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How to Manage Your Cross Cultural Team

A team is the mix of different mindsets and skills that come together for a common goal. But managing a team with different personalities is not easy. What makes it even more stressful is managing a cross-cultural team that includes people from different cultures and geographies.
Ever since globalization has fully hit the world, organizations have started to interact with clients, vendors and colleagues across the world. Globalization happens when you have to deal with people belonging to different languages, work ethics, traditions and cultures in a way that doesn’t lead to any issue.

Understanding the Definition of the Cross-Cultural Team

Cross-cultural teams refer to the global teams that are composed of people across different cultures and unique experiences. But several companies fail to factor in these fundamental differences in a team, causing conflicts and frustration that could be easily managed once you get a quick understanding of people in a team.

These differences can occur from communication styles and certain frame of references. For instance, a team located abroad is willing to work more than the dedicated work hours, even working remotely from home. But workers in other nations might not work beyond those work hours.

Another key difference in a cross-cultural team is how they communicate with each member. While some team members are likely to articulate their voice, some might think a lot before doing the same thing.

You as a leader need to make sure that all the opinions of the team members are welcomed and run the team effectively.

What are the Challenges of Leading a Cross-Cultural Team

Here are some top challenges when it comes to managing a cross-cultural team:

 

How to Manage Your Cross Cultural Team

Getting Familiar with Each Team Member:

It is important for the team leader to spend time getting to get familiar with each team member. Learn about their background and past professional experiences. Maybe you get to know some specialized skills that can be beneficial to everyone and also learn the personality of them at the same time.

Fostering Open Communication:

Let every team member articulate their opinions. An open communication culture is important for the growth of your team. Otherwise, your people can feel under-appreciated and feel dominated by others in the team or the management.

Promoting Team Building Activities:

When a blend of cultures collaborate in  a team, leaders should try to create opportunities for interactions. For example, you can organize team outings, dine outs, happy hours, birthday parties, etc. to help your team members bond with each other despite their cultural differences.

Giving an Ear to Them:

Don’t let prejudices and biases impact your decision making. For example, the New York team doesn’t respond well, the Berlin team is always late or the Sydney team kills many hours in the morning just to hear from the Abu Dhabi office.

Such biases can impact trust and hinder collaboration. Instead, a leader should try to understand why certain locations or members of a team work differently. If you don’t try to understand the local cultures or concerns affecting each team member, it can cause unnecessary friction.

Listen to them and create the flexibility to manage across different cultures.

Building a Structure for Success:

When you lead a multicultural team, you are likely to experience different work styles. But this doesn’t mean you should stick to their own methodology. Here comes the role of the leader who should set up clear norms.

Rather than imposing the things, leaders should explain why certain norms are important and train the members to practice the same.

Recognizing and Respecting Cultural Differences:

A leader is also required to address the existence of diverse cultural backgrounds within the team and necessity of navigating those differences in order to enhance team performance. Cultural diversity can appear in several forms: culture, language, behavioral differences due to values and norms, and different meaning attached to ideas, words and actions. Therefore, it is important to accept what those differences are because one’s cultural background informs how to interact with others. One way to promote this understanding of cultural diversity is to discuss the differences in cultures in a meeting where your people can share their background and expectations about working style and communication.

Plan Projects Across Different Time Zones:

This suggestion is meant for you if you are leading a virtual multicultural team. Managing a virtual team can be challenging because you are not present at the same place or time zone as your people. Here you need to make sure your team members across the globe can participate in meetings and work on projects irrespective of their locations. For example, if you live and work in New York, and your team members are based in Tokyo, Japan. By the time your workday starts at 10 am, your team are supposed to be sleeping. In such a scenario, you need to organize your work properly and create plans according to these different time zones. Also, keep this in mind while creating deadlines for them.

To avoid any confusion related to time, you can use time management apps to keep track of project and assess productivity levels by week.

Give them Prep Time Whenever They Need It:

Most of us can clearly express our thoughts while speaking our native language, but, this is not always the case when it comes to conversing in foreign language. If employees are not familiar with the language you prefer to communicate in, give them prep time for meetings. Some team members can feel uncomfortable in a meeting where the language is not native to them, leading to communication barrier. Giving them time and space for communication can make them more confident when it comes to speaking a foreign language.