In a recent webinar, Hone Coach LaTonya Wilkins discussed the key takeaways of her new book, Leading Below the Surface, which shares how to build real and psychologically safe relationships with people who are different from ourselves – a crucial skill for the modern workplace.
Following the event, we received a number of thought-provoking questions that inspired us to create our new blog series: Ask a Coach. Each installment, we’ll be asking our Hone coaches to weigh in on your most pressing workplace and L&D questions. This time, we sat down with LaTonya to hear her thoughts on this question submitted by a webinar attendee. Here’s what he wanted to know:
I am a part of a team that is spread out across the globe. While our U.S.-based company has tried to adopt a more global perspective as we’ve grown, I still feel most of our business strategy and culture is centered around our U.S. team and business.
For example, one-third of our employees are in India, and yet, all of our team calls occur at a time that is suitable for our US colleagues. How do you get a U.S. company that thinks it is already a global company and has a global perspective to open its eyes and work towards creating true equity for every employee?
In response, Wilkins had three insights to share when it comes to determining if your business is truly a global company and ensuring your company culture can cross borders:
1. Determine What Kind of Global Company You Are
Before you get to work building a more inclusive and understanding global company, I urge you to take a step back and identify which category your business falls into. In my experience, there are two types of global companies:
- Companies based in one country and outsource their work or open up satellite offices in cheaper markets.
- Truly global companies, meaning they not only operate in multiple countries, but also have a global strategy to run their business and bring their products and services to new markets.
For example, a US-based company with call centers in India might seem like a global company because they have multiple offices around the world. But when the U.S. office sets the overall business strategy, the power dynamic of the two offices is imbalanced. That’s not to say the call center doesn’t have a large impact on their customers and the overall success of the business, but the U.S. office might perceive it as having a lower value.
Similarly, today a lot of companies are opening offices and hiring in Eastern Europe because it’s cheaper. But just because they have teams in these markets, their products might not be global. Their products might still only be made for consumers wherever the company is headquartered, so the head office might be more focused on the employee experience and culture of its home office.
Once you understand if your company is truly a global company or just benefitting from cheaper talent and resources abroad, you can understand how best to move forward and create a more inclusive organization. If your company is open to improving the employee experience within all of its offices, you can follow the next two steps outlined below.
2. Build Equity Through Empathy and Understanding
Many companies offer outside of the box mentorships, where more junior employees mentor senior leaders in order to give them a fresh perspective on different areas of the business. This type of program can help drive belonging and improve understanding across different office locations. One FinTech company I work closely with is pairing everyone on their leadership team with someone from their India call center. Imagine what they can learn from these conversations! These discussions could help neutralize the power dynamic between these two offices and help the business truly become more global. This program allows senior leaders to walk in the shoes of call center employees, understand their perspectives, and lead with empathy moving forward.
These types of initiatives aren’t just for senior leaders. If your company offers a mentorship program or new hire buddy program, consider creating some global pairs as well. It’s very common for employees to develop siloed groups within their team, department, or country, so creating opportunities to get to know someone different from themselves can help foster a sense of community and openness from day one. Even just promoting cross-office projects can allow your employees to meet and interact with new people, develop empathy for them, and become more inclusive colleagues as a result.
Fostering openness and understanding between employees and offices can put equity and belonging front and center within your organization. Being mindful of others’ perspectives is the first step to developing meaningful empathy that can fuel lasting change.
3. Leverage Managers to Drive Change
Building a truly global company doesn’t have to come from the C-level of your organization. Mid-level managers can actually play a large role in shaping the sense of community and equity that exists between offices and regions. This can be done by using some of the concepts we discussed in our Leading Below The Surface webinar, like building a sense of personal belonging, listening, and taking a step back.
If you are an American leading a global team, I urge you to take a step back and observe. Pay attention to how people are interacting in your meetings. Are people joining right when the meeting starts? Are they late? Are they alert and involved or more quiet and tired?
Taking a step back, listening, and truly observing interactions may help you realize that your chosen meeting time is not ideal for everyone on your team. In fact, regularly making these meetings convenient for employees in one country and completely inconvenient for a team in another can quickly foster resentment amongst your teams and signal that one team is more important than the other.
Armed with this insight, you might consider rotating team meetings times so you don’t put the time burden on one team to wake up early or stay online extra late, and show that you don’t favor one group of employees over the other just because of their geographical location.
Given the global nature of our work today, decisions need to be collaborative so that every group of employees – regardless of office location – can feel like their voice is heard and their time and contributions are valued. Be comfortable with the mess of figuring it out and don’t be afraid to try new things, even if they aren’t a seamless success at first. Ask questions like:
- When are you most productive in the day? What time of the day would work better for you?
- How do you like to be managed? What have your past managers done that you would like me to do – or not do?
- How do you like to communicate? Does this have to be a meeting or is there another way we could sync successfully?
- How do you like to receive feedback?
As a people leader, you aren’t expected to have all the right answers. Listen to your people to find solutions or compromises that can help employees, no matter where they are in the world, actively participate and feel a part of your team.
Have a question for our Hone coaches?
Email email@example.com to submit your question and you just might see it answered in a future blog post!