People in companies around the world think, act, work, learn and lead differently, based for the most part on their culture. Culture both consciously and unconsciously shapes values, perceptions and behaviors, as well as setting systematic guidelines for how we should conduct business.
Last week we took a look at how we can combine different components of culture to move virtual teams forward. This week we will explore how you can effectively manage cultural differences from a practical viewpoint that will allow everyone to benefit from cultural diversity.
By its very nature, the make-up of virtual teams is diverse. This is good – it allows you to maximize different perspectives and, hopefully, leverage the differences to gain new insights and fresh perspectives. However, there are factors that need to be managed if a virtual team is to not only survive, but thrive, within the complexities of a virtual team environment. Here are some common challenges you may have as a leader in creating synergy within your virtual team:
- Leveraging the differences in cultural norms of team members
- Understanding how different people manifest their cultural norms
- Influencing the different functional, professional and alternative subcultures
- Being empathetic to the functional and geographic dispersion of team members
- Managing the the perception of status differences within the team
- Leveraging culturally different leadership styles
- Controlling differing expectations regarding key processes and procedures
These challenges need to be managed throughout the lifecycle of the team. The sooner they are acknowledged and worked on, the more efficiently the team will be able to deliver results.
Despite these challenges, there are also unifying factors that can connect a virtual team with their diverse team members. Virtual integration can occur based on common agreement as to accepted principles and processes and mechanisms such as shared vision and values.