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Author: Caprice White

Mastering Time Zones: Strategies for Leading Global Teams to Success

In today’s interconnected world, project managers often find themselves leading project teams spread across different time zones. While this presents unique challenges, it also offers exciting opportunities for collaboration and diversity.

In this article, we will explore strategies to effectively manage global teams, foster communication, and promote team bonding to optimize performance, which will in turn ensure project success.

 

Time Zones. Help!

Ok. Here it is. You are managing a project team (or new team members), and with the new ways of working (remote, hybrid, or in-office), these team members all just happen to live in different time zones. Some are located across the country; some can even be across the ocean. YIKES!!! Your challenge is to keep the team connected and working towards the same project goals and outcomes. How do you do this?

Let’s start by saying that modern technology is pretty fantastic at keeping us connected no matter the distance; however, working on a project with members in multiple time zones can be challenging. Here is where great online tools such as world clocks or online converters can help you plan meetings and visualize overlapping work hours.

*Hot tip: Be mindful when booking meeting times and recognize that what’s morning for you might be late evening for someone else.

 

Communication Is Key – It is all about the channels.

Email vs. Instant Communications

While email is still essential, consider other platforms, as different team members may prefer varied communication tools.

  • Slack
  • Microsoft Teams
  • WhatsApp

Lights, Camera, Action!

Regular video meetings (teams, Zoom) build rapport and allow face-to-face interactions. Appointing certain meetings as “camera on” will help to cross the miles and make the meetings more human.

Project Management Tools

Platforms like Jira, Trello, Assana, and MS Teams facilitate collaboration across miles and time zones.

 

Setting Expectations

  • Clarify Message Response Times.
    • Note all team member’s off-hours (unless they are on an “On Call” rotation) and make it clear that immediate answers aren’t necessary.
  • Encourage Asynchronous Communication.

Use tools that allow team members to contribute when it suits their schedules.

  • Set up group channels as well as project-specific channels, so there are several ways for teams and sub-teams to connect and collaborate.
  • Organizations usually have a channel they promote or prefer, such as teams, Slack, or Discord.
  • Set up one tool and don’t use too many, as communications may get missed or some team members may feel left out.

 

Embrace Flexibility | Be mindful and agile.

  • Overlap Hours

Find common working hours for critical discussions or decision-making.

  • Flex Work

Allow team members to adjust their schedules to accommodate personal needs or local holidays.

Understand that life happens. Being open and flexible to meeting and scheduling changes goes a long way in building trust and strength with the team.

Cultural Awareness

  • Holidays and observances
    • Be aware of local holidays and cultural events.
    • Adjust project timelines accordingly.
    • Be curious about national and local holidays and traditions.
  • Language and Tone
    • Understand language nuances and adapt communication styles to avoid misunderstandings.

 

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Project Management Tools

Some helpful Project Management tools

  • Trello: Organize tasks, assign responsibilities, and track progress.
  • Jira: Organize tasks and responsibilities, assign responsibilities, reporting and track progress.
  • Google Docs: Collaborate on documents in real time.
  • Time Zone Converters: Use tools like World Time Buddy or Every Time Zone to coordinate meetings.

 

Lead by Example

Respect Boundaries

Demonstrate that you value work-life balance by not expecting instant replies outside of working hours.

*Hot email tip: Delay sending emails to align with other’s working hours.

Model Communication:

Use various channels and encourage open dialogue.

Support Team Bonding

Schedule informal team and 1:1 chats to build camaraderie.

During or after meetings, have some informal team-building exercises.

  • Show an interesting TedED Talk
  • Have a topical and fun online quiz hour.
  • Pecha Kucha share-outs: Team members take turns creating and sharing a Pecha Kucha on a topic of their choice weekly.

 

Celebrate Diversity:

  • Embrace different perspectives and learn from each other. Encourage the team members to take turns and share a bit about themselves and their interests.
  • Embrace the variety of cultures and experiences team members bring to the project team.

 

The role of a Project Manager for a global team across multiple time zones requires adaptability, empathy, effective communication, and the ability to be agile. By leveraging today’s available technology, being aware of time zones and cultural nuances, and respecting work-life balance, you can successfully lead a team that transcends geographical boundaries.

Remember, the sun never sets on well-coordinated projects.

