Now you’ve cherry-picked the values, can you bake a cake with them?

A while ago I asked my network on LinkedIn and Instagram to name some dimensions of their home cultures that they truly loved and valued. The scope of the sample was people who had worked across cultures or abroad and many struggled to answer my question, saying they always wanted to add a “but” and list all the things they didn’t like!

I then collated their answers in a blog entitled “Cherry-Picking Cultural Values” in which I listed their responses to my question in their raw state. Now in this article I’d like to show how international managers can create synergy from these diverse cultural attributes, releasing the energy and creativity of all concerned to help teams to find ways of working together that transcend national approaches.

This is the icing on the cake of global agility and requires good facilitation skills and sensitivity to cultural difference. We talk about diversity a lot. And we’ve been talking about it for a long time. We know it helps us to be more creative, be ahead of our game, there’s no diversity without the inclusion etc. But this is the hard bit. HOW do we actually do it? And I am often asked about this in my training. A typical question that comes up is:

“But yes, Vanessa I know it’s good to be different, to have lots of different people with different perspectives, but how do you actually get things done with so many cultural values and put theory into practice?

In this piece I will attempt to address how to take these different value sets cited by my case study sample and show you how to work them into the fabric of your team culture. The list is by no mean exhaustive and is purely based on the answers I received on my LinkedIn and Instagram posts. I think these people would most certainly enhance the richness, atmosphere, and performance of any project if they were given the space to bring their cultural values to their work team.

Meet Team Synergy

The goal driven and efficient Austrian

Put this person in charge of aligning ideas and goals and ensuring the vision board is always visible to all members of the team.

The barracking-for-the-underdog Australian

This team member could have the role of making sure that all team members are getting a say and supporting the newer, quieter and less extrovert team members to unmute themselves and shine.

The up-front Czech

Put this team member in charge of monitoring communication to ensure that everyone is on the same page – if things get too indirect, they could encourage team members to focus on clarity of communication.

The debating French 

 This person could oversee critical thinking / brainstorming and creating a positive space where ideas can be bounced around and looked at from all angles!

The responsible and reliable German

This team member can increase the quality of work delivered by checking on accountability, responsibility, and reliability so that the team delivers what is promised, by the time it was promised.

The collectivist Pakistani  

This team member will help people to build connections and support team building through bonding (over a cup of tea) and creating deeper connections within the team.

The hands-on Pole

This team member can be put in charge of keeping morale going when problems occur and find solutions, helping people to not give up along the way.

The politically correct Brit

This team member will be the one who can bring humour to the table but make sure everyone uses inclusive language, a kind of language gatekeeper in an international team.

The optimistic American

Put this person in charge of encouraging people keep going, allowing for all ideas to be thrown on the table making sure that individual ideas will always be considered and valued.

Creating New AlternativesSynergy from diversity

So, there you have it! I hope you can see what I’ve done here. Now this is not stereotyping – it is just a list of how some of my interviewees saw their own cultures and commented on what and why they liked certain work traits. Of course, they may not be true of everyone from these cultures, but if you had such team members, could you create synergy from all these differences and make the workplace a happier place for everyone? This could be done in a team-building exercise, and it gives everyone a role (apart from their specialist area), making sure that the team is on track. Unfortunately, sometimes international teams underperform because of cultural differences (time, communication style), yet all of my interviewees could easily resolve these issues by sharing their value sets!

It is possible to maximise team performance without suppressing these different cultural perspectives.  To do this requires good facilitation skills and the ability to work with apparently contradictory ideas. Recognising diversity is one thing, creating synergy from the diversity is the queen of intercultural competences and should be the goal of every global team. It’s not easy but this could be a way you could create synergy from the diversity and take your team to another level. This is how theory becomes practice.

Good luck in your international teams and let me know if you have found this article insightful. And please get in touch if you would like to know more about my cross-cultural and international team building training and share with anyone who may require advice on creating synergy from diversity.