Archives For Cross-cultural

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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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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In order for virtual teams to succeed, organizational leadership must establish a culture that values teamwork, communication, learning and capitalizing on geographical and functional diversity. The key to developing an organizational culture that supports virtual teams is that everyone across the organization is encouraged and enabled to embrace change and be open to virtual teams right from the start. This begins with senior leadership support and sponsorship – without it,  virtual teams are DOA (Dead on Arrival). It is critical that virtual teams are positioned at the highest levels as vital, value-add resources that provide sustainable competitive advantage for the corporation.

From an organizational perspective, you may want to consider four aspects of leadership that are known to positively impact virtual team performance:

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Virtual Success

June 1, 2022 — Leave a comment

Today, in many organizations, a significant amount of work is done virtually. Even in the most provincial of firms, it is rare to find all team members in a single location. Companies frequently choose people from across various global locations to work virtually in an effort to leverage expertise, as well as to save both time and money. With the advent of worldwide crises and events like global pandemics, the context of work is accelerating even more rapidly.

The structure of global business is moving away from traditional hierarchical multinational enterprises to more flexible international arrangements. It has been suggested that organizations will become more flexible, as well as learning and innovation-oriented, and will be realized through the expansion of global virtual teams (GVTs). These multicultural virtual teams provide diverse skill sets, and members’ diverse proficiencies can be leveraged to improve organizational outcomes. As a result, organizing work in GVTs has become the modus operandi. Team members are globally dispersed and heterogeneous across multiple dimensions. Global virtual teams span multiple countries, time zones, cultures, and languages – and they often rely on communication technology rather than face-to-face interaction. GVTs can be seen as catalysts for new forms of organizing, or perhaps even as organizational forms in themselves, changing traditional ideas about organizational boundaries.

The business justification for virtual teams is strong: they leverage expertise and vertical integration across the organization to make resources readily available, as well as increase the overall speed and agility of the organization. In addition, virtual teams draw talent quickly from various functions, locations and cultures. They reduce the disruption to people’s lives because travel becomes less of a necessity and team members can both broaden and deepen their perspectives (and their careers) by working across boundaries and borders on a variety of projects and tasks.

As a leader of virtual teams, your main goal should be to leverage your human capital to its utmost – as quickly as possible.  

Beware: How you choose to manage this process may be the difference between success and failure

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All Roads Lead To Rome

November 9, 2021 — Leave a comment

There are several hundred national and regional cultures throughout the world. The enormity of the notion of deciphering the cultural norms of each of these diverse cultures is incredibly overwhelming. A dose of cultural intelligence goes a long way toward facilitating better relationships and reducing misunderstandings across boundaries and borders. Ideally, armed with some valuable information and tools, you (as a global leader) can acquire insight into the diverse cultures within which you interact – making it possible to adopt a cultural perspective toward teams, colleagues and clients that empathizes and is designed to align to the orientations of others.

If we are open to similarities versus differences, we can begin to see that it is possible to view all of the variant cultures through three lenses. These differing orientations will greatly increase the ability to successfully interact across cultures:

1) Task-oriented, highly organized planners (Monochronistics)

2) People-oriented, extroverts (Polychronistics)

3) Introverted, respect-oriented listeners (Reactives)

In a world that has globalized rapidly, the ability to interact successfully with colleagues from disparate cultures is seen not as optional, but as essential.

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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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