected. Be it national holidays, timings, or communication cues, it is important to give these factors necessary attention.  

Leaders that turn a blind eye to culture are sure to alienate their employees and hurt their effectiveness during communication. Experts and renowned leaders believe that cultural awareness training is absolutely important for all leaders managing geographically dispersed teams. There is a learning curve here, but the best approach would be to work on a personal level. Each individual’s cultural bend will demand a unique approach, and while this is effort-intensive, it pays off in the long run. 

Be flexible to foster round-the-clock efficiency

A key lesson for any modern leader to keep in mind is that flexibility is king in today’s workplace. According to one survey, 54% of respondents chose ‘flexibility in the workday’ as the best way in which their company could support them. The ‘always-on’ feeling is a known cause for burnout, and is very damaging if it is established as an appropriate working culture. Instead, as a leader, you should put flexibility above all and ditch the idea that tasks need to be scheduled around ‘HQ-time’. While it can’t always be fair to everyone, there are ways to adapt efficiently. 

For instance, company meetings that require members across oceans to get on a call could be split into two to accommodate time zone differences. Another option is to have members work on a late, or early-split on rotation so that there’s never just one part of the team which is required to make adjustments.

Lastly, experts also advocate for the approach wherein the project follows the sun. The hand-off of duties moves from the west to the east; this way, everyone stays on track seamlessly.  

Only the truly talented can bring in results, despite all the expected hardships. In some cases, it could also serve as a stepping stone to bigger career opportunities. A surefire way to give yourself this advantage and position yourself among the best in the industry is to sign up on Talent500

Join an elite global talent network of the top tech specialists and pave the way forward to your dream career. Access a network that enables #limitlesslearning and soar to new heights at leading Fortune 500 companies. Sign up online today in order to #BeLimitless!



Girish is Talent500’s architect for systems software. His experience in backend development has helped him convert visions of many a product into reality. From his days at BITS-Pilani, he has always dreamt about beating AplhaZero at chess.

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