In this podcast, Candida discusses a few tips for team management and compatibility.
In this podcast, Candida shares best practices on managing cross-functional and cross-cultural global teams.
Placing global talent around the world is a delicate balance between the company’s approach to staffing and the leader’s clear understanding of where he or she fits within the staffing philosophy. People move companies forward, not machines. A people centric approach coupled with a deep look at your staffing approaches will help you onto the path of creating not only effective global leaders, but leaders who, in and of themselves, are prepared to be inclusive no matter where in the world they are.
Global leaders must be able to handle complicated projects, problem solve, resolve disputes, coordinate and control to ensure the company’s global vision and strategies are clearly understood. In addition, they must build stakeholder relationships, transfer technology, innovate, relay information, establish relationships with licensees, vendors, operators, design and train, develop programs and protocols, all while being diverse and inclusive, in other words, they must improve conditions for the organization, in more ways than one.
Generally, there are three methods for outsourcing employees for global assignments. At times all three methods are frequently used by global organizations. The most commonly used depends on the company’s international staffing philosophy and the company’s top management leadership methodology based on their expansion needs.
I will describe the three: Parent-Country Nationals, (PCNs), Host Country Nationals, (HCNs), and Third Country Nationals, (TCNs); I will also provide some advantages and disadvantages of using them and will conclude with why it is crucial for today’s companies to look at all three when implementing a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
Parent country nationals are citizens of the country in which the organization is headquartered and are usually referred to as expatriates. For example, an American manager representing an American company in Chile would be considered an expatriate or parent country national.
Organizations that rely on PCNs for major overseas positions are following an ethnocentric staffing approach. This staffing strategy tends to be utilized when overseas ventures have little autonomy, and when strategic decisions are made at headquarters. Companies use this approach in the early stages of globalization and when they are trying to establish a new business or install new products overseas where prior experience is critical.
Employing this approach means the parent company will attempt to achieve control over foreign operations by utilizing expatriates and technical staff to transfer its reporting and operational systems.
A few disadvantages of using only parent country nationals are that it can undermine productivity and encourage turnover due to limited promotion opportunities for host country nationals. Additionally, the company may experience issues related to communication, expectations and perception complications that often times surface about how to actually get things get done in their local areas. This approach demands that your leader be not only diverse, but inclusive in his/her working style so as to ensure that situations that can stall progress get addressed in respectful manners.
Host country nationals are employees from the host locations in which a global company is already operating. These individuals bring a tremendous amount of knowledge regarding customer needs, business practices, language and how to best manage host country employees.
An example of a host country national is a sales representative from France meeting with the parent company in California.
Organizations that use this type of staff on overseas assignments are following a polycentric approach; they consider each of its overseas ventures as a unique national entity that possesses autonomy in decision making. A firm who operates within this approach rarely will promote host country nationals to headquarters. So the organization decentralizes on a country-by-country basis; coordination between overseas ventures will be minimal, and the individual locations will be responsible for developing their own personnel policies and establishing their own operational guidelines.
A few advantages of using host country nationals is that the organization will employ more host country nationals, thus removing any expatriate problems, language barriers, and costly business mistakes. In addition, the company will reduce the cost of transferring employees and their families overseas.
Some disadvantages to this model is that language barriers and cultural differences between the host and headquarters’ personnel can create conflicting loyalties on the part of the host-country staff that eventually widens the gap between the two and creates barriers to smooth operations. in addition, the parent company must assure that employees in their host locations are abiding by the company’s leadership goals of attaining a diverse and inclusive work atmosphere. For example, in some cultures, especially emerging market locations the country’s population may not be as diverse as populations of more developed nations, hiring in those locations may be limited in terms of diversity, but that does not mean that inclusion should be taken for granted, as there may be many regional differences within the local population that can place barriers to inclusion. Because of that, organizations will need to work differently with leaders in those areas than with leaders of a parent country national or with leaders of a third country national.
Third country nationals are employees from a country other than where the organization’s headquarters or overseas operations are located. For example, an American employee who is working for a British organization in France is considered a third country national.
Organizations that use this type of assignee along with parent country and host country nationals are following a geocentric staffing approach. These companies attempt to send the right person to the right job anywhere in the world without concern for borders, national culture or geographic distance.
