4 tips for managing a team from another country

| September 8, 2018

Maintaining strong performance, teamwork and collaboration are key in any workplace. If you’re working across timezones or international borders, they become even more crucial because you don’t have the same physical connection to your staff.

Whether it’s international business partners or employees in another office, there are strategies you can employ to ensure your international business is a success.

I have managed my team from abroad since early 2016, when I made the move from Australia to Seoul, South Korea to grow our cosmetic import business. Pretty quickly we realised we needed someone on the ground to establish the right connections, source products and engage with our Korean suppliers.

Building a team you can trust, establishing a proper chain of command, communicating to overcome the physical distance and utilitising technology are all key to bringing the business together and operating seamlessly.

1. Make sure you have a team you can trust

When the team you manage is overseas, the importance of trust is magnified, as you can’t be there to hold hands, see what’s going on or micromanage everything.

Instead, you need to identify trustworthy employees and let them take ownership of their projects.

It is crucial to manage out staff who aren’t up to the job, as well as any who aren’t self-starters – it isn’t practical to manage team members like this from abroad. Your international team needs to be honest, proactive, possess sound judgment and an attention to detail and also be able to take ownership of their workstreams without you looking over their shoulder.

2. Establish the chain of command

Similarly, you’ll need a proper chain of command both on the ground, where you are working, and overseas. You won’t be able to answer every query that crops up, so you need an appropriate management structure to ensure that problems get dealt with promptly, the team runs smoothly and that you only deal with matters that actually require your input.

We navigated this by appointing a general manager in Australia who has day-to-day management of our Australian operation, and is responsible for logistics and staff on the ground; I do the same in Korea. We work closely to ensure everything is flowing smoothly in both countries.

3. Communication is key

Communication between team members is so important, particularly when you can’t see each other face to face. I keep the same hours when I work from Seoul as our team in Australia, to help us stay in touch in real time. We also hold weekly office teleconferences to catch up and plan for the week.

Physical face-time is important, so I fly to Australia every three-four months, and the team joins me in Seoul so they have the chance to attend trade shows, see the latest trends on the streets and meet our suppliers in person.

4. Use technology to your advantage

Technology makes it easier than ever to manage a team remotely, whether they are working from home or overseas. We use a combination of phone and computer software to keep our team on the same page, and have even developed a group chat so we are all up to speed on what’s going on in our business and feel like part of a team.

So far, our tactics are working. We have low staff turnover, our dispersed team works well together and Style Story continues to grow in revenue.

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Lauren Lee

Lauren Lee is the founder of Style Story, the authorised Australian distributor of the best names in Korean beauty, including Benton, Elizavecca, Missha, April Skin, Lindsay and Tosowoong