How do you command respect from someone you’ve never met, in a country you’ve never been to? The answer isn’t easy. Today’s leaders are faced with a new set of hurdles as globalization continues to gain momentum. Communicating with—let alone overseeing—employees overseas can seem impossible without the right tools in place.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common challenges international leaders face, along with how they’re solving them, in order to poise your management for success.
1. Global Communication
When conducting international business, communication and language barriers are the first problems that come to mind. Without the ability to communicate, it’s nearly impossible to delegate or coordinate between departments.
Many managers resort to free online services for all their translations, whether it be to translate emails or the company’s Standard Operating Procedures. Not only does this jeopardize sensitive information, leaving proprietary data vulnerable to the hands of hackers, but it also leads to poor, grammatically incorrect translations.
Responding to a CFO in a sloppy message appears unprofessional, while presenting staff with instruction manuals containing incorrect speech can make them feel marginalized or alienated.
As a solution, global managers are turning to enterprise machine translation software. Using artificial intelligence to bridge the communication gap results in fast, secure, and accurate translations of big data. It’s installed locally and solves the language barrier both on-site and across seas.
2. Global Collaboration
With so much distance across so many different time zones in a global enterprise, collaboration can be incredibly difficult. Managers know the importance of project collaboration; it provides every team member with equal opportunities to participate and communicate their ideas, and the best ideas often come from the bottom up.
Additionally, the team sees meaningful value in working together towards a common goal that not only benefits the company, but also themselves.
Managers have to consider the coordination costs incurred by global collaboration: cross-cultural misunderstandings can lead to non-billable work; technology failures can lead to missed deadlines; incompatible schedules can result in project delays.
Despite the difficulties inherent to global collaboration, international leaders find a couple ways to avoid these common pitfalls while delivering exception cross-border service.
Hop on a secure and reliable server such as Skype and stress the following to your team:
- Focus on commonalities. Remind your team of its distributed goal and recognize your interdependence on reaching these objectives.
- Synthesize information. Take time to share individual updates and schedule regular meetings as touchpoints on specific tasks.
- Break down virtual walls. Give and take a personal tour to provide context; the more you and your distant team know about each other’s environments, the better they’ll be at understanding another’s behavior.
3. Global Culture
Maintaining a strong, international sense of company culture is complicated due to each society’s own cultural themes. Chinese cultures, for example, are rooted in collectivist Confucian values, while Western parts of the world privilege individualistic belief systems; what might be a friendly greeting in one culture can be seen as an insult in another.
Furthermore, global organizations face stumbling blocks when it comes to ensuring the consistency of their operational tenets across seas, since they have to take in the cultural ideology of that area.
Take Amazon.com as an example; the ecommerce behemoth who enjoys an international presence prides itself on customer obsession and must find a way to translate that importance to teams in every country in which it operates.
If you’re a manager who one day is asked to manage a supply chain in Malaysia, oversee your virtual team in China the next, and optimize your company’s call center in India thereafter, you know it’s not possible to be an expert in every country that you do business. What is possible, however, is mastering cross-cultural competency.
In order to do so, global branding, messaging, corporate values, and marketing all need to be localized. Every type of communication—internal and external—must be translated so that it is culturally fluent, not merely linguistically fluent.
Keeping this framework in mind helps managers to prevent any costly mistakes, and to supplement their global cultural awareness, many will receive international professional training.
Having such a far reach can be incredibly empowering, but it can also be equally stressful. If you run into any of these common struggles while managing your global enterprise, refer back to our suggested solutions to smooth out any kinks.