How to lead an international project team

international team

Managing and working with international teams from all over the world is becoming the new standard.

Companies are experiencing a particular moment: they are growing, on the one hand, and changing their organizational structure on the other.

Although international growth and team diversity can pose unique challenges, at the same time, working in international teams can also offer considerable benefits.

When you engage with people from around the world and from different backgrounds, you find yourself facing different ideas and perspectives.  This can not only benefit relationships in the workplace, but can also lead to increased productivity and business success.

But when team members are spread around the world, ensuring that everyone works for the same goals can be one of the greatest challenges that a project manager can face.

Here are some tips to make this process easier.

5 tips for leading an international project team in the best possible manner

1. Identify international teams’ cultural challenges

National culture plays an important role in the way people act and it is hardly changeable.

Having an open mind about the challenges of managing an international project is thus essential.

Working with an international team requires an acknowledgement of local feedback to make global projects successful.

One tip, if applicable, is to spend time with team members directly abroad to understand the pace, processes and work atmosphere.

If this is not possible, talking to those directly engaged, asking questions and understanding the dynamics can also be beneficial.

Here are some examples of cultural differences that can emerge in an international team:

  • Leadership: an egalitarian and collaborative style will run better with Northern European countries than with Russians, who will generally distrust a leader who is too friendly with their subordinates.
  • Timeliness: In some countries, time is a flexible concept. In Spain, getting to a meeting 5-10 minutes late is not perceived as badly as in Germany, for example.

However, when a schedule is absolute, it is essential to make sure that everyone really understands its importance.

  • Admitting a mistake: in some cultures it is easier (because it is more acceptable to society) to raise a hand and say “I made a mistake”. In others not. This can make handling problems more complicated.

Knowing different cultures can help you manage the differences that will inevitably happen.

lead international team

2. Dealing with time zone practical aspects

Project managers who lead international projects have to face a series of practical challenges including time zones.

How can you hold meetings in real time with all team members? Who will be the one who will have to wake up in the middle of the night to attend the meeting?

Of course it will be difficult to find volunteers, so solutions could be to create incentives or move the meeting times so that the burden does not always affect the same people.

3. Giving the right consideration to communication

The main problems for international projects are usually understanding and communicating and this is not something that can be solved just by using a nice software.

Regularly scheduled meetings can be a great opportunity for team members to exchange information and knowledge, to learn from each other’s experiences and to keep up to date with developments and updates of the organization and the team.

In particular, meeting at critical moments in the project and confronting each other is a safe way to move forward with the minimum amount of communication problems.

Successful communication is also based on the transversal skills that a project manager brings to the table, including:

  • Listening skills
  • Sensitivity to perceive unexpressed concerns
  • The ability to answer openly so that the other person can fully understand.

4. Use the right collaboration tools

Technology can definitely play a role in putting communication skills into practice; people need to be able to listen and talk to each other effectively and have access to data to ensure the success of a project.

A project management platform such as TWProject.

is definitely a key enabler. However, you must also be aware that the human element remains, always and in any case, fundamental.

5. Having clear goals and celebrating results

Regardless of where the team members are located, generally speaking, the project manager must ensure that the vision and goals to be achieved are clearly broken down.

For example, creating clear benchmarks and metrics, virtually updating these goals so that everyone can see the progress the team is making can help everyone stay in line with the work process.

Also, creating celebrations of success, whether locally or globally, to share the team’s successes together certainly helps to keep a group together.

 

Ultimately, a project manager should always be prepared for change. If they are not already working with an international team, this is increasingly likely to happen.

The project manager should therefore be able to address this situation and have their own strategy prepared.

As projects increase in complexity over time, project teams become more large, both in terms of national and ethnic diversity.

It is therefore up to the successful project manager to integrate all team members, regardless of their backgrounds, into a cohesive unit that will ultimately contribute to the overall success of the project.

Lastly, what needs to be stressed is that the need for planning cultural management and communication is becoming increasingly important in today’s globalized marketplace.

Work together with your team effectively.

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