Looking for new ways to push your team towards a better deployment frequency? How about getting software engineers, design, and product experts to collaborate to improve user XP? Now add complexity: what if the team is also made up of contractors, not just full-time employees? Sean Ways, VP of Engineering at eHealth Technologies, shares how his “one team” approach to people-management has transformed performance across teams.
Sean Ways is an industry veteran. His comprehensive background ranges from tech management to product development. Fair to say, he has seen Software as a Service (SaaS) teams both rise to the occasion and that fail miserably.
With a firm belief in the power of the “one team” approach, he advocates for equal-as-possible treatment of third-party team members. Within acceptable compliance requisites, dev shops, augmented staff, and full-time employees should be part of the team. In other words, equal footing on responsibilities, performance reviews, and opportunities.
According to the tech leader, cohesive international teams break down geographical barriers to deliver exceptional results. His focus on inclusivity, talent promotion regardless of location, and standardization of processes and structures fosters a unified and efficient working environment. By embracing a mindset that treats third-party teams just like in-house teams, organizations can achieve double the outcome with half the hassle.
Here’s how to apply this approach and unlock the potential of your team.
1. We are one: stop distinguishing between in-house and 3rd-party teams
Sean emphasizes that the best talents are no longer exclusive to the US. By embracing the global market, companies can tap into a diverse pool of skills and expertise.
A simple, yet critically important concept is that your team members need to feel and believe that they are equals, regardless of their geographical location. Why? This drives ownership and accountability based on equal access to information and career growth opportunities.
As a leader, it is crucial to be present with your teams, being attentive during interactions (check out this article on mindfulness and leadership). Treat people based on needs, not location. Thus, you ensure that your team operates with the same rules and processes fostering cohesion and collaboration.
It’s key to standardize organization structure, titles, promotion opportunities, and continuing education benefits, as this contributes to a fair and inclusive environment. While some variance may occur due to local laws, it is important that you minimize differences whenever possible and promote the best individuals based on merit rather than location, as it reinforces the notion of unity.
Embrace the “We are one” mindset and avoid a US-centric organizational structure to enhance team cohesion. Whenever possible, create teams with a mix of on-shore, near-shore, and off-shore people. After all, promoting the top performers to leadership roles (regardless of where they are) will not only yield better results, but also project a diverse, critical, and success-based environment. Unbiased leveraging of individual strengths and weaknesses results in an extraordinary team.
It’s also important that you find champions and advocates globally, as leaders cannot achieve their vision alone. Empower true believers from diverse backgrounds to advocate and reinforce the message, as it strengthens your team’s sense of unity and shared purpose.
2. Lean in: captivate contractors too
As technology and product leaders, we often find ourselves managing both captive and 3rd-party teams throughout our careers. Sean highlights that you too can build unified and high-performing teams regardless of the management scenario.
Take notice of some of his best practices that apply to all teams:
- Adopt and promote the “We are one” strategy and mindset, using names and titles that avoid geographic or company identifiers,
- Encourage teams to adopt a name that fosters a sense of unity, and establish clear expectations, KPIs, and accountability measures.
When it comes to 3rd party teams, it’s essential that you treat them as first-party citizens in your processes, such as Agile ceremonies and planning. They should also have equal access to your team environments, such as Teams and Slack, to ensure seamless collaboration. Recognize their achievements and contributions just as you would with captive employees, and hold them accountable to the same standards, ensuring that they are delivering value rather than merely extending their engagement.
3. Diversity matters: Adjust leadership style to reflect the team
Diversity is key when managing a global team. For instance:
- People from different educational systems and thought processes stress-test the status quo and bring forward new concepts, ideas and solutions.
- When your team resembles your user base, they catch UX/UI opportunities and threats long before launch.
But to reap these and other advantages, leaders must adapt their leadership style to foster a welcoming environment. Sean advises leaders to embrace a mindset of democratization, seeking out champions and leaders from various backgrounds and avoid having an entirely US-based leadership and management team.
Sean also emphasizes the importance of investing in team development, through mentorship, training, and regular one-on-one sessions to foster their growth and development. When it comes to hiring, prioritize individuals who possess the qualities of being humble, hungry, and smart who bring a diverse range of perspectives and skills to the table.
“The Ideal Team Player” by Patrick Lencioni is a highly recommended read for you to grasp valuable insights on building effective teams. Remember that the effort you put into cultivating a diverse and inclusive leadership team will directly correlate with the returns you receive, although it may not always be an easy journey.
“Leaders who can identify, hire, and cultivate employees who are humble, hungry, and smart will have a serious advantage over those who cannot.”
