Archives For Team Building

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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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 – corporate culture in a global organization is extremely complex and fraught with many potential chasms. It is very interesting that people think differently, have different concepts of time, space, work, etc. – however, if we are not careful to appreciate and value the contributions and knowledge that people bring, it is easy fall onto the tracks dead center of an oncoming train! This may cause waning business results, the degradation of important relationships, the sacrifice of your own success, and ultimately – almost certain death! Because globalization continues to gather momentum, the interactions between people from differing geographies and cultures is frequent, and intensifies the complexities of organizational interactions. The more borders a company crosses, the greater the potential for misunderstanding and conflict amongst stakeholders, but also inherent is the potential for unimaginable reward. To succeed across both boundaries & borders, it is essential to break through the barriers of organizational culture and rigid patterns of thinking.

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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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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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Who’s The Barbarian?

November 2, 2021 — Leave a comment

Both the ancient Romans and Greeks called all foreigners “Barbarians”. The North Africans call their mountain people “Berbers”, Arabic for Barbar. The Europeans, until the late 19th century, called everything in North Africa “Barbaria”. The word “barbarian” refers to the uncultured, or those with unrefined communication skills – both explicit and implicit. The way we express ourselves is predetermined by our differing cultures (even if we often do speak the same language).

How we communicate ultimately determines how we are viewed as global leaders. Damaging miscommunications can (and do) happen frequently when working across cultures, but they can be avoided if we apply some cultural intelligence to our diverse interactions – in particular understanding the differences between high and low context communications and leveraging both for personal and organizational gain.

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Last week we discussed working across boundaries and implementing a systems approach. This week, I am continuing the theme with an expansion of what it means to work across boundaries and some suggestions to help you do so successfully.

Working across boundaries means many things to many people… It can mean:

… working across organizational lines

… working across supervisory or leadership levels

… working across functions

… working across corporate entities (partners, resellers, etc.)

…working across customer lines

… working across physical confines

… working across cultural differences

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