Six different people working from home at desks, chairs, or hammocks, managing global teams with virtual collaboration
iStock/ma_rish

How to Dream

Join globally renowned author and Columbia Business School professor Dr. Sheena Iyengar as she explains how to approach your dreams with a new perspective. Learn to reflect on what you long to accomplish and what stands in your way.

Logical Thinking

Logical thinking is at the heart of confident, persuasive decisions. This course will equip you with a five-point approach to more becoming a more logical thinker. Learn to classify ideas and distinguish fact from opinion.

Investing & Diversity: The Changing Faces of Venture Capitalists

Is the venture capital industry embracing diversity in investors? Watch global venture capitalists from around the world discuss the state of things and what needs to be done for a more inclusive future.

Servant Leadership

There's more to leadership than driving a team to profit. In fact, there's a word for looking beyond self-interest to prioritize individual growth: servant leadership. Try this course for a quick breakdown of what that is, how it works, and how it can lead to organizational success.

Organizational Behavior and Leadership

Ever wonder what makes a great leader? Whether your role requires leadership or not, understanding organizational behavior is useful for your career. This course from GLOBIS Unlimited can set you on your way.

Leadership vs. Management

Leadership and management are different skills, but today’s leaders must have both. Try out this course from GLOBIS Unlimited to understand the difference, as well as when and why each skill is necessary for motivation, communication, and value.

Strategy: Creating Value Inside Your Company

Have you ever wondered why certain companies are more successful than others? The answer is strategy: internal processes that control costs, allocate resources, and create value. This course from GLOBIS Unlimited can give you the tools you need for that strategic edge.

Strategy: Understanding the External Environment

To plan strategy on any level, you need to understand your company's external environment. In fact, your level of understanding can impact hiring, budgeting, marketing, or nearly any other part of the business world. Want to learn how to do all that? This course from GLOBIS Unlimited is the perfect first step!

Using Japanese Values to Thrive in Global Business

Japanese companies have unique cultural, communication, and operational challenges. But they also have values that have led to remarkable longevity. Check out this seminar to hear how these values help earn trust from overseas head offices and develop employees.

Turnaround Leadership: The Differences Between Japan and the West

What's the best way for leaders to communicate a shift in corporate strategy? How do you even know when it's time for such a change? This course explains how Japan might have one answer, Western companies another.

Conflict Management

Conflicts in the workplace are inevitable. But they can lead to positive outcomes if they’re managed well. Check out this online course for a two-step process that can help you manage conflict successfully.

Evernote Founder: How Tech Startups Can Break through in Japan

Can startup models from Hollywood and Silicon Valley succeed anywhere? Phil Libin, cofounder and CEO of startup incubator All Turtles, explains how AI can solve everyday problems to bring products to market.

Women Empowerment: Lessons from Cartier

How can women overcome gender inequality and reach their leadership goals? Cartier Japan CEO June Miyachi shares her secret in this special course from GLOBIS Unlimited.

Marketing: Reaching Your Target

Every company works hard to get its products into the hands of customers. Are you doing everything you can to compete? In this course, you’ll find a winning formula to turn a product idea into real sales. Follow along through the fundamentals of the marketing mix and see how companies successfully bring products to market.

Marketing Mix

Seeing good products into the hands of customers is no easy task. The marketing mix can help. It's a collection of strategies and tactics companies utilize to get customers to purchase their products or services, and is an essential part of the overall marketing process.

The Principles of Negotiation

With the proper skills and attitude, anyone can become a successful negotiator.  But first, you'll need to learn the basics to prepare for, assess, and respond to offers for the best results. GLOBIS Unlimited can help.

Negotiation: Creating Value

Want to create more shared value between yourself and your negotiation opponent? Discover how cognitive bias affects the judgment of others. Try this course from GLOBIS Unlimited to master the value of negotiation.

Finding Your Life Purpose with Ikigai

Ikigai can guide you in your quest for self-discovery. Listen to Japanese brain scientist Ken Mogi explain why and how.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Want to leverage Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as a leader? Try this short course to see how the theory can be applied in practical work scenarios.

Confirmation Bias

We all subconsciously collect information that reinforces our preconceptions. It's natural . . . but it does lead to a kind of flawed decision-making called confirmation bias. To become more objective and impartial, check out this course from GLOBIS Unlimited!

An Investor's Lesson to Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs have the power to transform societies for the better. But how do you attract investors to start or grow a business? Or to sell one? Check out this seminar for the answers to these and more, straight from a master venture capitalist!

Managerial Accounting

Managerial accounting is a powerful way to measure progress, identify problems, and meet your goals. Check out this course to learn how data-backed decisions can help you run your business.