The advantages to this approach are that it allows the organization to develop a highly skilled set of global leaders. It also helps to ensure that the organization’s global vision and strategy are accepted in the different locations around the world.
Disadvantages of this approach include resistance from host country governments in terms of visa restrictions in an effort to preserve jobs for their own citizens. Also, this type of staffing is very expensive, because of the various issues related to relocating, training, developing and providing extra compensation packages to third country national employees and their families, especially for a large organization with a high number of international transfers each year.
Developing inclusion for third country nationals requires an almost hand-held approach to development. In this situation you are working with highly skilled and extremely well developed global leaders who already know a lot about culture, but may not be aware of how they may hold biases to diversity and inclusion.
These leaders have a lot already on their agenda. Sometimes they don’t take the time to slow down long enough to even see how their biases may be causing them and their organization complications.
Work with these leaders requires a more in-depth approach coupled with observation. Observing the leader in their surrounding and making adjustments and corrections in real time is better than sitting them down and talking to them about biases and diversity.
I once worked with a leader who was having trouble with his female boss, it was only after careful observations on my part and gently pointing out a few things to him, was he even ready to trust me enough to share his values on how he viewed women in the workforce. He told me he never gave it any thought. He was unaware of how his values and ways of growing up had deeply affected his attitude towards women and how those attitudes were holding him back.
This leader didn’t need to be told how to work effectively with men, he already felt confident in that area, employing the “good ole boy” air about his relationships with men, but when it came to women, his persona was completely different and he had no idea how to behave in their presence.
This leader didn’t need lessons on cross-cultural issues, he was already pretty savvy at that, what he needed was to become aware of how his upbringing was affecting his ideas about gender roles and how his attitude towards others who he perceived as being vastly different than what he perceived as being the norm was impacting his success. Building awareness and allowing this leader to experience his awareness in real-time while working on real work related issues, allowed him to experience what he called an “eye-opening” state of mind. He was amazed at how quickly he was able to make adjustments and keep them; he was able to transform himself into a more diverse leader who also became tolerant of others which in and of itself, lead to inclusivity not only in his department, but throughout his global network and while on his overseas assignments.
As today’s organizations evolve and develop their talent to be more diverse and inclusive, the more they seek to balance out gender inequalities, the more they will need to look at their global staffing approaches. By going back to that point, they will be able to define what diversity and inclusion, as well as what gender balancing means to them as an organization. In addition to developing their global talent, they will need to take into account the different roles their leaders are taking within the organization and look at the different approaches they’ll need to employ with each leader to help him or her become successful, diverse and inclusive global leaders.
As the year comes to a close, as the Holidays come and go, I am reminded of family. The holidays are all about family, a time to celebrate and observe traditions, treats and time. This holiday season I am reminded of my family and especially one family member in particular, my sister, Elvira, who went missing in June of 2018.
The angst you experience is like no other, to not know where your loved is, what happened to them, are they safe or dead somewhere?
After five months of desperately searching for my lovely sister, we found her dead in Florida. A sad day, with a tinge of relief, the search is over, but now we are left with a deep loss. A loss, which will forever remind me of the holiday season she came home to me.
My sister was found in November, literally on her birth date. We have spent the latter part of November and the early part of December preparing for her transportation back home and making funeral arrangements.
For me, the holidays would begin on her birthday, when I would reach out to her and spend the day with her, making her feel special, because very special she was. After her birthday, would come Thanksgiving, and then the Christmas season.
Seventeen years ago I started a tradition that began with my sister; I baked a batch of Christmas cookies for her in all different styles, shapes and colors. I carefully packaged and shipped them to her. It was the complete delight of the season for her, as she made my cookies famous throughout our network of close friends and family.
After a while, I found my cookie baking list growing as my sister would spread the word, other friends and family members contacted me asking to be placed on my list. Who could say no?
This year, I lost my beloved sister and truly felt no desire to bake and ship cookies, but my daughter and my other sister, Isabel, insisted that I keep that tradition alive and continue to bake, share and ship the holiday cookies.
I heeded, and found it completely lifted my spirits and made me happy, because I was doing the one thing my sister loved the most during the holidays. For me, it was my way of celebrating the Holidays with her. The cookies turned out great; the recipients were overjoyed and the feedback was glorious.
My message is to thank everyone this year for your support, and your kind words as I have struggled with this loss. I thank you for your presence and I thank you for being.
