Archive for the ‘Connections’ Category

Building Globally Connected Teams

June 6th, 2017

“Talk with people who make you see the world differently”

– Author Unknown

As the global nature of business continues to grow, geographically dispersed teams are more and more common in today’s workforce. Offering access to a greater range of talent and deep local knowledge in established and emerging markets they draw on the benefits of international and cultural diversity by bringing together people with varied knowledge, experiences and perspectives.

Whilst there is no doubt of the enormous benefits that such rich diversity can bring it is not without its challenges for leaders of global teams. Creating cohesive, connected teams is often hard enough when everyone is local and sharing the same pool of resources, networks and office space, but add in the complexity of cultural difference, language barriers, varying locations and time zones and it is all too easy to see how communication, misunderstanding and confusion can emerge.

In her recent Harvard Business Review article ‘Why Global Teams Work’, Tsedal Neeley states that the primary challenge for global leaders to overcome is that of social distance. Her study of successful global teams highlights the one basic difference between global teams that work and those that don’t is the degree of emotional connection between team members. As she notes, even teams who are culturally diverse but operating in the same place can build trust and rapport much more quickly because of the range of formal and informal interactions that take place. All of a sudden the value of pre-meeting banter and incidental kitchen conversations become so important because all too often when they are taken away so to are some of the moments of connection.

Establishing strong emotional ties between team members is therefore a much-needed priority for leaders with disperse teams. To do this takes deliberate planning, discipline, tact and empathy. Like all strong relationships it also takes a considerable investment of time and resources. Without it though not only are cohesive productive relationships compromised but so to is individual and business success. In a time where global leadership is a much sought after capability, leaders who master the art of leading geographically dispersed teams are firmly establishing their future career path.

So what are the critical considerations for building strong globally connected teams? I would encourage you to consider the following six points:

Create team moments: Moments of shared time are critical for building understanding, cohesion and connection. Moments that celebrate the success that others don’t see; moments to disagree and debate ideas and issues; moments to build awareness of other markets, teams and agendas; moments to simply connect and have those ‘water cooler’ type conversations that so often provide insights, knowledge and context.

Design a team language: Teams that are rich in cultural diversity need to find a common language that defines what they do and how they do it to ensure that miscommunication and misunderstanding is minimised. Creating a shared language also helps to build clarity, momentum and unity amongst those who use it.

Recognise and leverage differences: All too often we stress the importance of finding ‘common ground’ or identifying similarities however the danger of doing that with globally dispersed teams is the ‘us versus them’ dynamic. Recognising the individual differences, knowledge, skills and networks helps remove the stereotypes that all too often get in the way of producing great results.

Revisit objectives and metrics often: The lack of day to day context experienced by dispersed teams combined with the very nature of how quickly things change requires regular review to ensure clarity and momentum is maintained.

Define how conflict is managed: All teams are prone to conflict, however they can arise more quickly in dispersed teams from lack of shared context, misunderstanding of cultural differences and miscommunication. Creating a clear and responsive way to table and address conflict is imperative for global teams to explore different points of view, ways of working and perspectives.

Provide the necessary tools for collaboration: Despite having the capacity to be more connected than ever before, our technology tools can also be one of the greatest barriers when they fail to work are unreliable or not suited to the type of communication required. It is imperative that the tools provided act as enablers and not barriers.

Creating globally connected and cohesive teams is hard work. It takes deliberate and consistent effort on the part of the leader to continually build moments that create shared understanding and trust. However the rewards are high both personally for leaders and the businesses that they lead.   

The Driving Force Of Connection

May 12th, 2017

“Connect, create meaning, make a difference, matter, be missed ”

– Seth Godin

We are all driven to belong and feel connected. Be-it with family and friends, the organisations we work for, or members of our local community, we all crave connection. Why? Because ultimately we want to be a part of something that opens up or broadens our world and helps us create purpose. Essentially connection helps to create meaning, opportunity and value.

Not belonging or knowing where we belong is a terrible feeling. It feels awkward, it hurts and it is alienating. It feels like wearing a scratchy old jumper that niggles away at us for the entire time we have it on. Yet invariably at some point in our careers we will all be faced with a crossroads of having to identify where we best belong and naturally connect in a way that allows us to fully contribute our talents. Sometimes this can occur due to forced situations such as redundancy or relocation and other times we simply feel that we have outgrown our current opportunity or organisation.

I am currently in the midst of planning a work trip to London and as such have found myself talking extensively with expats who have started to explore the idea of returning ‘home’. Many of these individuals have spent ten plus years building an impressive career in their chosen fields highlighted not only by a long list of signature achievements but often rapid rises in career progression into key leadership and C-Suite roles. Most are highly engaging, inspiring and driven individuals with a key desire to make a meaningful contribution for both themselves and the business they work for.

So what is stopping many of them from boarding the next plane home? In a nutshell it is fear of disconnection (both socially and professionally). Finding people and organisations they can meaningfully connect and engage with and who will value their prior knowledge and leverage their experience.

Connection and belonging are widely recognised as being two of our basic survival needs. Abraham Maslow whose well known work in the area of human motivation positions them as our third most fundamental need in his hierarchy of needs. William Glasser, another renowned American psychologist noted that we are driven by five genetic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun. To overlook our need for connection and belonging is not only detrimental to our personal lives but also our careers.

Seth Godin who is widely credited with coining the term ‘The Connection Economy’ describes how we are entering a new era that rewards value created by building relationships and fostering connections rather than assets and ‘stuff’ which was previously valued in the industrial era. Rather than simply valuing ‘more, better, faster’ the connection economy builds on who you know, what you know and how you influence outcomes through your connections. It recognises that ‘more, faster & better’ can really only be achieved through collaboration and facilitation with those around us.

Learning how to build, maintain and leverage diverse and authentic connections though is one of the key challenges that face many professionals today. Especially when they are outside of our familiar industry or geographic region. Connections that truly challenge our thinking; open the door to innovation and help create an agility and nimbleness to navigate the world we live in. Connections that help us future-proof our careers.

So what actions can we take to create meaningful connections that offer a mutual exchange of value and help us succeed both today and in the future? Seth Godin outlines four key pillars that underpin the connection economy.

  1. Co-ordination: you need to create a plan to meet with people who can offer value, insights, knowledge and experience. This means firstly identifying who they are, creating a purposeful reason to engage and then actioning it by making time in the diary.
  2. Trust: Identify and engage with people you can trust with your ‘story’. People whose interest and goal is to see you succeed.
  3. Permission: You need to give people permission to engage and share their insights, opinions and knowledge.
  4. Exchange of Ideas: True connection is always underpinned by the sharing of problems, ideas and solutions. This builds on the notion that we are smarter and more successful together rather than alone.

Learning how to initiate connection and not just respond to it is what will set us apart. Connection not just with our internal stakeholders but with our industry peers and leaders, the movers and the shakers and across our broader global community.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Margot BLACK Signature

Remember Me? The Art Of Reconnecting

May 6th, 2016

During a recent discussion I overheard the statement that ‘your net worth depends on your net-work’ which in turn sparked lots of commentary around what and how people were doing to build, approach and engage with their networks. Interestingly many found it easier to discuss what steps were being taken to tap into new networks rather than reconnecting with old ones.


Designed by WRD © Margot Andersen 2020