Meeting Facilitation Boot Camp

Meeting facilitation is a soft skill that is a vital part of your business analyst toolkit. It is rare to be a business analyst and not facilitate meetings.

Over your Project Management or Business Analyst career, you will attend, schedule, plan, many, many meetings.

As a facilitator, you must remain a neutral party. You are responsible for meetings and works shops that uncover and reveal requirements, are productive and provide an environment that fosters open communication and enables all stakeholders to reach agreements and consensus. You can do this, Of course, you can! YOU are a superstar when it comes to meetings.

Even superstars need a refresher once and a while, so it’s meeting facilitation boot camp time!

1. Plan Your Logistics

Logistics are the who, here and when part of the process. The list below should assist you with your logistic preparations:

  • Who are your participants? Ensure that you invite the correct stakeholders to your meeting.
  • Where will your meeting take place? Make sure your meeting space is the appropriate size for the number of stakeholders who will be in attendance. Do not make the rookie mistake I did in my early days and book a meeting room suitable for 8 when I had 15 attendees. You want to make sure your stakeholders are comfortable and have enough room for any presentation materials.
  • Are there time zone considerations? Does your company have people working remotely offices located in various time zones? If so, you need to take this into consideration when booking the time for your meeting. Make sure it is at a reasonable time where all parties can attend.
  • Pre-book any resources required such as shared conference call lines, meeting room, projectors, laptops or web-sharing software.
  • Ensure you familiar with all of the equipment you will be using during your meeting. Just to be on the safe side, schedule a dry run before your meeting so you can address any technical issues to ensure things don’t go pear-shaped.
  • Print out any documents or handouts required for your stakeholders. If your meeting requires pens, paper, post-it notes or larger writing sheets ensure these supplies are on hand and ready to go before your meeting.
  • Who will be taking notes? If you are facilitating the meeting, will you have time to take notes or do you need assistance from another Business Analyst or Admin? Arranging this beforehand can help with the efficiency of your meetings.
  • Will you be serving food or coffee? If so, ensure these are pre-order for your participations. I find a box of donuts and coffee goes a long way in eliciting requirements from early morning stakeholders.
  • Always have a backup plan in place. Sometimes resources fail, or rooms get double booked. Ensure you have a backup plan.

2. Set the Agenda

Once you have your logistics sorted, it’s time to send out meeting invitations and set the agenda.
Have you ever received a meeting invite and had to contact the organizer because it was unclear what the meeting was about and what the expectations were? Any confusion can be avoided by sending your stakeholders a clear agenda that includes the following:

  • An objective for the meeting
  • List of discussion topics
  • Need your stakeholders to do some homework? Don’t forget to include attachments or pre-reading for attendees to review.

3. Ice Breaker and Introductions

Once your stakeholders have arrived and are settled in, take the first 5 minutes of the meeting for people to introduce themselves and what their roles are on the project. This allows your attendees to understand other’s roles and responsibilities on a project, creates context, and gets them comfortable and ready for the meeting.

If there is time, I like to throw out an icebreaker question, unrelated to the project or meeting to get people comfortable in the right headspace to communicate. A few sample icebreaker questions for the group are:

  • When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • What is the strangest food you have ever eaten?
  • What is the longest you have ever stayed awake and why?

4. Review the Agenda and Get This Party Started!

Now that your participants are settled, take 5 minutes to review the agenda. This establishes meeting guidelines and context, which will make the meeting a lot more productive.

  • Review the objective of the meeting and the agenda
  • Restate the project objective as a refresher to the stakeholders.

This demonstrates that the meeting or workshop you are holding is relevant and aligns itself with the project objectives and priorities.

5. Facilitator Not a Participator

Remember, you as a meeting facilitator are a neutral party. Your job is to lead the discussions, and drive out requirements by engaging your audience. You are the liaison between the project sponsors, stakeholders, and software development teams. Remember to remain neutral and allow your stakeholders to make decisions required to move forward.

6. Manage Distractions

If your stakeholders are holding or being distracted by side conversations or are getting way off topic, it’s your job as the facilitator to bring their focus back to the agenda.

7. Parking Lot items

Sometimes it seems that your group may wander off topic or wish to discuss items not on the agenda, or have questions and concerns that will not be addressed during your limited meeting time. I have found the best way to address this is to create a “Parking Lot” list of items. This lets your stakeholders know that you are listening to their questions and concerns and that they will be addressed in the future but not during this meeting.

