Cross-cultural team building: taking the ‘mis’ out of miscommunication.

Have you ever wondered by a member of your team is constantly late or always talking about private things in a professional environment? Or questioned yourself why a team member seems to be reluctant about committing themselves to a deadline? 

But did you ever ask yourself if they were late according to their watch or if you maybe come across as reserved and cold to your colleague? And what to you may be a deadline is merely a point of reference to them? 

Maybe you need to look at your team in terms of cultural differences and try to establish values, rules and communication strategy that needs to be in place before you start your journey to success together. Minding the culture gaps is not enough, it’s time to close them.

Culture clash – culture alignment

I often work in international teams and even as an interculturalist I have my issues! Being flexible is a key intercultural competence and I have it in abundance but it doesn’t always feel as if it stands in my favour. It means that I don’t create scenes and disharmony but my stress levels go through the roof if I’m dealing with team members who don’t switch off own cultural autopilot and refuse to budge an inch in terms of cultural sensitivity! 

Being aware of my intercultural competence here is my ticket to cross-cultural success of course. It’s not easy but it’s about not seeing differences as difficulties but aligning them at the onset and converting them into a synergy of positive outcomes. In other words I act as a mediator.

My proverbial principle in leading international teams is clarity, clarity and more clarity.

“If you have an important point to make,don’t try to be subtle or clever. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it again with a tremendous whack.”

Winston Churchill

Cross-cultural teambuilding training

So how do we clear up culture bumps and hiccups? Cross-cultural teambuilding training is an excellent way of tackling these issues – through the nature of the topic, it provides a safe environment to clarify team roles and positions. It makes sure that inclusive behaviour is promoted and team members are supported, moreover their skills are respected and team performance maximised. Creating a space where people can talk about their experiences is so important and only then can we break the stereotypes that still go unquestioned in many workplace scenarios.

Objectives

Some of the objectives of my cross-cultural teambuilding include: 

  • Establishing greater awareness of personal and cultural values and biases
  • Having a greater understanding of individual and team strengths
  • Fostering a framework for pinpointing differences and synergies
  • Welcoming an awareness of cross-cultural communication styles
  • Accumulating tips on how to provide support, influence others, handle conflict and reach consensus
  • Creating a new team pact with agreed procedures of working together
  • Establishing an action plan for developing intercultural competences on an individual level

Most of my important lessons about life have come from recognizing how others from a different culture view things.

Edgar H. Schein

Cross-cultural teambuilding is a great way of realigning teams and can cover a lot of issues. It makes people aware of their own values – cultural and personal – and reflects upon them in relation to corporate values. And it’s fun! You can learn so much about and from each other in an international team. My training sessions offer you the setting where you can sharpen your global acumen and it empowers team members. It gives your team some responsibility and moves it forward in terms of performance with a concrete plan or charter.

By making sure your company’s cross-cultural teams are aware of each other’s working and communication styles – then your message to the outside world will be much clearer, stronger, creative and glimmer with global vibes. Diversity and Inclusion is imperative but it needs to be visible and not just an empty slogan!

What next? 

Next month I’ll be looking at how working in cross-cultural or international teams has influenced some of the people I have worked with as well as the strategies they have adopted to create synergy in international teams and how they have grown professionally in the process. If you have any stories to tell about what you have learnt working in cross-cultural teams, I’d be happy to hear them!

And do send me a message if you want to start creating synergy in your cross-cultural teams. Training can be held in a 4 -5 hour-session at your company or a location of your choice.

Vanessa Paisley is an Intercultural Trainer, Writer and Coach who helps people to thrive in the relocation and repatriation process.

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