APA - During his 30 years at Ford, Horst Baermann has worked in Europe, North America & APA and has seen the world transform from a very localised working environment to the globalised world that we know today. He has led many teams across different time zones, locations and cultures.
Recently, @Ford IT sat down with Horst, who is currently the Director of GPC IT & IT Strategy in APA, to talk about his experiences with leading teams in a global world.
@Ford IT: How does leading a global team differ from leading a team in your location/market?
Horst Baermann: From a logistics perspective, you need to organise the way you work differently. This has to do with both time zone and the fact that you do not see people face to face. In a remote team, you need to find different ways of communicating, including audio, email, IM and WebEx.
You also need to consider cultural differences between different members of the team.
•Often, you will need to change the style of your communications as people from different cultures may interpret something differently, for example, body language and metaphors.
•I still like verbal communication, however, when working with people who are not native English speakers I use a lot of written communication. This allows people to translate the message into their own language and ensures they have a clear understanding.
•You need to come up with a very clear vision that is easy to understand for all members of the team, especially those from different cultures.
@Ford IT: How do you build rapport/relationships with team members in a different market or time zone?
HB: I think relationship building is challenging because it involves seeing and spending time with people outside of a formal meeting. Personally, I try to travel to meet business customers and members of my team in person and spend time with them developing relationships.
I spend time talking to people and getting to know them. This is fairly easy to do with people in the same location as you see them in the corridor, the canteen or while having coffee together, etc. However, with team members in other locations, you need to put in the time and effort to discuss things like people development, career planning and personal interests. I set aside an extra 30 minutes in 1 on 1s with members of my team in remote locations to talk about these things.
@Ford IT: What advice would you give for working with Business Partners in different markets or time zones?
HB: I think for me, I do a lot of listening. Customers in different countries have different perceptions, different demands and to find these out, you need to spend time with your customer getting to know them and listening to their needs. I make the effort to meet with my customers, either in person or via audio. Sometimes this means that I need to be online early in the morning or late at night, however, it’s important to help build a good relationship and to get feedback. Normally I send an email to all participants after the meeting to clarify the discussion points and next steps.
@Ford IT: Do you believe that you have to be in a management position to be a leader in a global team?
HB: To be honest, no I don’t. I think being a leader in something, whatever it is, requires a certain personal style. You have to have vision and be prepared to fight for it. I have seen a lot of people who weren’t in a management position that were really passionate about their vision. In my opinion, they were leaders because they were able to communicate their passion and get others excited about it as well. I would say that everybody can be a leader if they want to be.
@Ford IT: What tips would you give for hosting or attending meetings in other time zones?
HB: Try to ask everybody to attend via audio rather than having some attendees in a conference room and remote participants on audio. As everybody is attending virtually, all participants are treated equally. You need to be disciplined on keeping to the agenda and including all participants in the discussion. I would ask the remote participants for their opinions first so they have a chance to talk before other attendees.
Ensure that you acknowledge remote participants, especially if they are attending at an inconvenient hour. Have a dialogue with your team and discuss who should attend out of hours meetings and try and rotate this between different locations so that people in one time zone are not inconvenienced all the time.
@Ford IT: In closing, what advice would you give for working with people from other cultures?
HB: Don’t take anything for granted. You have to be careful with your perceptions of other people’s behaviour when making decisions because you may not know why they behave as they do. People often expect others to behave in a certain way based on their own culture; however, people from other cultures may behave differently. I have learnt to stay calm and think twice before responding to a situation, or ask for advice from somebody from the same culture as the person who you are dealing with to help understand their behaviour.