Technology now makes it more accessible than ever to build a global team. Toronto Startup Strategyzer hires from around the world to attract the most talented people. Canadian Startup of the Year Top Hat has offices in Canada and the U.S. to serve its customers. Regardless of location and business needs, it’s not a small task to build a team from miles away, says Marina Arnaout, the regional head of digital at SAS Software in Toronto.
Today, Arnaout, who leads teams in Latin America and Toronto, shares how to successfully hire, manage, and build international teams:
YouInc: Tell us about your role managing teams in Toronto and Latin America.
There are two components to my role. First, I lead the global digital strategy at SAS with my international peers and second, take the strategies we develop on a global level and localize them on the regional level with my team.
YI: What was your first experience working with a team abroad?
One of my first and most important experiences in this role was to hire a new team member in our Mexico City office. People are the most important part of a business, and it’s not a small task to build a team especially from miles away. It takes a lot to ensure that the individual is the right fit both in terms of skillset and culture, especially if you have not met them in person. There are two components to this process:
Number one: the importance of local relationships in assisting with the process and sharing their perspectives.
Number two: a fair portion of the interview process is always the responsibility of the interviewer. A good communicator will make the interviewee feel comfortable and ask types of questions to not only gage the skillset but also the character, especially if done over video conference. After all, skills can be taught but attitude remains consistent. Although working with different cultures on an international level certainly has its differences, it’s not completely distinctive from working in a national office. The people skills and emotional intelligence are very transferrable.
YI: What skills have you had to work on or develop to be able to successfully work with and lead teams abroad?
First and foremost, communication and clarity. These are absolutely crucial in any business scenario, especially when someone is miles away. The only way to develop trust and credibility is through constant communication and clarity of goals.
Second, collaboration and establishing relationships across the organization. This enables best practice sharing and creates organic communities of practice leads. It should be done across organization on different levels and functions with the goal of developing mutually beneficial relationships.
Third, diversity of teams. Everyone has something unique to bring to the table and having different perspectives is important. Disagreements, different personalities and challenging questions are healthy because they start discussions and shed light on issues others may not have thought of previously, as well as explore different perspectives.
YI: How do you build relationships with your reports since you can't always be there in person?
The main way to build relationships is to act like they are in the same office as you. Inclusion in decisions, connection of teams, introductions, understanding challenges, and clarity of goals all help build rapport.
YI: What insights can you share about the benefits for businesses to hire people with international business experience?
Working in or with another country forces you to step outside your comfort zone, which opens up opportunities to develop new skills and have new experiences. This brings substantial benefits to a person’s development such as improved communication, cultural awareness, confidence, and problem solving. The world is constantly evolving and without an intense curiosity and a desire to learn, you will be left behind. Those who possess a global perspective think strategically and are able to see things differently.
For example, working internationally can challenge your perspectives and opens up different ways of looking at problems. I learn from my global peers and my team every day about the differences in markets, political and economic situations, trends, cultural profiles, business landscapes, and working styles. It allows me to evaluate issues with different lenses while forcing me to develop stronger cross-cultural communication skills. All of these factors contribute to stronger business acumen that is a valuable differentiating factor in employees.