In today’s multicultural work environment, leaders get to manage teams made up of very diverse people whose mindsets and skill sets create a unique synergy. Of course, managing a cross-cultural team is not without its challenges, but with the right approach, this diversity often turns out to be an asset rather than a hindrance.
By focusing on communication and acknowledging each individual and their culture, building a strong cross-cultural team is not only possible without any conflict, but it can do wonders for a business.
Cross-cultural Team-building: Overcoming Interaction Challenges
The primary aim of cross-cultural team-building efforts is to counter the barriers that naturally form when people in different parts of the world come together to work on a project.
Expression and communication, for instance, constitute one of the main difficulties, which can arise even if all the members of the team speak English (or whichever language you are all using) fluently. Understanding one another can be complicated at the best of times, so it isn’t rare for colloquialisms to lead to misinterpretation.
Instead of allowing even a well-meaning icebreaker or joke to create discomfort, you could organize cross-cultural team-building exercises around the subtleties of everyday expressions.
Invite everyone to think about how certain phrases used commonly in their own language could be misconstrued if they were understood literally and ask them to share with the group.
From a Multicultural Group to an Intercultural Team
Though the two terms are often associated, they do not refer to exactly the same thing. Multiculturalism implies that different cultural or ethnic groups work alongside each other, but not that there is true understanding or even interaction between them. This is why multicultural company should aim to promote an intercultural mindset where there is a deep understanding of all cultures leading to the most natural form of respect. This can be achieved through cross-cultural team-building.
Seeking out difference is not something people do naturally. There is an inherent (albeit subconscious) challenge in attempting to create a connection between individuals with completely different backgrounds. Team-building activities should therefore encourage casual interaction and utilize every opportunity. From birthdays to national holidays and social events, bonding should not be done entirely over work. Whenever possible, management should organize get-together and help employees build a meaningful connection.
An Understanding Ear
Avoid unnecessary friction from being present, asking questions and, most of all, by actively listening to your team members. This is instrumental regardless of whether the members of your team work in the same office or halfway across the world. They should all feel like they are being heard and know that any conflict will be addressed immediately and without bias.
Build Rapport and Trust by Developing a Team Identity
A common goal can serve as a very effective umbrella under which everyone will rally. A cross-cultural leader should always make the objectives of the company very clear and highlight how every single member of the team is to contribute to their realization.
Be sure to break down the team’s goal into actionable steps that can be celebrated as such.
One success after another, cultural differences start to become a strength as everyone’s best capabilities begin to shine.
The Power of a Global Network
Cross-cultural team-building benefits both the company as a whole and the individuals why can view this experience as extremely beneficial to their own career. In our increasingly multicultural society, most companies favor those who thrive in these challenging environments. The different backgrounds, novel ways of solving problems and unique outlook on business can truly be used to everyone’s advantage.