This newsletter is a combined one, because of the tragic loss I’ve had, but even when tragedy hits us, it can’t choose the best time to arrive. All I can say, is pay attention to your feelings, pay attention to the traditions in your own personal life and hang on to those special moments, it will help you to heal and overcome the tragic episodes of your life.
I could have sat in my sadness and stopped a well loved tradition, but with a little encouragement from two other special people in my life I moved forward, and guess what, the pain of the loss turned out to be less, because I shared and experienced in the joy that I gave to my beloved sister year after year.
May each and everyone one of you have a wonderful Holiday Season and enjoy your special traditions in the most meaningful ways.
I end this piece with the following: “You are a foreigner everywhere, except in your own culture”. Candida Marques – Global Arrival © 2018.
Believe it or not, there is no such thing as a bad presenter, okay, some of you may argue with me on this point, because you have had your fair share of bad presenters, but contrary to popular belief, the world is not split into good presenters and bad presenters, there is only those who take their time to organize their thoughts and those who ramble on.
The two most important points on giving a presentation is to have “structure and content,” if you have one without the other you will experience problems.
In order to obtain structure, you must look at the following:
- Give your audience a short one-sentence overview
- Explain the structure
- Give them headlines
- Present each topic
- Tell them what is next
- End with a short conclusion
Examples are as follows (fill in the blanks):
“I am here to present ___________.”
Explain the structure:
There are three points I want to discuss. (Then tell your audience exactly the points they should listen for). Giving things a number means to your audience that you are organized and that they should “listen to you.”
Give them headlines:
I will be discussing ________, __________, ________. (Fill in the blanks).
You don’t want your audience to guess what your topics are going to be, nor do you want them to struggle to listen to you. Make their work easy, when you give them headlines, you are practically writing their notes for them, which will make listening, while retaining what you want them to know easier.
Present each topic:
Present each topic and cue your audience that you are starting a topic, cover the topic and summarize what you just covered.
The first thing I want to talk about is __________ (discuss your first topic by filling the blank).
Every topic should follow the same pattern, cue, present, summarize. It may seem repetitive, but this is how your audience will be able to follow you and remember what you want them to know.
Tell them what is next:
Reinforce your structure and direct your audience as you move from one topic to the other. This tactic helps to keep people focused on you.
Okay, we covered, ______, now I will talk about ________. (Fill in the blanks).
By having this format you are helping your audience to relax. You’re telling them that you value their time and letting them know how much longer you will be speaking. How many times have you listened to a speaker and wondered to yourself, “Oh goodness, how much longer are they going to talk?” Frustrating, right? When you tell people what is next, they know you are organized and they will pay attention to you. They will know that you are following your stated structure, and they will know the end is in sight.
The short conclusion:
Remind your audience of what you told them, in as short as time as possible, preferably in one sentence and conclude with a Q and A if time permits. You should always allow a few minutes for questions at the end of your presentation, but you must alert your audience to that fact, for example:
We have just discussed __________, __________, _________, there are 5 minutes left does anyone have any questions?
- Skip handouts, never give people things to read while you are speaking, they will read and not listen to you. If you must give handouts give it to them at the end of your presentation, and let them know in the beginning that you have handouts for the end of your talk. (This lets them know they will not need to take so many notes, because you have done the work for them).
- If you must give handouts, make sure they are clearly organized and easy to follow and that the notes follow exactly everything you are going to say.
The content of any talk should be boiled down to two elements: what is happening and what you are going to do about it.
If your goal is to get people’s attention and inspire action, it is important that you add facts into your presentation. Give your audience one major fact, a point of evidence that stands out and that fact will become the “sound-bite,” the one important thing you want them to remember.
How to build a fact into your content:
- If your talk is about numbers, ask yourself – “If could present one number, what would it be?” If you can’t memorize the number then it is too complicated.
- Equally as important as picking the right number; is setting the context in which that number exists. If I tell you I was the track star in high school, and beat others by 10 seconds it could sound like a great achievement, or not, depending on the context. If I mention in the context that those 10 seconds was a school record for that year, that is impressive, but if I state it was only for one semester then that is not as impressive.
