Virtual Success: Leveraging Cultural Diversity

May 6, 2012 — 2 Comments

Did you know that an estimated 70% of international ventures fail due to poor cross-cultural interactions?  When individuals from different cultural backgrounds or environments don’t understand each other, it will inevitably lead to failed projects and suboptimal results.  Culture forms the way we think and act – across all spectrums – often causing members of virtual teams to perceive reality very differently across boundaries and borders.

Although cultural diversity has high potential for negative outcomes, it also has enormous potential for growth and renewal that will facilitate extraordinary results. Always keep in the forefront of your mind that your virtual teams likely have more talent and potential than other types of teams by the sheer force of their diversity – the question is, will they be able to leverage that diversity for individual, team and corporate success?

The answer is a resounding YES… if you can leverage that diversity to create synergy. Synergy will create a sense of joint purpose fueled by the knowledge that everyone brings unique experience and perspective to the team that is essential for success. As a leader, it is critical that you have the tools and perseverance to tap into the diversity of your teams to create an environment that facilitates success.

Virtual teams have the capacity to generate significant power for the overall organization. The collective experience and knowledge of a team from various backgrounds and cultures promotes the emergence of new and different ideas and perspectives, enables the rapid development of new products and services, and ensures the balance between local and global… just to name a few of the many benefits. However, in order to actualize the power of virtual teams, you need to invest in cultural integration from 4 critical angles:

1.    Cross-Cultural Principles and Theories

Cross-cultural principles and theories will provide team members with a mechanism to not only understand that we all see things differently, but also to understand that cultural values have an enormous impact on attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. It is not enough to simply tell your teams about culture, it is critical that they begin to gain a deeper understanding of why they are different from their colleagues.

2.    Cross-Cultural Assessments

Cross-cultural assessments will provide insight as to how to best interact and leverage specific members of your dispersed team – but more importantly, it will provide each member of the team with insight as to their specific cultural norms and preferences and allow them to better identify other cross-cultural angles. Once individual assessments are done, you may want to consider a team assessment to allow the virtual team to discover how they can best leverage one another for mutual and organizational benefit.

3.    Cross-Cultural Orientations

Cross-cultural Orientations will provide your team members with a way to understand their own cultural norms and their colleagues’ cultural norms. Once they can begin to understand specific components of culture that they see differently than their colleagues, they will gain the ability to begin building bridges between cultures.

4.    Cross-Cultural Intelligence

Cross-cultural Intelligence will provide your virtual teams with a toolbox that contains a reliable method for evaluating almost any cultural situation – national, functional, or organizational – very quickly. They will obtain a reliable method to prepare for interactions with their colleagues and clients on the spot – or use the same toolbox to prepare in advance for almost any situation that has a cultural context.

One or another of these tools is not enough to equip your teams for their best chance at success. What few realize, is that these tools build upon one another to enable organizational success across boundaries and borders. An assessment may provide insight, but it will not tell you what to do with that insight…cross-cultural principles and theories may provide a foundation from which to go forward, but they will not help your team members begin to understand their colleagues… and while cultural orientations may provide inherent understanding of behaviors and perspectives, they will not provide a proven process from which to interact. Each step is necessary – and each step builds on the last. As you seek to deploy this process, identify a partner that has a very specific skill sets and experience in each of the four areas above in order to enable your teams for virtual success.

Give your virtual teams the advantage – equipped them with the four critical angles of cultural integration.

Has your organization strategically invested in cultural integration?

Please engage the discussion and let us know how you achieve cultural integration. Always feel free to contact me at or by visiting our website at Check back next week, when we will discuss how you can manage cultural differences in a way that will allow your virtual teams to benefit from cultural diversity.


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Sheri is The Global Coach, founder of Luminosity Global Consulting Group, Global Executive Coach, Speaker, Writer and Global Business and Cultural Expert.

2 responses to Virtual Success: Leveraging Cultural Diversity

  1. Hi shery,
    interesting article. Can I ask your source for the 70% failure? Thanks for sharing.

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