February 14, 2023
4 mins

Building Global Teams: Why Relationships Matter

The Importance of Building Global Teams

As the founder of Playgig, a game development company, I've had the opportunity to build and lead teams across the globe. One of the most important things I've learned throughout my career is that relationships matter, and you need to be culturally sensitive when building global teams.

Clear Communication and Understanding Cultural Differences

When I was the Managing Director of Global Publishing & Esports at Riot Games, we had teams in multiple countries, all working together to bring our games to players around the world. It was a challenging but rewarding experience, and it taught me a lot about the importance of building strong relationships and understanding cultural differences.

One of the first things I learned was the importance of clear communication. When working with teams in different countries, it's easy for misunderstandings to occur, and it's important to be clear and concise in your communication to avoid confusion. Different cultures have different ways of communicating and working, and it's important to respect those differences and be open to learning from them.

Take the time to learn a few words of the language, research the news and history, and understand what's top of mind for your partners or teams. This shows that you are willing to invest time and effort to understand their culture and perspective.

Learning a few words of the language can be a great ice breaker and can help to build trust and understanding. Even if you're not fluent, it demonstrates that you're making an effort to communicate and understand. Additionally, it can make your colleagues feel more comfortable and at ease when working with you. Researching the news and history of the country or region can also be very beneficial. It can give you insights into current events, cultural norms, and important historical figures and events. This can help you to understand the context in which your colleagues live and work.

Understanding Cultural Expectations

In some cultures, it's considered rude to be direct and assertive, while in others it's expected. Knowing these cultural norms can help you navigate any conflicts that may arise and find a resolution that works for everyone. Understanding these differences can help you adapt your leadership style and communication approach to better suit the cultural backgrounds of your team members.

In order to effectively build global teams, it's crucial to be flexible and open to learning. This means being willing to adapt your own practices and ways of working to better align with the cultural backgrounds of your team members. It also means being open to feedback and actively seeking out new perspectives and ideas from your team members. I am consistently learning to be aware of differences in communication styles, decision-making, and work-life balance, and to be flexible and open to learning to create an inclusive and respectful work environment for all team members.

Building Relationships with Team Members

I found that building relationships with my team members was key to success. When working with people from different backgrounds, it can be easy for them to feel isolated and disconnected.

When building global teams, it's important to validate the information and references provided by your partners or employees. This is especially important when working across cultures, as you may not be as familiar with the local industry and key players. Failing to validate information and references can lead to misunderstandings and problems down the road, making it harder to switch partners or employees overseas.

One way to validate information and references is to find other people in the industry who can provide feedback. This could include other companies or individuals who have worked with your partners or employees in the past. By reaching out to these references, you can gain valuable insights and information about their work style, reputation, and performance.

Another way to go about this is to conduct your own research. This could include searching for information online, reading industry publications, or attending relevant events and conferences. By gathering information from multiple sources, you can gain a more complete understanding of the local industry and key players.

Importance of In-Person Meetings

One of the most effective ways to foster strong relationships and understanding across cultures is to meet in person, invest in traveling, and invite people over.

Seeing the context in which your colleagues live and work can give you valuable insights into their perspectives and priorities. Additionally, spending time together in person can help to break down barriers and build deeper connections. When you're able to meet face-to-face, you're able to pick up on nonverbal cues, build trust, and establish a personal connection. This is especially important when working across cultures, as cultural differences can sometimes lead to misunderstandings.

Inviting people over to your office or country can give your colleagues the opportunity to experience your culture and see how your company operates. It can also help to break down stereotypes and build empathy. Meeting in person, investing in traveling, and inviting people over can help to foster trust, is mandatory for a successful international business.

Showing Appreciation and Balancing Time Zones

One way to show appreciation is to schedule meetings and events in the time zone of your partners or teams. This small effort shows that you are willing to try to accommodate their schedule and that you value their time. For example, if you're working with a team based in Japan, you need to schedule meetings at a time that is convenient for them, even if that means having the meeting in the middle of the night for you.

Another way to show appreciation is to schedule play tests for your game or product in the time zone of your partners or teams. This allows them to participate in the testing process and gives them the opportunity to provide valuable feedback. It also shows that you are willing to go the extra mile to make sure they have the best experience possible.

Creating an Inclusive Culture at Playgig

As founder of Playgig, I am now leveraging my experience in building and leading global teams, to shape our company's culture, and make it an inclusive place to work. We are committed to creating an environment where everyone can feel valued, respected, and supported, regardless of their background or culture. We believe that by fostering an inclusive culture, we can create better products that resonate with a wider audience and also attract and retain the best talent globally.

Building global teams is a continuous process that requires constant attention and adaptation. But by keeping these principles in mind, you can create a team that is not only successful but also a great place to work.