4. Serve, and do it well: Practice 11 key behaviors expected from leaders
Leaders must lead by example. A leader’s visibility is undeniable, and how you present yourself and manage your responsibilities holds great significance. It’s crucial to recognize that every action and attitude serves as models for others, influencing their behavior. So, let us have a look at some pointers that may help guide you:
- Be positive, as positivity breeds positivity and creates a harmonious environment
- Be accountable for your actions and take responsibility for the outcomes
- Be present, actively engaging with your teams and demonstrating your commitment
- Be authentic, staying true to ourselves and fostering genuine connections.
- Be inclusive, as creating a welcoming environment for offshore teams is of utmost importance
- Be mature and level-headed, exhibiting emotional intelligence and composure in challenging situations
- Empower your employees, avoiding top-down decision-making and allowing them to contribute meaningfully
- Set your teams up for success by planning realistically and communicating transparently from the outset
- Acknowledge and celebrate both your team’s collective achievements and individual successes
- Prepare team members to engage in difficult conversations with honesty, integrity, and the intention of achieving positive outcomes
- Address the soft skill gap that may arise with the emerging Gen Z workforce, providing the necessary support and guidance.
5. Dive deep: Learn more about each cultural background
Understanding the people and cultures you lead and manage is crucial for effective leadership. For example, being aware of geopolitical relationships and potential risks will ensure that you make better decisions. Sean advises leaders to get familiar with several cultural aspects of their teams and delve into matters such as:
- Cultural norms, including traditions and customs, include subtle nuances, such as knowing which hand to shake during greetings. Recognize prevailing prejudices and social issues within the community, considering the impact of emigration on organizational expectations and dynamics
- Hiring and transition time frames: they can often be intricate and vary across regions (e.g., a 14-day notice period in the US, a 60-day notice period in Europe, and a 90-day notice period in India). Having a partner who can bring you Legal, Accounting, and Security insights is priceless. Ask Ubiminds for a free consult.
- Get familiar with salary, bonus, and benefit structures and comprehend the importance of understanding currency conversion
- Gain insights into the governmental practices and regulations that impact HR, such as policies related to paid time off (PTO), fringe benefits, hiring, and firing. Evaluate the implications of national holidays and decide whether to align team schedules with those of the US or adapt to local observances and the implications of that decision on your team. Consider the potential impact on employee morale based on family-related circumstances and obligations. Adapt to pay adjustments that may be influenced by economic factors or local market conditions.
- Be mindful of the political climate and how it shapes views of the United States, as well as geopolitical relationships that might affect the workforce. Assess the potential risks posed by geopolitical instability and its potential impact on the workforce.
- Recognize the dynamic nature of nearshore teams and their viability in different geopolitical contexts (e.g., the changing relationship between China and the US).
Develop an understanding of the predominant religions within a culture, including their core principles and potential challenges associated with integrating teams of diverse religious backgrounds.
Best Practices for Building Cohesive International Teams in a Nutshell
To remain competitive, tapping into the global market is a great solution. We now have a unique opportunity to hire diverse talent with skill sets to build and lead awesome teams.
Don’t forget that flexibility is a vital aspect as tech professionals now expect the freedom to choose where and when they work. As leaders, it is our role to establish clear boundaries that ensure work is accomplished punctually and within budget. Yet, it is essential to be cognizant of the legal and financial implications associated with remote work arrangements.
It’s imperative to be the one driving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) despite any resistance. Also, it’s vital to understand regional norms regarding returning to the office and catering to the preferences of your employees.
Emphasize video communication by implementing a policy of having cameras on during meetings to foster effective collaboration and take advantage of that to build personal relationships:
- Provide more visual cues: facial expressions and hand gestures add value to conversations.
- Create engagement and build agreements: when faces are seen in meetings, it’s easier to engage with one another and lean on visual cues to build agreements.
- Build a collaborative environment: connecting with co-workers is much easier when you can see faces. No one wants to become friends with a non-moving profile picture.
Make sure to equip your team members with the skills to handle difficult conversations. Especially when addressing the soft skill gap prevalent among the Generation Z workforce.
Avoid recruiting individuals with diva-like attitudes to contribute to a harmonious and productive work environment.
Ultimately, as a leader, keep in mind that adopting a positive, servant-oriented, and motivational approach empowers your team to achieve their best, face challenges head-on and foster overall success.
Build international teams in LatAm with Ubiminds
Are you looking to build a more diverse international team? We at Ubiminds specialize in creating cohesive teams that span across borders, enabling you and your company to tap into talent from different locations, and ensuring that the best individuals are selected. Want to unlock the full potential of your team with a diverse workforce? Let’s chat!
Mariana Alves is a tech & gaming enthusiast and data-driven marketing professional. Mari has promoted SaaS, Games, and Apps across global markets (EMEA, UK, US, Brazil), boasting 5+ years of remote work experience.