- Give your audience a surprise; it is always a good idea to connect your fact to something specific and detailed. Rather than telling your boss that you lowered costs of your widget by $0.25 it would be far more compelling to explain that you decreased costs by 20%, which for your product it meant lowering the weight of the item to the weight of a single piece of paper, the mental image of a single piece of paper makes your point easy to remember and easy for people to say yes to any request you may have, in addition, it makes decision making less risky.
Creating a surprising fact takes time and effort, which is why so many people skip this important feature of presenting. But if you take the time to add this extra step into your presentations your audience is more likely to pay attention to you, you will more likely be asked to present to senior management, because you are able to make compelling presentations.
And for a conclusion: Please remember, you are not presenting to tell people everything you know, only what they need to know.
I end this piece with the following: “You are a foreigner everywhere, except in your own culture”. Candida Marques – Global Arrival © 2018.
When it comes to understanding sales and consumerism across borders, one must first understand their own culture’s attitudes towards buying and consuming products and services.
This month, we will delve into understanding the various mindsets or characteristics that motivate the American consumer into making purchases.
The active American — The “Just Do It” mentality, American’s don’t just sit there, they DO something and they are known for getting things done. Children are taught to stay busy; people are rewarded for activity and performance. Foreigners always say: “Americans always seem to be in a hurry.” Don’t fool yourself into thinking that Americans shop this way, although some do, some will take their time about completing a purchase and may even delay the purchase or another time.
The Industrious American — Hard work is rewarded and it is part of the Protestant work ethic. Consumers are skeptical about goods that promise effortless results or that eliminate the need for hard work. Products should demonstrate their capacity to work hard and to get the job done as quickly as possible and its sources must come from a trusted advisor or from tried and tested results of positive performance, before most Americans will complete a purchase.
The Materialistic American — Materialism is part of the Protestant work ethic just as much as hard work. This concept states that one’s worth can be measured in dollars, which equal income and wealth. Income and wealth lead to consumerism. Americans like to accumulate things and have the space with which to store their things in, like their large homes and large cars. Americans like to have the biggest, or the best, or the latest product out there; it is a sign of success for the American.
The delay of gratification — Traditionally American culture has stressed the necessity to postpone gratification over extended periods of time. This concept allows one to gain an education over many years before beginning to receive the benefits of efforts. This value comes from the puritan aspect of delaying gratification until the work is completed and can be seen in the old saying: “Work before pleasure.” This concept is also a middle class mindset in America, as delaying gratification will allow you to do better in the near, and at times, not so near future. That does not mean that some people, depending on their personality or ways of living delay gratification, it is not uncommon for some Americans to seek instant gratification, but by and large the concept of waiting for things to get better is the overall American mindset. This attitude plays itself out in the general population. For example, when the economy is slow or the nation is in an economic slump. Most Americans buckle down, spend less they “tighten the belt,” as they say.
The Serious American — Americans tend to be serious and usually equate levity with frivolity. Humorous or comic appeals to consumers usually get their attention, but they often fall short of selling the goods.
The Abstaining American — Things that are openly sensual are distrusted, because American consumers buy products only with proper rationale. It has to be good for them or they must have earned it in order to complete a purchase.
Be aware of some of the various types of characteristics and mindsets that the American consumer has and tailor your product or service to it; you will find yourself being a bit more successful in selling to the American population.
I end this piece with the following: “You are a foreigner everywhere, except in your own culture”. Candida Marques – Global Arrival © 2018.
Let’s face it, we don’t work the same way around the globe, there are differences, and even when you think cultures are similar, they really aren’t. In this piece we will explore how vastly different and how slightly different things can be.
For simplicity, we will contrast United States with the UK; Latin America/Latin based cultures, France and some Asian based cultures. This is not to say that the clustered cultures, Latin and Asian are all the same, they are not, within each culture there are significant differences, but the general gist is relatively similar in some ways, which is why we clustered them.
For in-depth knowledge of each country with-in each cluster reach out to us for further education and stay tuned for next month when we will explore a few more cultures all with-in the same theme.
The United States:
Puritan work ethic and the frontier spirit is the cornerstone of leadership, status and organization for Americans. The large land mass of America is an entrepreneur’s dream. Unlimited expanses of wilderness were seen as unlimited wealth which could be exploited, if one moved quickly enough.