Finance Basics: 1

For a healthy mix of quantitative planning, evaluation, and management, you need solid decision-making. And finance is the secret sauce! Get the essentials of finance in this two-part course from GLOBIS Unlimited.

Basic Accounting: Financial Analysis

Want to compare your performance vs. a competitor? Or evaluate a potential vendor? Then you'll need to conduct a financial analysis. This course will teach you how to use three financial statements and evaluate financial performance in terms of profitability, efficiency, soundness, growth, and overall strength.

Career Anchors

What drives you to be good at your job?

Career anchors are based on your values, desires, motivations, and abilities. They are the immovable parts of your professional self-image that guide you throughout your career journey.

Try this short GLOBIS Unlimited course to identify which of the eight career anchors is yours!

Digital Marketing Psychology to Transform Your Business

How does digital marketing really differ from traditional marketing? How is social media changing things really? And what's going on in Asia?

Pyramid Structure

Having the pyramid structure in your communication toolkit can not only help you approach a problem, but convince others that your solution is valid. Break away from linear thinking and test your logical thinking with this course from GLOBIS Unlimited!

Leadership with Passion through Kokorozashi

The key ingredient to success? Passion.

Finding your kokorozashi will unify your passions and skills to create positive change in society. This GLOBIS Unlimited course will help you develop the values and lifelong goals you need to become a strong, passion-driven leader.

AI First Companies – Implementation and Impact

AI is changing the way companies operate. How do you structure teams to increase efficiency?

Technovate in the Era of Industry 4.0

Is Industry 4.0 is the next step of human evolution human civilization? Dr. Jorge Calvo seems to think so. Join him to learn how the past can help you set goals for an exciting future of digital innovation.

Technovate Thinking

Business leaders of tomorrow need to harness the power of technology and innovation. That means understanding algorithms and how they drive business results. Discover opportunities to make technology work for your competitive edge.

Product Life Cycle

Every product takes a natural course through the market—there's a how, when, and why customers adopt products at different stages. Check out this course from GLOBIS Unlimited to find out how a product you use every day is part of this cycle.

Logic Tree

Logical thinking is the most valuable asset any business professional can have. That's why logic trees are such a valuable tool—they can help you identify a problem, break it down, and build it back up to a solution.

MECE Principle

Using the MECE principle can help ensure you categorize without gaps or overlaps. Check out this course from GLOBIS Unlimited for a practical demonstration of how it works!

Remote work—working from home, in particular—is the new reality for many of us around the world. COVID-19 has forced businesses to make the shift to a distributed workforce, and while remote work itself is really nothing new, the scale of use has certainly changed.

This comes with challenges and opportunities.

To be truly effective as a member or leader of a remote team (increasingly, a global team), we need to understand how to mitigate the challenges of virtual teams—mainly distance. Not just geographic distance, but the other kind. The kind that can have an even greater impact on motivation and productivity.

Social distance.

Understanding how both geographic and social distance impact your team is the first step toward effective virtual collaboration.

Next Article

How to Foster Creativity for Better Virtual Collaboration

Creativity will be a key differentiator for the future of work. How do you manage global teams for virtual collaboration?
A global team of various nationalities and ethnicities communicate for virtual collaboration with superimposed video windows

A Distributed Workforce Isn’t Just Remote Work—It’s Better

Is a “distributed workforce” just a bunch of employees working remotely? Not exactly. In fact, understanding the difference could give your company a huge edge in the new normal.
A businessman stands among an evenly distributed workforce on a gold background

Geographic Distance and Synchronous Online Meetings

Geographic distance has less of an impact than it used to, but it’s still a factor. Whether you’re working with teammates in the same city or in a different city halfway around the world, consider the impact of space and time.

Some members of the remote team may have better internet connections, owing to city or national telecom infrastructure, or they may be in a country that blocks a particular app.

Then there are time differences to consider—a major concern with global teams. A time zone difference of even a few hours can wreak havoc on scheduling and productivity. This only worsens when team members are scattered among Tokyo, London, and San Francisco.

Managing global teams is by no means impossible, but it does take special planning to account for geographic distance.

Social Distance (Minus the “ing”)

First off, we are not talking about social distancing, which is on the minds of many of us as we face the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, social distance represents the gaps we may feel with team members due to differences such as language ability, national or corporate culture, or power dynamic. Each of these can impact a team and create social distance.

Language Differences

Remote teams, particularly global ones, work more smoothly when everyone speaks one common language at similar levels of ability. While not every member need be a native speaker, gaps in ability bring challenges. This can be an issue even for a multicultural workforce within a single country.

