Working in International Teams: How to Get the Skills You'll Need

Long gone are the days when team collaboration meant walking down the hallway. Now you could be instant messaging a colleague in Shanghai from your headquarters in New York while prepping for a team meeting in Dubai.

Today’s business world has largely obliterated any geographic borders: Nearly 90 percent of organizations plan to increase the number of globally mobile workers in the coming two years, according to a 2014 PwC survey.

But working with teams scattered across the globe means conquering everything from navigating language barriers to managing remote teams. Here are some tips to make sure nothing gets lost in translation:

Embrace Cultural Differences

Be ready to navigate new cultural waters. In her role as editorial systems coordinator for Thomson Reuters in Mexico City, Mexico, Mariana Assis works across cultures every day. “You have to be open to a new way of doing things. Never underestimate the cultural factor. Understand and accept that there are things so rooted in cultures that [you] will not be able to change them.”

Improve Your Fluency in Foreign Language

"Working in a global company gave me the opportunity to improve my language skills"

Speaking multiple languages makes working across borders easier—and international teammates can help you become fluent faster. “Working in a global company gave me the opportunity to improve my language skills,” Ms. Assis says. “I learned Spanish and improved my English.”

Emphasize Professional Development

No two markets operate the same, so go in armed with the skills that organizations are really looking for. “Always keep on learning and upgrading yourself per demand in your industry and globally,” says Neeraj Kapil, talent acquisition specialist, Emerson Network Power, Maharashtra, India. Pursuing professional development opportunities—such as globally recognized credentials and degrees—will add credibility.

Stay Connected to Your Team

“The manager of a virtual team has double the work,” Ms. Assis says. “The success of leadership is, how much do you know about your employees, about their needs, their weaknesses and strengths? Doing this remotely is a big challenge. I’m always online on IM. I always have my VOIP phone on.”

Keep Growing as a Professional

“Keep an eye on international workshops and conferences,” Mr. Kapil recommends. “Keep yourself involved in blogs and social media.” Not only will you show your professional commitment, you’re also broadening your connections. And that just might help you land your next global gig.

With the right skills and tools, you can improve performance, no matter where you or your team is on the globe. To learn more about building your strengths as a global leader, check out CMMI’s global professional certifications and training programs.

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