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On a traditional team, trust evolves as a function of demonstrated actions over time. However when working virtually, members typically do not have the opportunity to develop trust in the traditional gradual, cumulative way. The challenge for you, as a leader, becomes how to build trust rapidly across boundaries and borders.

The stark reality is that virtual team members do not usually have time to get to know each other. Typically, the team needs to focus quickly on critical tasks and has little time to build relationships. Despite this fact, virtual teams require a high level of trust in order to be successful.

You can’t compel team members to trust one another.  It’s asking diverse people to protect the interests of their virtual team – initially total strangers, often with culturally different ways of thinking and acting. Because of this, building trust and a cohesive team culture from a variety of national norms, values and traditions can be overwhelming. Without high levels of trust virtual team members quickly lose morale and motivation. As a leader in a virtual environment, you need to foster a sense of trust in each members’ competence and a commitment to team goals. Each member must believe that the entire team is doing their work conscientiously – with the team’s goals at the top of their priority list.

Building trust on virtual teams may not be easy, but it can be done. If the following guidelines are incorporated into attitudes and work practices, trust is likely to emerge:

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Human Resource policies have a critical impact on virtual team success. They need to support diverse, geographically dispersed teams by integrating and aligning them to recognize, include and reward the people who lead and work in virtual environments. Here are a few ideas to think about when preparing to shift your organizational culture to support virtual teams:

Secure Systems Support

When a virtual team is formed, you, as a virtual leader, and HR (along with IT) need to partner to consider the technology teams will need to be successful. Options must be assessed, justified, approved by HR, and made available to all virtual team members. Coordinate with Human Resources to ensure training on how and when to use these communication technologies is provided to every team member. One of the most important things you can do for your virtual teams is to ensure that they have the technical support they need for working remotely. 

Never forget that IT should be supporting the business – not the other way around

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The Global Boardroom

As you look forward, it is always helpful to look back and gain perspective. Today’s organizations are more global, aligned and proactive than even just five years ago. The rapid pace of globalization and the growing number of collaborative technology solutions has enabled virtual work practices to accelerate – while recent current events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, demand that organizations worldwide change the way they engage customers. No longer is it viable for global customer teams to work in a microcosm and expect global customer objectives to be met. The demand for cross-functional, cross-cultural skills from around the world has made working across boundaries and borders a necessity when partnering with global customers. However, collaborative teamwork in global environments typically is not intuitive. It’s far more than dealing with technology and time zones – it is about people and the value that integrated intelligence can bring to the organization.

Post COVID, we see increasing customer challenges as people are getting back to work in hybrid and virtual environments – however, from challenge comes opportunity. As developing strategies for mitigating the risk of customer destabilization overtakes economizing, organizations will increasingly need to leverage strong value chains while stringently considering the bottom line. That balance will drive the success (or failure) of global companies moving forward. Although technology and the digital value chain are on the rise, without the comprehensive knowledge and collaboration of people interacting with global customers, we will continue to struggle to find that critical balance…and global customer opportunities will suffer.

Often, even though organizations may be consolidating for cost management and scalability purposes, the walls of the individual functions, channels and regions have become even thicker. As a direct result, it is harder for you, as a leader, to build end-to-end value chain functionality in an ever-changing global marketplace. It has become increasingly difficult to gain agreement on specific, customer focused initiatives or broader organizational change.

This is not a technology, process or policy problem – it is a people problem:

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Past.Present. Future.

October 26, 2021 — Leave a comment

Given the worlds extensive history and diverse variety, it is interesting how many common concepts, such as time, are rooted so firmly in a similar manner in very different societies. What is commonly not recognized is that each culture has its own notion of these concepts that are present across all cultures.   The general concept of time is very clear, however context and value vary widely. Because a person’s perception of time influences the way s/he understands time and behaves in respect to it, we ultimately have diverse views of time that are reflected in culture.

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How Much Time Have You Got?

October 19, 2021 — 1 Comment

As a global leader, time is not only invaluable, it is an essential concept to understand and leverage as you work across boundaries & borders. Worldviews, or orientations, held across a geographically diverse workforce varies widely. While time is an essentially universal concept, the nature and essence of time can be strikingly different across cultures.  If observed and leveraged, each orientation offers pearls of wisdom worth considering and leveraging in your multi-cultural communications.

In cultures where time is considered scarce, it is similar to a valuable commodity – it is carefully saved and allocated judiciously.  From a scarcity perspective, it is viewed as critical to plan, delegate, learn to say no and set strict priorities. As a global leader, you may communicate with cultures that view time as scarce and it is critical that you value time and maintain an efficient and practical pace within all interactions. Be clear on goals and priorities, apply timelines, clarify ownership, and always communicate effectively and efficiently.

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Shifting Paradigms

October 5, 2021 — 2 Comments

A great leader must be a great communicator… and more. Communication in a global context may mean communicating differently across boundaries and borders. Cross-cultural communications are complex – often difficult and easily misinterpreted or misunderstood if not skillfully navigated. The ability to successfully connect across cultures can be facilitated, not by trying to understand the many nuances of every culture, but by understanding that there are basic orientations (or perspectives) that, if understood on a continuum basis, can foster the potential for leaders everywhere to leverage cross-cultural communications for a new energy boost to high performance in an increasingly complex global environment.

It is well known that in order to accomplish career and organizational goals, a global leader must be able to influence in ways that are not only clearly understood, but resonate across many channels and geographies… in multiple ways.  This equates to not only having the capacity to communicate effectively, but also encompasses less obvious capabilities such as: 1) seeing and understanding alternative perspectives 2) comprehending culturally diverse values, beliefs and assumptions 3) integrating different cultural perspectives to create new solutions and 4) resolving conflicts in culturally appropriate, productive ways. In it’s entirety, this equates to cross-cultural competency.

The truth is that there are very few leaders or companies on this planet that truly embrace cultural differences and leverage them for global success on a personal and organizational level – yet cross-cultural communications are an invaluable lever to global success. Those of you who are managing across countries and regions and who are willing to get the best out of the rich melting pot of cultures that you navigate, have the ability to build virtual bridges between cultures and geographic locations, creating thriving teams and organizations, that will enable you to become a Game Changer vs. a Game Player through effective global and interpersonal communications.

Integrating cultural orientations into your communications will allow you to unleash exponentially more human potential to achieve meaningful objectives – you will be better equipped to extend personal and organizational worldviews, bridge cultural gaps, and make communications relevant to a geographically dispersed workforce that will enable impossible futures across boundaries and borders.

There is no viable way around it – your cultural orientations impact the way you communicate. As you begin to have the ability to understand your own cultural orientations and communicate effectively across alternative orientations, you will begin to have the ability to leverage cultural differences constructively and for the benefit of all, communicating efficiently and effectively across your global organization. This capacity is of the highest importance for success in an interconnected and increasingly global marketplace.

In the highly competitive global markets in which we all reside, the aim is to achieve concrete impact and tangible results that are enabled through maximum performance across all regions. Challenging cultural assumptions and looking at yourself and your entire extended network (including customers) through a different cultural lens, and communicating back through that lens, will propel you beyond your previous limitations to discover creative solutions that are outside of your proverbial box – leveraging cross-cultural differences to achieve business results well beyond anyone’s expectations.

Are you prepared to shift your paradigm for global success?

For the next several weeks, I will be discussing specific cultural orientations that will facilitate successful communications and business results.

Please contribute to the conversation and feel free to contact me at sherilmackey@gmail.com. Check back soon for the next installation on Global Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders.