Our next SEJ Summit will be held in the tech center of the San Francisco Bay Area in Mountain View, California. Although I won’t be attending, I did have a chance to speak with some of our awesome speakers for the event, including Moriah Scoble, Head of SEO at Ring Central.
Moriah will be speaking about The 3 Pitfalls of Managing International Teams, and sharing stories of her own experience in managing teams around the world.
If you’d like to see Moriah and our other seven speakers, we still have a small number of FREE tickets available for our Silicon Valley event. The SEJ Summit series is possible courtesy of our partner, Searchmetrics. Their “search experience optimization” makes digital marketing better, faster, and more profitable.
Here’s my interview with Moriah:
1. In 2013, you shifted your focus from nonprofit leadership to SEO. What facilitated this change and how has your past experience helped you?
My last nonprofit job required that I set up a strong online presence and once I was successful with that, it wasn’t long before I started consulting other businesses in social media marketing, content strategies, SEO, and e-commerce sales funnels. Then, shortly after I left my last nonprofit job, RingCentral needed full-time support with their SEO projects, and, because the timing was right, I took on the contract. Then they hired me full-time almost a year later. Since joining RingCentral, I’ve been really happy with this new career in SEO and haven’t looked back, and it makes it easy when I work with such a fantastic group of people. I see myself continuing in SEO for a long time.
My experience running an organization has given me a pretty holistic view of SEO. I see where SEO fits in with all of the other elements of an online presence, how to work with buyer personas, and how leads coming in through search differ from other leads and how to cater to them.
Also, having extensive experience managing a team has been really helpful. An SEO has to be able to work with the rest of marketing, the creative teams, the web developers, the engineers, and the executives. With my background, I can identify with the other departments a bit better because I’ve worn many of their hats in the past. I’m not sure I would have been able to work with them as easily if I didn’t have my diverse background.
2. Your SEJ Summit speech will cover managing international teams. I think the biggest challenge with dispersed teams is communication. What are 3 tips you can give regarding better communication across teams?
1. Meet face-to-face periodically. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, it’s time to get on a plane:
- When you feel like you’re not on the same page
- When they’re having a hard time understanding what you’re saying
- If you don’t like their tone
Otherwise, meet with your international teams in online meetings so you can see their faces and they can see yours. I’d recommend video meetings exclusively (over phone meetings) for the first month or so and then on a regular basis, especially when you have something significant to talk about. And by “significant,” I mean a new project, a project that isn’t going well, or any other time you need to see how they’re responding to what you’re saying.
2. When you’re working far apart, it’s easy to start thinking about the team in your office as “us” and the team in the other office as “them,” but when this pattern of thinking becomes established, you’ll start to function much less cohesively. So, don’t start. Don’t use those words and don’t think of that office as “them”. Treat each person as if they worked in the same office as you.
3. If you’re leading a recurring meeting with attendees who are out of the office, and you want participation from them, you’ll need to also meet in additional small meetings as well. (I wouldn’t suggest meetings larger than two, plus yourself.) In these meetings, which can be short, let the team members share an overview of their thoughts so when you have the large group meetings, they’ll be more comfortable contributing.
3. Many people fail to realize that international teams may also mean a team that’s working in the same office. How can inter-office teamwork be influenced by cultural differences, and how can we use this as a benefit?
The larger the net you cast when recruiting for your company, the better the chances are that you will find a good fit. Additionally, that someone is willing to travel to another country for their career can be a sign that they will be more interested than most in being a rock star at work because they have a lot more riding on their success. That said, it takes a bit more work for people from other countries to collaborate, even if they’re all speaking the same language.
The underlying rule for this type of collaboration is:
- Each team member must behave like they are on the same team.
- They must be inclusive, supportive, and have their egos under control.
- They need to make an extra effort to explain things clearly–MUCH more clearly than is usually necessary.
If the team members are doing this, it shouldn’t matter where everyone grew up.
4. More specifically, what are the most common ways managers can facilitate better communication, no matter the culture or time zone, to better implement SEO strategies?
Implementing SEO strategies require a lot of cross-departmental collaboration, so ensuring open communication and facilitating a clear and thoughtful process is critical. Here are a few tips to improve your team’s communication:
- Make it clear that having questions doesn’t make you sound silly. Clarify this not by telling the team, but by asking questions yourself and ensuring that everyone’s questions are answered thoroughly.
- Encourage everyone to be terribly clear and literal with what they mean. Whenever someone uses too much internal lingo or gives someone an answer that’s too simple, keep asking them questions until their response is crystal clear. Do not rely on your employees to do this for themselves.
- After meetings, talk to the meetings’ attendees one-on-one to make sure their questions were answered. If they weren’t, you did not do a good job judging the answers during the meeting, or answering the question yourself. Address this in the next meeting and make sure that team member and the rest of the attendees get an answer.
- Encourage them to be direct with you about what’s working and what’s not working with the project or process. And make sure they can depend on you to fix it. They also need to depend on you not to embarrass them for any mistakes.
- Don’t let anyone take things personally, but, at the same time, take on all of the responsibility of being emotionally supportive. Recognize hard work and accomplishments regularly.
5. Bonus question: One of my favorite things about our industry is things are constantly changing. How do you stay current?
I read a lot and regularly monitor sites like Search Engine Journal. Also, whenever I read about something I don’t know, I research it, and I learn as much as I can from other SEOs.
Working with international team takes a lot of tact, so thanks for your tips Moriah!
Don’t forget, you can request your free ticket for our SEJ Summit Silicon Valley, taking place July 22nd at The Computer History Museum in Mountain View. You can also come see us in NYC and Atlanta later this year.
Featured Image: Decorwith.me via Shutterstock