Work teams are a crucial part of any international organization, as deliverables destined for diverse markets increasingly rely on the collaboration of groups of mixed-skill employees.
In some respects, the global economy has redefined traditional team models to incorporate the dynamics of diverse employee groups. Yet in many companies, teams are distributed at sites around the globe, and members often come from many different cultures. This makes collaboration difficult, especially due to practical boundaries such as time-zone differences, as well as intangible ones, such as cultural gaps.
Especially challenging for leaders of diverse and dispersed teams is that, according to new research, 90 percent of team failures are caused by support-system problems – lack of strong leadership, disparate access to adequate technology, lack of proper communication channels, etc. However, the same research found that teams can maximize their productivity if they find a way to overcome these problems and work together. That is where good team leadership comes in.
Successful team leaders must address and acknowledge any boundaries team members face – whether practical, technological or cultural – so that they can surface any issues, have a dialogue to overcome them, develop strategies and move forward. This must be done, ideally, as the team is forming, so that problems are dealt with preemptively and do not progress enough to negatively affect the team’s work. If a team that has already formed is battling through practical, technological or cultural issues, the team leader must dedicate energy toward addressing the problems specifically, with open, non-judgmental and accessible dialogue among the team members concerned. The key for the team leader is to listen, respond promptly and use neutral vocabulary, such as that espoused by the Cultural Orientations Approach.
In the modern business world, diverse and dispersed teams play a pivotal role in helping organizations meet revenue targets and accomplish goals. The successful team leader must leverage the diverse backgrounds, values and perspectives of their team members to accomplish, and even exceed, their business goals.Back to Navigating Culture Blog