This attitude produced American values: speed is of the essence, you act individually and in your own interest; the wilderness forced you to be self-reliant, tough, risk taking; one needed to be aggressive, anyone with talent and initiative could get ahead; if you suffered a setback, it was not seen as the ultimate failure, there was always more land, more opportunity; bonds broken with the past meant future orientation. One had to be optimistic about change, the past brought little reward under the yoke of the King of England and this led to a distrust of supreme authority.
American managers maintain the frontier spirit; they are assertive, aggressive, goal and action oriented, confident, vigorous, optimistic and ready for change. They are achievers who are used to hard work, instant mobility and quick decision making. They value individual freedom above the welfare of the company, with their first interest being to further their career. They are able to work well in teams and have “corporate spirit.”
Americans are reluctant to accord social status to anyone for reasons other than visible achievement. Money is seen as the yardstick of progress, and very few Americans distance themselves from the pursuit of wealth. Leadership means getting things done, improving one’s standard of living by making money for oneself, finding short cuts to prosperity and making a profit for one’s firm and its shareholders.
Status is accorded mostly on grounds of achievement and wealth, age and seniority assume less importance.
American managers are motivated by monetary based bonuses, performance payments, profit-sharing and stock options are common. New staff is challenged by their ability to get ahead. Unlike Europeans and Asians, they do need constant feedback, encouragement and praise from senior executives.
Individualism in American life is rigidly controlled in business through strict procedures. American executives are allowed to make individual decisions, especially when traveling abroad, but must operate within the framework of corporate restrictions. American executives pop in and out of offices and share information, they inspire their subordinates, and they share ideas, with great emphasis. The focus on the “bottom line.”
In America, getting hired and fired rapidly is okay. Losing one’s job often carries less stigma than elsewhere; “It just did not work out.”
In American business, “the deal” comes before personal feeling. If there is no profit, a transaction is hardly worthwhile. Business is based on being punctual, with solid figures, proven techniques, pragmatic reasoning and technical competence. Time is money, and Americans show impatience in meetings if others get bogged down in details.
Let us look at a few other cultures…
The feudal and imperial origins of status and leadership in England are still evident in some aspects of British management. The class system persists in the UK and status is derived, in some degree, from pedigree, title and family name. British managers are described as diplomatic, tactful, laid back, casual, reasonable, helpful, and willing to compromise and seek to be fair. They also consider themselves to be inventive and lateral thinkers. They see themselves as conducting business with grace, style, humor, wit, eloquence and self-possession. They have a fondness for debate and regard meetings as occasions to seek agreement rather that to issue instructions.
Problems can arise when British senior executives deal with European, American and Eastern business people. In spite of their friendliness, hospitality and desire to be fair, British managers’ adherence to tradition will sometimes result in a failure to comprehend differing values in others.
British are task-oriented and are not sticklers for punctuality, but wasting time is frowned upon. British companies and staff take pride in completing tasks thoroughly, although in their own time frame. Leaving work at 5:00 or 6:00 pm is common as well as taking work home.
Managers generally achieve a balance between short and long-term planning. Failure is not frowned on and there are few pressures to make quick money. Teamwork is encouraged and achieved, although it is understood that individual competition will prevail. It is not unusual for managers to have “direct lines” to staff members, especially those whom they favor or consider intelligent and progressive. Chains of command are not always observed.
The business cultures for Italy, Spain, Portugal and Latin America generally follow that of France, where authority is centered on the chief executive. Family name or connections may dominate the structure. More than in France, sons, nephews, cousins and close family friends will hold prominent key positions. Delegations may consist of company owner, brother, son, grandson and include women.
Status is based on age, reputation and often wealth. The management style is autocratic, particularly in Portugal, Spain and South America, where often times the family money is on the line.
Task orientation is dictated from above; strategies and success depend largely on social connections and mutual cooperation between dominant families or groups. Knowing the right people is all that matters in Latin America, as it does in Arab and Asian cultures. These societies prioritize nurturing human relationships over pragmatic, rapid implementation of transactions based on notions of opportunity, technical feasibility and profit.
French management style is autocratic, although it may not be apparent at first glance. In France the boss will use the “tu” form for addressing employees and a pat on the back is common, but don’t be fooled, this behavior is often times deceptive.
The French chief executive’s status is attributed according to family, age, education and professional qualifications, with emphasis on oratorical ability and mastery of the French language. French managers will have less specialization than US or British managers, but they generally have wider horizons and an impressive grasp of the many issues facing their company. They can handle production, organizational procedures, meetings, marketing, personnel matters and accounting systems as the occasion requires.
