While managing teams virtually across the global, I am often struck by how much more you get done once you truly understand the importance of your individual working relationships and the time you take to invest in them.
All people have with unique needs and communication styles, and I have found cultivating workplace relationships to each individual’s “love language” can be quite a success strategy to build team collaboration and to achieve mutual professional goals.
Gary Chapman wrote about these principles in his 1995 book, “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.” Although Chapman’s book focuses on romantic relationships, the lessons contained are equally applicable to professional relationships and can be applied globally with some creative thinking.
Here’s how to apply 5 relationship languages to improve your global working relationships:
Words of Affirmation
Kindness matters! Be authentic and specific in your praise. A quick email thanking a subordinate or colleague for acing a difficult task, while copying management/related stakeholders is often appreciated. For immediate impact, I like to use the chat window in virtual meetings to send a “shout out” for work well done. Lately, I have been amplifying my gratitude commenting on a colleague’s social media blog or a tweet for public recognition where it makes sense.
Be Present! Time is the most precious resource in the world, and many appreciate it when you are generous with yours. For such individuals, uninterrupted time spent with them does more good than words of affirmations. I focus on knowing the person, not just the work projects that are being done, by discussing their outside of work interests (their families, hobbies, sports, etc.). And, it is so much fun to learn about my colleagues interests outside of work around the global! At other times, I will set up 1 -1 sessions with no agenda at all, just to learn what is on my coworker’s mind and their work challenges.
Show Tangible Recognition! For some, gifts are about much more than the present. Understand that these individuals are not materialistic; they just respond well to tangible demonstrations of appreciation. When you are on a remote global working teams, gift giving is more challenging, but gifts do not have cost a lot of money or any at all. For example, I will often send an article link on a topic that I know that colleague is interested in. And, I have seen other colleagues send “video” postcards recognizing a job well done.
Acts of Service
Roll Up Your Sleeves! Some appreciate the things we do far more than the words we say, time we spend or things we give them. For these individuals, the way to their heart is through deeds. Offer to help them work on a specific action item – host a meeting for the colleague, help prepare or proof read a presentation, write up the email the colleague needs to move things forward, etc. It’s doesn’t have to be a time consuming service action and it can mean a lot to them.
It’s About Connection! Physical touch is the way in which some of our colleagues will best connect with us. When interacting with these coworkers remotely in a global setting, use a lot of non-verbal pictures – a thumbs up, applauds, high fives, etc. – in emails, presentations, etc. If meeting in person, add a confident handshake or hug to your greeting. Discretion is imperative when touching anyone in a business environment, so always err on the side of caution, to avoid making your coworker uncomfortable.
Using the Five Languages of Love Globally
Use Emotional Intelligence! When you are on a global team, where you work with many stakeholders from diverse cultural backgrounds, a “one size fits all” relationship building approach can be limiting. Remember to use your emotional intelligence to focus on what technique works best with your colleagues and stakeholders. And, be patient with yourself as it can take some time to apply these principles while building your global relationships.