Cultural Differences

There are many aspects to culture. Nations, regions, companies, and even teams can have their own distinct cultures and ways of doing things. But crossing cultures can be particularly challenging because many of us aren’t aware of our own cultural binders and how our ideas of “common sense” may not have so much in common with others.

Power Balance

Social distance can be highly impacted by the real or perceived power imbalances between work locations or members of a team. While not necessarily power harassment, there is an obvious vertical power imbalance between a manager and direct reports. But there can also be horizontal power imbalances between members with different functions, HQ proximity, and budgets. Imbalances like these can have a huge impact on trust and team dynamics.

Locating Your Team’s Distances

To understand how both types of distance affect a team, it helps to visualize them. Then we can develop tools, processes, and norms to shrink those gaps, strengthen team culture characteristics, and ensure we have a high-performing team.

A simple 2X2 matrix is all it takes.

A 2x2 matrix for dealing with distance when managing global teams
Different kinds of distance (geographic and social) can cause different kinds of problems when managing global teams. | ©GLOBIS

Where does your team fall on this chart? What virtual collaboration challenges might come to its quadrant? Think about that before thinking about countermeasures.

While it may seem that a team in the bottom-left quadrant (collocated, low social distance) is inherently better off, that may not be the case. These teams may be less innovative due to lack of diversity. They may be more burdened by groupthink, assumptions, or cognitive biases. Their corporate or national culture may get them stuck thinking about the “right” way of doing things.

Teams with high diversity and higher social distance are more likely to have members who will challenge each other and create new ideas. While leading virtual teams like these can be more difficult, once harnessed, they will outperform others in creativity and innovation.

Managing Global Teams with Geographic Distance

We often think of technology as our first way to manage geographic distance. And yes, virtual meeting tools like Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Skype, WebEx, and Google Hangouts are essential. But the truth is, these won’t help collaboration in remote teams if some people have limited connectivity or government firewalls.

Sometimes email and a telephone are more effective than the most modern messaging app or videoconferencing system. Consider the local situation of each team member when deciding what tools to use and how to use them.

Remember, too, that apps and tools can’t change the length of a day or reduce time zone differences. Consider which tasks need to be done in real-time—synchronous online meetings are less necessary than many managers realize. For these, use Zoom or a telephone call. For others, email should do the trick.

And of course, there are non-technical solutions to managing time zone differences. This is where leadership and understanding of your team come into play.

One thing I like to do is to ask each member of the team to identify what time of the day they are most productive. What is their chronotype? People tend to fall into one of three:

  • Lark (morning person)
  • Owl (evening person)
  • Hummingbird (active at all times of the day)

A lark and an owl in Tokyo will be productive at different times and so may not collaborate as effectively. But a lark in Tokyo and owl in New York will be in sync and can collaborate more effectively. Plan meetings and tasks around these behavioral styles as much as possible.

And of course, try to mix up the meeting times so that one region is not always feeling the pain. Sometimes Tokyo may have to get up early or stay up late. Other times have New York take that on to give the Tokyo team a break.

Shrinking Social Distance

We can use both technology and leadership to narrow social distance gaps, as well.

Embrace the Visual

When we see people, we trust them. Visual connection can help bridge cultural divides. Some cultures are more expressive non-verbally, so having that video window open during a call gives you a way to better appraise the mood of the team. Just be sure to let everyone know about it in advance so they can dress appropriately!

Make Time to Communicate

When you can’t bump into your remote colleagues in the elevator or hallway, you need to make opportunities to communicate. In lieu of meeting in person, set-up one-on-one calls to catch up, have informal chats on your messaging system, or even have the entire team together on a call once a week for coffee. This isn’t to discuss work, but to focus on building the human connection.

Create a Team Agreement

A team agreement is a document which spells out team goals and operations. How will you communicate? Make decisions? Assign roles and responsibilities? Having this written down—with the input of the team—can reduce miscommunication and misunderstanding, as well as bond the team around a common goal. It’s especially effective with colleagues from high-context cultures like Japan, as it leaves nothing open to misinterpretation.

If necessary, a language policy can be part of the agreement. Set expectations for what languages the team will use. Each member can then alter their behavior accordingly: fluent speakers may need to slow down and speak less dominantly, while less-fluent speakers may need to speak up more. Putting this in writing can make a huge difference in cross-cultural interactions.

Remote work and virtual collaboration are here to stay. In fact, it will only become more important. Now is the time to think about how geographic and social distance impact your team. Start taking action to counter any challenges today, and you will position yourself, your global team, and your organization for future success.

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