Monday, May 3, 2010

Working Internationally: Using Social Media to Unite Your Team

I won't officially start my new position at United Domains until May 17, but in the meanwhile, I'm learning a lot about the domain name industry and my company, along with helping my new boss put together the first US office (United Domains is headquartered in Munich, Germany). One thing he asked me to do was to join a new online network, called Xing, which acts a lot like LinkedIn, but is more widely used in Europe. It's been about a week since I created my profile and I've already received a number of contacts from the company HQ.

I've been thinking about this a lot, particularly after attending a panel on Global Business Perspectives at the Simmons Leadership Conference on Friday. Moderated by my Leadership professor, Stacy Blake-Beard, the panel was composed of Irina Simmons of EMC, Marie Myers of HP, and Kathy Hannan of KPMG. These three executives spoke at length about managing a global team, the challenges and rewards of being spread across the world. As I begin my work with an international company, here were the three things that I took away from the panel:

Be Engaged
If there is a five hour time difference between you and your team, stay up late, or get up early so that you can phone or video conference with everyone on their time. Marie Myers stressed that it is very important to show your global team that you are available to them. Get to know your team and let them know that although you may be halfway around the globe, you will listen to them and address their needs. Irina Simmons added also, whenever possible, get to know your people personally--if you're visiting the office in Singapore, schedule time to meet the people on the ground just to introduce yourself.

Use the Technology
One of my first questions for my new boss was "How will we communicate?" The answer involved technology: Skype, Basecamp, iChat, and email. Myers and Simmons mentioned that their companies have invested in Cisco's Telepresence. There are many ways to communicate, instant messaging, email, Twitter, mobile phones, and more. If you're working globally, make sure you can communicate locally.

Social Media 
While I usually advocate SM for marketing, it's also a great way to keep in touch with your work colleagues. Creating a company network on Facebook allows for quick dissemination of information. If you've misplaced a phone number, a direct message on Twitter can easily reach your targeted contact. Corporate blogs can work as bulletin boards for widespread groups, especially using multi-author features.

The world is getting smaller, or flatter, if you prefer Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat example. I'm hoping to use social media to build great relationships with my international counterparts. I'd also love to hear your ideas on how to create a great global team.

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