8. Use Visual Business Modeling Tools

Using visual business modeling tools during your meetings and workshops can help drive out requirements or uncover processes for your stakeholders. These assist with identifying and analyzing user requirements, system requirements and capture business rules.

9. Conclude with next Steps and Action Items

Once your meeting is complete or if you run out of time, it is a good idea to wrap up your session by reviewing the following:

  • Parking lot items
  • Action Items
  • Next Steps

10. You are not done yet superstar…follow up with your stakeholders

Just because your meeting has concluded, it does not mean your work has ended.

  • Distribute your meeting notes including action items. It is best practice to do this within 24 hours of your meeting.
  • Set deadlines and follow up on any action items
  • Set up and send out invitations for the next meeting if required
  • Remember to thank your stakeholders for attending. A simple thank you can go a long way.

How to Convince your Organization to Pay for Your Continued BA / PM Training and Education.

Richard Branson knows a thing or two about employee resources:

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

Some bosses realize the value of educated employees and offer educational opportunities, tuition reimbursement and training assistance packages. Other employers, well let’s just say they may need some convincing. Nevertheless, a company’s investment in the training and education of their employees is of paramount importance both for the employee and the employer.

Related: Check out some of the learning opportunities Project Times and MindEdge offer 

If you’re eager to pursue an additional degree, industry certification, or training to keep up your PDUs/CDUs, you will need to know what your employer’s policies are on employee training and development, and then prepare yourself to make a strong case to attend training, further your education, or obtain that degree.

First Steps – Research

During that initial employment interview, (you know the one where you were both excited and nervous to make it back for a 2nd interview) it is most likely that your employer told you about the benefits of the position, or provided you with a compensation package which outlined training and development. Has it been a few years since you looked at it? Has it changed? Has management pushed aside training due to larger projects or initiatives? You need to roll up your sleeves and look.

Tuition reimbursement

Check your employee handbook, intranet, HR materials, or even union contracts to determine if any company policies surrounding tuition reimbursement exist. It is also recommended to look into whether or not your company qualifies for tax deductions for reimbursing education. If it is unclear, your manager, Human Resources, or Accounting departments may be able to assist you.

Employer Sponsored Training Programs

Some employers are large enough to have a training and development department that offers ongoing courses, or they may even collaborate with a nearby college or university to offer training. Take some time and look into what kinds of programs exist in the workplace. Some employers offer scholarships as part of their benefits package, while some extend financial assistance on a case-by-case basis. They may even offer paid time off for employees to study or write certification exams.

Course / Training Search

Once you have figured out which program or training you are interested in it is time to search for courses, figure out how much it will cost, and what your time commitment will be. Education institutions have become more flexible in their course scheduling. There are so many options for full-time employees to enable a balance between work, education, and family.

There are opportunities and options to enroll in online courses, night courses, weekend course or a condensed course that take place over a short amount of time. Choose what fits with your schedule and time commitment.

Prepare for your meeting with your employer

Are you prepared? Think of this as a presentation, and your education is the focus. Prepare for the potential questions your boss or HR representative will ask you, beyond the basics of program costs and time.

They may ask you what the benefits for the company paying for your education will be, both immediate and long-term benefits. Be prepared to answer both questions. Typically, companies look for a return on investment (ROI), and your education is an investment in both yourself and your organization. Outline the benefits you will bring to the organization once you have obtained that certificate or degree.

Investing in yourself

Earning a degree, a certificate, or a credential is a great way to gain the advanced skills in your field or to embark on a new path toward another field. Education can be expensive, especially in the technology field. Consider it an investment in yourself. It may have been years since you earned your first degree or certification; however, education and personal growth does not cease as soon as you land a job if you wish to advance your career.

Have you convinced yourself that your organization will not go for it? Are you too nervous to ask? You may need to conduct an education risk assessment, to help you gain the confidence to approach your boss. If you are still nervous, you can always engage the assistance of a friend or family member, making your case to them as a test run for your presentation to your employer.

The bottom line is that your career is a resource worth investing in, and you never know what the answer will be unless you ask. You are worth it!

Making The Most Of Your Vacation For Career Success

VACATION

noun, va·ca·tion often attributive \vā-ˈkā-shən, və-\

A period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel.

