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4 Lessons We’ve Learned Working with Global Teams Virtually

By Heyden Enochson

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Shifting to almost exclusively remote strategic plan facilitation has given OnStrategy opportunities to work with clients from around the globe. It’s been a big transition moving from in-person planning meetings to virtual facilitation sessions.

As we reflect on this shift, there are a few important points worth considering if you have teams that are working remotely, or if you’re working with teams in a different geography (or both!).

Lesson #1 – Go slow to go fast.

Plain and simple, working with teams in a digital setting has made our team adopt the phrase, “Go slow to go fast.”

We’ve worked to slow down the pace of our work to make sure it’s truly being absorbed with clients. Strategic planning is already challenging, and delivering it virtually changes the dynamic. Pacing down the velocity of our work has made a huge difference in the quality of our output!

Lesson #2 – Give it a minute to translate.

There are always barriers to working with clients in different continents with different languages and time zones. In the new way of our world, we’ve found ourselves working with teams across the globe (which is truly amazing) and have learned how to better manage our differences.

Working internationally, we’ve had to work really hard at making sure our work is translating – both with language and company culture.

In language differences, it’s important to give the team a minute to check for understanding. No need to fill a silent pause with noise – it’s ok to allow everyone a moment to absorb what is being said.

The same can be said for an organization’s culture. Strategy work is often deeply embedded in an organization’s culture. It’s important to allow planning teams to absorb and translate how the strategic shifts and decisions might affect the organization’s culture.

Lesson #3 – Tap into the small (but important) cultural elements of a geography and team.

Working with a team spread across the globe brings forward the need to be culturally aware of your teammates.

Understanding and connecting to the cultural norms and practices of each region’s team has been helped us connect with our clients better. Each geography and team comes with its own culture or ways of behaving, so it’s important to pick up on these differenced and embed them in your process and your plan. Here are a few recent examples:

  • The North Slope Borough School District in the upper Alaskan Peninsula, begins each planning meeting with a moment of silence.
  • Sinh Hak Hout, a Cambodian home improvement store, it’s important for the team to greet each other individually and say their hellos before the start of each session.
  • Healing Healthcare Systems keeps their heady planning meetings light by embedding humor and the taking time to inject overt signals of caring for one another to honor one of their key cultural norms.

Integrating cultural practices of each team into our work makes what we do together more personal and impactful.

Lesson #4 – Have a sense of humor.

When you’re working with teams spread all over the globe that speak different languages and live different lives, it’s okay to not be serious all the time.

Zoom mistakes happen, language isn’t always translated perfectly, and sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes you just need to chuckle, shrug it off, and move forward. Acknowledge the guffaw and keep things light to move the work forward.

A reflection on change.

Change is the only constant in life, and the last year has provided change in spades. But it has been a wonderful opportunity to work with new clients from around the globe to make an impact in their organizations.

Through sometimes awkward Zoom calls, language barriers, and learning about different cultures, we look forward to continuing this great work with leaders around the world!


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