Archives For Leadership

Globalization and rapidly changing technology continue to sweep the world. Organizations working across international and cultural boundaries face significant challenges as they seek to reach and maintain market leadership – however, inherent in those challenges are often unrealized opportunities. One such hidden treasure, Multicultural teams, offers a wealth of advantage to the discerning global leader. Research repeatedly identifies the following benefits when multicultural teams are leveraged effectively:

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This week, I am going back a bit to dive deeper into strategy – actually, the execution of strategy – because I was reminded, yet again, of how much time and effort companies spend in developing and refining corporate strategies. Most often, only to find themselves overwhelmed while struggling to translate strategy into an effective operational plan that will facilitate long-term success.

Frequently, organizations strain even more when it comes to prioritizing and executing these plans. I have lost count of the number of executives I have spoken with that firmly believed they had winning strategies, yet those strategies never delivered the game-changing results that the leadership team thought they would. Failure to deliver on strategy is a pervasive problem in business today – studies consistently show that 60 to 80 percent of companies fail to successfully implement and secure the success they anticipated in their strategic plans. The ability of a company to effectively execute strategy and achieve long-term adoption remains sporadic, at best. The fact remains – there is an enormous gap between strategy and execution.

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Last week we began by discussing how “Mind The Gap”  is used as a warning by transit systems worldwide – just as “Mind The Gap” can also be used as a cautionary statement that could be critical to alerting leaders of oncoming chasms that may derail the organization on its journey toward excellence. One aspect of organizational life that has great potential for derailment is multi-cultural interactions – functional and interpersonal. In any diverse cultural interaction, customary evaluations and interpretations are more likely to be off-base because there is less shared meaning and experience to draw on. People think differently, have different concepts of time, space, work, etc. –  if we are not careful to appreciate and value the contributions and knowledge that may be different from our own, we may never reach our potential!

In this era of globalization, most companies are expanding into multiple countries and cultures. However, no company should take a “one size fits all” approach to business management and leadership style. Because we are aware that many aspects of organizational behavior – such as teams, leadership, and conflict – vary by culture, it is important to recognize that it is virtually impossible to fully understand all aspects, of all cultures, for any diverse group of people in our complex environments. At the same time…

As a leader, it is also absolutely critical to know and understand what you can do to ensure everyone feels validated, acknowledged, understood and valued.

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Mind The Gap

August 9, 2022 — Leave a comment

The phrase “Mind The Gap” was introduced in 1969 by the London Underground to warn passengers of the gap that exists between the train door and the station platform.  Today, it is used as a warning by transit systems worldwide. Just as it is important for passengers to “Mind The Gap” to prevent injury, it is equally important for organizations to “Mind The Gap” so they do not fall into the traps that will keep them from moving forward. Specifically, organizational culture in a global organization is extremely complex and fraught with many potential chasms.

It’s interesting that people think differently, having different concepts of time, space, work, etc., however it is critical to do more than simply notice differences. If we’re not careful to appreciate and value those differences and the contributions that diverse people bring, it is easy fall right into that gap! This may result in waning business results, the degradation of important relationships, the sacrifice of your own success, and ultimately – grave injury… or even death!

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Most organizations today operate in a global environment. Goods and services are sourced and sold across international markets. As such, virtual teams’ are an enormous asset in almost any organizational setting. Leveraging diverse virtual teams across global markets has the capacity to determine unique multi-market strategies, undertake planning from diverse perspectives, carry out research in different markets, and perform other complex tasks that have the capacity to drive competitive advantage for global organizations.

Despite this fact, diverse virtual teams’ are an unexploited asset in most organizations. Even though the opportunities are enormous, most leaders also recognize that the challenges are significant as well. Teams with members from diverse cultural and functional backgrounds inevitably differ in their assumptions about decision-making and even in their preconceptions of teamwork – traditional models of multicultural collaboration often fail to leverage individual team members’ skills and experiences in productive ways.

There is a fundamental balance that you, as a leader, need to recognize and encourage in your virtual teams if you are serious about succeeding in today’s global marketplace: coexistence of differences and meaningful participation. The idea that differences can coexist productively, while facilitating meaningful contributions is not intuitive, because it’s complex.

This inherent complexity often causes leaders to opt for decreased productivity, rather than leveraging the immense potential that lies just beneath the surface of the virtual team.  The potential resides in something that your multicultural virtual teams have that traditional teams do not:

Divergent Thinking

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Global virtual teams (GVTs), present in many organizations, transcend organizational, national and cultural boundaries. This evolving structure in organizations provides flexibility, integration of globally dispersed skills and capabilities – and in the case of GVTs – connectivity across geographical and temporal boundaries, to name but a few advantages. However, virtual teams also encounter multiple challenges that are characterized by cultural miscommunication, power and control, cross-cultural conflict, and the effective attainment of assigned global goals and objectives

Not surprisingly, despite years of research on how to improve virtual team outcomes, GVTs still fail at an alarming rate – research results suggest that failure rates for virtual teams may be as high as 70%. According to Culture Wizard’s (2018) Global Virtual Teams Survey, the top challenges faced by global virtual teams are difficulties in communication (81%), managing conflict (86%), building relationships (86%), poor responsiveness (80%) and lack of engagement from all members (76%) – in short, they lack integration. The success or failure of a global company is essentially in the hands of culturally diverse people with many of them operating as part of a global virtual team.

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