I’m sure many of you have been through a similar experience – you’re just starting out in a new role, and you’re trying to find your feet in the company. You’re in a position that you have a huge amount of experience in, but at the same time you’re still adjusting to the way that the new company operates. It’s a tough and exciting challenge – and doing it in a different culture can add yet another layer of complexity.
A fresh challenge
I’ve got a fair amount of experience in global management consulting but the industry, which covers everything from supply chain and quality assurance through to strategic sourcing and procurement, is a new one for me. Over the years I’ve done consultancy work in a number of sectors – I’ve worked in everything from aviation and oil and gas to FMCG and financial services, so I’m used to adapting and learning quickly.
The role is hugely enjoyable, not least because of the people I get to work with. I have a great team! One of the biggest challenges I’ve found in this new job is that they are spread, not just over a few floors of a building, but instead across different offices around the world. It means it can be hard to build close, trusting relationships, and I’m working every day to make this a priority.
A shared sense of purpose
Obviously, you never really know about a company’s culture until you’re on the inside, and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to say there is a strong identity and unified team around the globe. There is a genuine sense of a shared vision for the entire business, and an understanding that anyone, wherever they are, and whatever their role, can contribute to achieving the goals they’ve set for the company. This makes my job a lot easier, but of course there are still a few obstacles to building effective teams globally that remain.
Creating genuine, meaningful interactions
One of the biggest challenges I’ve found is not having enough enough face-to-face time with the team members. Many of the people I work with every day are in different time zones, and so I try to make sure that I schedule in as many productive calls as possible. Communication channels always seem to be a bit more cumbersome into and out of China. It seems like we’re using a different medium every day to stay in touch, be it WeChat calls or using the old faithful landline. None of these are a perfect solution as nothing can beat meeting people face to face – but I see communicating in this way as much as possible as an absolutely essential part of building trust and mutual understanding within my teams. On top of that, it’s simply great to meet new people, hear their story and try to make a connection on a personal level.
There is one interesting side effect of working with teams remotely however. Because these kinds of virtual face-to-face conversations can sometimes be hard to set up, it really focuses the mind on getting the most value out of any interactions you do have. I’ve been in so many companies over the years where real face-to-face meetings are just taken for granted, and, in a lot of cases, where people get together without a clear sense of purpose. But with my teams working remotely, I’ve found that I value this time with them even more, and I really try to make sure that I always make the most of any opportunity I have to talk to them. This, for me, is about building rapport with people, but it’s also about understanding how my time can be spent most valuably. This comes down to being able to ask the right questions at the right time and in the right way to the right people, and then, most importantly, making sure I listen to the answer.
And that, I think, is something that can be applied to every aspect of doing business, global or otherwise. While there are many challenges involved in building a strong and trusting team across many countries, one of the lessons I’ve learned in this role is that genuine, meaningful human interactions are the key to success. It’s what feeds into building strong relationships within your teams, and creating a shared sense of purpose. It’s not always easy, but I’m loving this challenge in my new role.