There is a high tolerance in a French company for management blunders, unlike mistakes made by German executives which are not easily forgiven and American managers can be fired if they cause the company to lose money. Management in France is highly personalized, and managers make decisions on a daily basis, and many of them may be incorrect.
Managers assume responsibility for their decisions, but they will not be expected to resign if their decisions backfire. If they are the right age, have the right experience and possess impeccable professional qualifications, they will not be replaced. For the French, attainment of immediate objectives is secondary to the ascribed reputation of the organization. French enterprises imply interdependence, mutual tolerance and teamwork among its members.
French mangers see themselves as valued leaders in society, and as being contributors to the well-being of their staff members. French managers will debate issues at great length with their staff members, and will examine all aspects in detail; however, the decisions are usually made alone and are not based on evidence.
Cultural values dominate the structure of organizations in the Asian cultures. Deeply rooted religious and philosophical beliefs impose strong codes of conduct. In the Chinese sphere of influence, People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore as well as in Japan and Korea, Confucian principles hold the way. (Thailand is Buddhist; Indonesia and Malaysia, strongly Muslim.) The Confucian model strongly resembles the family structure. We are members of a group, not individuals.
There is emphasis on unequal relations between people. Hierarchies are that of father-son, older brother-younger brother, male-female, ruler-subject, senior friend-junior friend, etc. Loyalty to the ruler, piety to one’s father leads to harmonious social order based on strict ethical rules. Virtuous behavior, protection of the weak, moderation, calmness and thrift are also highly valued.
Qualifications are flaunted, university and professional connections rate higher than family name or wealth. Paternalistic attitudes to employees and their dependants, with top-down obligations, and bottom-up loyalty, obedience and blind faith are also observed although to a greater degree in China.
Policies are conveyed to middle managers, where ideas often originate on the work floor with other lower-level staff members. Signatures are collected among workers and middle managers as suggestions, ideas and inventions make their way up the company hierarchy, with top executives taking the final step in ratifying items that have won sufficient approval.
Families at work and at home operate with non-competitiveness as well as seeing eye-to-eye, which is highly valued. There is a collective nature about decision making with an automatic chain of command and smooth dispersal of power. Fulfillment of obligations and duties to the group, family, community, company, and friends take refuge in support and solidarity which they see as a fundamental, correct way of living and interacting within a highly developed social network. In this hierarchical, family-type environment, the manager guides subordinates and work longer hours to set an example. Immediate objectives are not clearly expressed in tasks. Long-term considerations take priority and the slow development of personal relations, both internally and with customers, often slow things down.
Perhaps the most important characteristic of a high-functioning team is trust. Team members must be able to trust each other in order for work to get completed; they must be committed and dedicated to the welfare of the group above their own individual needs.
For any type of team, trust is a challenging thing to create and maintain, but when it comes to a cross-cultural team, trust can be especially difficult to achieve for a variety of reasons.
Today, we will explore some of these reasons so that your team can be on its way to developing a solid bond that will propel their work forward.
Let us look at the following:
Communication styles vary from culture-to-culture so too, is the extent to which people socialize and get down work at the start of each meeting. There are differences around time, giving feedback, when and how to speak up and disagreeing, especially disagreeing publicly.
Friction is bound to happen due to perceptions of ethnocentrism, with some team members feeling ignored or not taken seriously.
So how can leaders of a cross-cultural team leverage the differences without falling prey to its challenges? In my experience in working with global teams there are several steps a team leader can do to help their team members develop a bond of trust that will lead to success of the overall project.
- Structure the team for success. Make sure your cross-cultural team has a clear and compelling direction and that your members have access to information and the appropriate resources they need to successfully carry out their mission. Make sure senior leaders of the company and/or stakeholders are on board with the purpose and mission of your global team and that your team knows they have support from upper management and company senior leaders. Given the built-in challenges your global team faces to begin with, it is essential to make sure your team is staffed with as many curious, flexible, thoughtful and emotionally stable members as possible.
- Mission. Speaking of mission, make sure your team has a clear, easy to understand mission that they must be able to individually and jointly recite as a team. This rah, rah moment must be had so the team feels bonded from the start of all their meetings.
