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What 5 Strategies Team Leaders Need to Know (to be effective when working across cultures)

Recognize that cultural preferences are deeply embedded, not easily changed.  Think about it. You learned what was dirty or clean when you were a child and never even knew you were learning it.  If you had grown up on a farm you would have a very different perception of what is dirty than if you had grown up in a suburban neighborhood or exclusive section of a city.

 You also learned the difference between:

  • Evil vs. good
  • Dangerous vs. safe
  • Forbidden vs. permitted
  • Decent vs. indecent
  • Moral vs. immoral
  • Ugly vs. beautiful
  • Unnatural vs. natural
  • Abnormal vs. normal
  • Paradoxical vs. logical
  • Irrational vs. rational

These are examples of things that our cultures (families, schools, communities, etc.) taught us without our even knowing.  At work we assume the way we do things is the “natural order” and we often are surprised when others behave differently.  Some of us are astounded and react negatively when people do things in ways different from what we expect especially on teams when the outcomes of the work depend on people working together.

Even the attitudes about the qualities and characteristics that make a leader effective are culturally based - and therefore, team members will have different perspectives.

Here are 5 strategies to get your team members to think about accepting different approaches.

1. Focus on outcomes more than the approach used to accomplished that outcome.  Praise the team when things come out well.

2. Watch for communications breakdowns.  You can lessen these by collecting and sharing each team member’s preferred way of being reached (email, chat, Skype, telephone).  These are culturally related as people with a more relationship focus are more likely to want telephone conversations than emails.

3. You can ask the team members to share what behaviors causes barriers to effective team interactions and set team protocols based on the discussion about how to avoid them.

4. You can call on each team member when you ask a question to assure that everyone gets a chance to have their say – some team members need to think things through first (introverted thinkers) others may simply be waiting for others to stop talking so they do not interrupt (there are cultures of silence) – and that may never happen unless you make it happen.

5. Hold your meetings at times convenient for the remote members sometimes even if this makes you and other co-located staff have teleconferences outside YOUR normal working hours.  (Why should those who are remote always be working extra hours, often late into their nights.)

 

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