Successful Global Teams Start with Trust
Feature Story – By Jessi Hunt
Successful companies are doing things differently.
I remember my first assignment to roll out a global team and applicable training content. Not only was I a brand-new employee of a large and successful tech company in Silicon Valley, but I was also new to this idea of a “global” workforce. It was not an “us and them” way of doing business, it was very much a “we” experience.
After weeks of developing the content, we were ready to enable the global teams, but I was scared this wouldn’t work. We were hearing push-back and I knew we couldn’t just flip the technology over the fence and hope it lands with them.
Thankfully, there was an opportunity to go to these regions in person and be there side by side as we rolled out the content. The most profound experience was in India. The teams in Bangalore and New Delhi were giving us the most resistance, but of course we didn’t really understand why. By visiting, we realized that we were asking a team to do the unthinkable, take a very high-touch and engaging experience of onboarding new employees and make it completely digital. And we wanted them to do this because it was better for the company … but what about them and their local office? Was it better for them?
Rolling out global training content can feel like a daunting task. There are numerous models and buzz phrases telling us how to approach this task.
After visiting India, it was easy to understand why this was so important to them. They cared for us as visitors in the same compassionate and engaging way they did for each new employee that walked through those doors, guiding us along the way and creating a memorable experience. Our goal as a company was that there was calibration in the onboarding experience across the globe. After the trip we decided there were key elements of the digital experience we wanted everyone to experience, but it was necessary to let some parts be done in person based on local needs.
This was a beautiful discovery and the beginning of a strong foundational relationship between me and the India team. I’ve since left that organization and maintain friendships with all the members of the team that hosted me on that trip so many years ago.
Rolling out a global team or training content can feel like a daunting task. Oftentimes we start with the business objective and then bring in the team at the last minute to execute. But this model doesn’t serve us, and successful companies are doing it different. There are numerous models and buzz phrases out there telling us how to approach this task. We’ve synthesized the key messages for you based on our experiences. Act like a start-up, be willing to iterate and follow these three simple rules:
To begin building trust, we need to understand people. The key to understanding is curiosity.
Have you ever walked into a room with the door ajar and been hesitant to barge through the door? So, you lean in a little, put your ear toward the opening and listen before you enter. We may be avoiding an awkward situation, or invading a private conversation, but ultimately what we are doing is paying attention and listening.
As companies enter new markets and assemble teams in these areas, it is important to enter with a listening ear. We have our agendas and our top down requirements, but instead of leading with those, could we approach with a listening ear? This can be modeled in a listening tour, discovery workshops and informational interviews. In short, give the people a place to be heard and share their regional nuances without judgment or agenda. The most important lesson in listening is being willing to change because of what you learn.
We may gather more information than we thought once we start listening, but what do we do with it? To begin building trust, we need to understand people. The key to understanding is curiosity. If you’ve ever spent time with a toddler, you know that childlike curiosity starts with “Why? Why? Why?” you get the picture.
Ask questions to understand. When you learn, be sure to repeat the understanding back; this is critical in building trust. The intention of asking questions has evolved from the curious child bumping up against the world into a desire to find clarity. Not only do you want to reiterate what you hear, you want to be sure it is understood, and the message is clear to both of you.
You’ve listened, understood to gain clarity and now it is time to empower your team. First, you need to give them the appropriate resources to do the job. But now, those tools are nuanced with a layer of trust because the team feels they have been part of the design. It’s the difference of just telling someone what to do versus them having a desire to follow the path because it makes sense.
Once they have the tools to actually apply the learning, it is important that language and communication feels customized to them. The core tenants of the organization are not compromised, but there is an element of localization that feels co-designed and ultimately empowers them to be successful.
The last element of an empowered global team is an ally or advocate that is close to the hub. Check in often, keep listening, let them know they have support, but then step back and let them do what they need to do.
High levels of trust and communication bring tremendous rewards to teams and organizations. Not only does it drive collaboration and innovation, but it creates a culture of proactive solutions versus reactive ones. If you approach each member of your team like you would a valued customer, listening, understanding and empowering them to select your product, then everyone wins.
Remember to lean in and listen with a willingness to change, be curious about understanding your team. Give them customized tools and resources and delight the employee as if they are the customer. From this strong foundation of trust, success is the path forward.
Jessi Hunt is the co-founder at Project Alive. Email Jessi at firstname.lastname@example.org.