You’ve worked hard for months on important projects, and it is a time of year when those of us who live in the northern hemisphere start daydreaming about sunny skies and beach escapes. Whether it is time spent lounging on the beaches in the tropics, or a staycation in your own town, we all get to a point where we can’t wait to get out of the office and leave our daily cares behind. This is great, but you will eventually have to get back to your normal routine.

Here are a few ways we can make that transition back to the office refreshed, relaxed and ready to take on the challenges that will be thrown our way.

While on vacation:

  1. Relax! You have earned it. That means no work email (I know, some of you are rolling your eyes reading this right now). Ideally, you can get away from your normal routine and enjoy living without project and work stress. Checking into work while on vacation seems to be a growing trend. A lot of us don’t like this trend at all. If we work while on vacation, what is the point of vacation? Studies have proven that an employee that works while on vacation does not reap the full benefits of vacation. Keep that Blackberry powered off and that laptop closed. Breathe! Enjoy this rare time to be yourself.
  2. Seek new experiences. Go off the beaten path. Stay at an Air BnB instead of a hotel; take the local bus instead of renting a car in a different city. Opt for a small family run restaurant instead of a large food chain. Use a paper map instead of a GPS. Sometimes if we get out of our routines and comfort zones, it forces us to look at situations with a different lens. This is beneficial to our problem-solving skills when we are back in the office. Sometimes approaching situations or problems a different way can make all the difference.
  3. Treat yourself. Why do we work so hard if we are not allowed to treat ourselves occasionally? Get that extra scoop of ice cream (just do not make it a habit). Go on that winery tour. Stay in that fancy hotel you have had your eye on. Upgrade that cruise stateroom to one with a balcony. Sometimes it is OK to go for the extras that will make your time off from work that much better.
  4. Allow yourself to sleep in. Enjoy the experience of waking up when your body, not the alarm clock, decides that it is time for you to wake up.
  5. Enjoy the little things. Take advantage of not being tied to a work schedule. Read the paper (web or paper-based) from cover to cover. Catch up on all those magazines you are subscribed to. Sit in a café and enjoy your cappuccino while you people watch. Go on a bike ride. Visit the local library or museum. Take the dog for a walk on the beach at sunrise. Go see that movie during the afternoon showing, or check out that new record store at the other end of town. Make time for the small things that make life really great.
  6. Make time for fresh air and exercise. Vacation means you are not cooped up inside for 8+ hours or tied to meeting schedules, cubicles or harsh neon lights. Take advantage of the weather (rain, sun or snow) and get outside and enjoy the day. There are so many benefits of being outdoors and your body and mind will thank you for it.

Making the transition from Vacation to work

So it’s time to think about getting back. Vacation cannot last forever * (*See retirement or winning the lottery) so let’s get ourselves ready for the inevitable.


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  1. Buy yourself a new return to work outfit (or two). A wardrobe refresh is always a nice way to return to work. Like the first day of school, sometimes a wardrobe refresh can boost your confidence and help you put your best face forward when you get back from your vacation time and into that first meeting. It can be something as simple as a new scarf, tie, or shoes. Maybe something more elaborate like a new work wardrobe. Do whatever fits into your budget.
  2. Allow yourself a “Work Preparation Day.” If it is possible, have a day or half day set aside to get ready for returning to the office (and the kids back to school if they were on holidays with you). You may have to grocery shop, prepare lunches, get your work wardrobe ready, pick up dry cleaning, etc. Having a “buffer day” between vacation and back to work can make Monday morning go a lot smoother, and is so much easier than running around at 11 pm the night before buying juice boxes and sandwich bags. There is nothing more stressful then waking up and realizing that your work pants are sitting in the laundry, and you only have 45 minutes to get ready before you must leave for the office.
  3. Dedicate the first few hours to catching up. You will need some time to ease back into your busy schedule. If you are afforded the luxury and don’t have to hit the ground running, block off some time in your calendar to read those hundreds of emails, sit with your project team and get the updates on where things are at. One method is to block this time off in your calendar BEFORE you go on holiday. That way when people are scheduling meetings they will see that you are unavailable at this time and will have to schedule around it.
  4. Put your best face forward. It can be difficult to return to work after a great time off, but putting your best self out there can help to make the first day back tolerable.