Archives For Multicultural Teams

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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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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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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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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