COM Wheel

Collaboration is part of most modern jobs. At some point, almost every employee and leader will be working as part of a team, and chances are, that team will be made up of people from different cultural backgrounds. Building a collaborative mindset among team members is essential for smooth functioning. Team leaders should take certain employee cultural preferences into consideration when building a team to foster a collaborative mindset.

Cooperative / Competitive and Collectivistic / Individualistic

Working as part of a team is more difficult for some people than others, and it often comes down to where they fall on the cooperative-competitive and collectivistic-individualistic continua. Team members with a cooperative preferences place value on interdependence, whereas competitive people place value of material achievement and assertiveness. Similarly, those with collectivistic orientations focus on social affiliation and place value on the “we” over the “I.” Those with individualistic orientations let the “I” predominate over the “we.” People with collectivistic and cooperative orientations tend to be more amenable to teamwork, whereas people with individualistic and competitive preferences may have a harder time developing a collaborative mindset.

Low Context / High Context and Direct / Indirect

As communication is an essential part of teamwork, team leaders should also pay attention to the team members’ preferences on the low context-high context and the direct-indirect continua. Making sure the team members are aware of their preferences along these continua will help them avoid frustrating miscommunications.

Inductive / Deductive

Gaps along the inductive-deductive continuum can also produce misunderstandings, as some team members may illustrate their ideas using examples and inference, whereas others may prefer using theories, concepts and big-picture ideas to make their point. Team leaders should establish norms for transferring information across the team and provide resources teammates can use when they are not communicating well, such as material on style switching.

Being / Doing and Fluid / Fixed and Multi-Focus / Single Focus

Also relevant to collaboration are the being-doing continuum, the fluid-fixed continuum and the multi focus-single focus continuum. Understanding how team members relate to their tasks and interpersonal relationships, how they view time and urgency, and whether they prefer to focus on one task or multiple tasks at a time can help team leaders establish workflow guidelines and deadlines.

Leveraging the vocabulary of the Cultural Orientations Model can help leaders build a collaborative mindset among their team members.

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