Does each one of your employees trust your decision and value your company with their head and heart? What about employees working from offshore locations? Building enough trust among employees is critical to the success of any aspiring business. However, things can get a bit complicated when you are looking to make your presence felt across the globe. What works in the US won't do in India and vice versa. However, given the opportunities of a global market, it is necessary that businesses and brands find a way out.
Building relationships gets harder with cross cultural teams as it is easy to misinterpret intentions and get wrong assumption in the lack of virtual cues. The first difference is the style of communication. At some parts of the world, people like to socialize more than others before getting right to business. Time, trends, political views, standard of living and market behavior further complicate things. So, how can leaders of multinational / multicultural teams seek to use diversity to their advantage without failing to the challenges?
Create a success structure for team building
According to the popular organizational behavior scholar, Dr. Richard Hackman, the ideal way to ensure cross cultural team building success is by creating initial conditioning. This would mean that the entire team has a compelling and clear direction to strive towards. Organizations should be sharing across all resources and information across geographies to fill every employee about the board's agendas. People with the ideal technical skills should be used more in global dexterity and building cultural intelligence. It is also essential to build a staff that is flexible, curious, thoughtful and emotionally stable. Online training and courses will form a part of the journey today.
Understanding cross cultural makeup
To become an effective leader of a cross cultural team, you need to understand every "fault line" created by differences in language, thinking and culture. An uninitiated team that consists of Germans, Koreans and Americans would definitely be a tripwire! While Germans would be comfortable in giving and receiving direct negative feedback, it could be a disaster with Koreans. As a leader, you should be ready for these tensions and solve them swiftly.
Apart from cultural differences, it is also advantageous if the leader also understands differences in personalities, age and gender. You cannot expect an Indian employee to immediately adapt to a longer working day in Germany.
Setting clear norms and sticking to them
Cross cultural teams can be both assets and liabilities as they bring in a wide variety of working styles. Add personal preferences to the mix and things can get really confusing. It is therefore necessary that the team leader chalks out clear norms that are required to be followed by everyone - regardless of the personal bent. That said, it will be best to consider what will work best for the entire team rather than imposing your own personal choices and work styles. For members that find it difficult to adhere to the norms due to their cultural bent, some extra sessions, additional communication and suggestive training will be the answer. A regular inflow of teleconferences, video conferences, email updates and boardroom discussions will compensate the distance barriers between teams.
Try building a personal connection
It doesn't need research to find out that the best tool to fight cross cultural differences and conflicts is by creating a personal bond between team members. However, different cultures have different take on relationship building. Brazilian employees can become friends overnight but it will take a lot of time to gain the trust of a British team. It is therefore necessary to foster a rapport at each stage and every day of working. It is the job of the leaders to find the opportunities of communication. Perhaps an employee is also passionate about photography and would love to have his work featured in the website. Social events of this sort can help a lot in engaging better communication and introducing team members across cultures to one another. The benefits circle back directly to the productivity.
Address conflicts then and there
Conflicts, especially in the context of cross cultural teams, don't need to be shut down and kept in the cellar. While differences in opinion are inevitable when you are working with such a huge group, you should also ensure that arguments don't grow to an extent that they will be impossible to manage. It is the leaders who should serve as a cultural bridge and be ready to initiate a frank group discussion and hear out everyone. At the end of the day, there should be no drama! At the same time, treat everyone as equal as everyone prizes a democratic leadership.
Sometimes, you will need to take a long lunch to understand someone and sometimes it is the choice of the desert that opens up a person. The only thing that is common in a cross cultural team is the brand name. Employees, across culture, need to feel honored to be affiliated to your brand. There is a practical benefit of letting your guard down sometimes to build cross cultural relationships, especially when looking to make the most of an emerging market. The relationship acts like insurance against the work quality of the overseas team. No one wants to lose credibility and a good friendship!
Online and in-house training and discussions can pilot an initiative that helps everyone get on the same page. If you visited a Burger King outlet in another country, you would expect the same taste, employee assistance and work process as it is at home. Well, this won't be possible until and unless the management of Burger King follows the same guidelines worldwide. It however needs motivation to make things work and bring people under the same umbrella. A successful brand is one which has been able to reach a position where it easily leverages the benefits of cultural diversity, rather than struggling to mitigate the challenges.