- Understand the cross-cultural makeup of your team. You, as a team leader must be able to understand the different cultures, the language differences and how language is used in the various cultures of your team members. For example, if your team is made up of a few Germans and some Koreans, you might guess that feedback will be a cultural trip-wire. Germans are comfortable giving direct, uncensored feedback, where as the reverse is common in Korea unless the conversation is between a senior member and a junior colleague. Be aware of these sorts of communication patterns, they can help you dampen tension and resolve matters effectively.
- Understand your team’s individual personalities. Just because a team member is from a certain culture, does not mean they will always behave with the norms of that culture. What if they were born in a foreign country, but studied in the USA or they lived and worked in Europe, they may have a blended cultural sense of working that may not always fit the cultural style of their birth place.
- Stick to clear norms. Global team members are going to bring a wide variety of work styles and personal preferences to the table. The team leader must establish some ground norms of behavior that everyone sticks to – no matter what the team’s personal styles are. No leader should impose their own personal style, but they could take into account what will work best for the team as a whole, and incorporate practices from each of the different cultures. For example, if you normally assign individual responsibilities but some team members prefer to work in small groups, you could assign a complex task to small groups.
- Find ways to build personal bonds. One of the most powerful ways of easing conflict is to allow your team members to build personal connections. Naturally, different cultures have different ways of building relationships. Given these differences you may not be able to develop deep connections, but you can certainly help foster rapport and individual connections. Perhaps you discover that someone from one culture enjoys photography, or that two of your members have children who play soccer, you as the leader can make a connection for those two individuals by opening up the conversations needed for them to take things to the next level. As a team leader it is your job to make these connections between your team members. Organize social events when your team is together and working face-to-face, pair quieter team members with more outspoken members, facilitate introductions between members who you think may get along well.
- Address conflict immediately. In any team conflict will arise, but for a cross-cultural team conflict creates tension that escalates quickly. As a leader, you must be able to understand the cultural perspectives and ways in which conflict plays out between members of different backgrounds. Building the bridge between parties who are in conflict requires an understanding of direct and in-direct communication styles as well as a readiness to have open group discussions about the conflict or know when to not discuss it openly, but rather in private with certain members who are in conflict. Everything depends on the members involved and the situation at hand.
Trust is the glue that makes global teams function well, but it doesn’t happen overnight. A team composed of culturally diverse members requires motivation to make things work. Applying some of the tips mentioned above will place you and your team in a better position to leverage benefits of diversity while minimizing its challenges.
In the US where individualism is valued, people are expected to take the initiative in advancing their personal interests and well being, and to be direct and assertive in interacting with others.
The Chinese people are completely different. Personal relations are predicated on the assumption that intra-group harmony should be preserved at all costs. The limited social and geographic mobility foster durable, deep relationships in which abrasiveness is condemned and personal assertiveness is branded as selfish and criticized.
Your Chinese friend may find it odd that you want to spend the evening alone. For an American this is a normal way of life, to want to spend time alone, but for the Chinese, this equates to loneliness and there is no word for it or for privacy in the Chinese language.
One behavior a Chinese person will not tolerate is anger. An angry person undermines the dignity and well-being of the group and is not considered worthy of respect, this is the cause of serious loss of face. Even if the anger is justifiable, it is considered in bad taste, where as American’s tolerate anger if it is justifiable. So what do you do when you encounter a situation where you need to express unhappiness? You ask to speak with the person in charge or the top administrators.
Friendship and Obligations
If you wish to befriend a Chinese person you must first enter their group. As soon as you become identified as an in-group member, the expectations of the partnership become vastly dependent and expectations are high. Many Americans are not prepared for such a high level of interdependence.
In the US you may change friends, but in China your friends are yours for life. In the US you may not share all aspects of your life with your friends, but instead focus on shared interests and activities, friendships in the US have limits. Whereas the Chinese have a limited number of friends, they are close, and a deep relationship remains intact throughout one’s life. Sharing all aspects of your life is expected and the duties and obligations of friendship are virtually unlimited.
In China, one has an enormous responsibility for one’s friends. If your Chinese friend senses you are in need they will come to your aid, you won’t even have to ask. You are also free to tell them what he or she must do in order to help you.
I end this piece with a quote: “You are a foreigner everywhere, except in your own culture”. © 2018, Candida Marques Global Arrival, LLC
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