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by Trudy Channer

How do you bridge differing communication styles between virtual members?  How do you coordinate work products when you don’t see each other? What mechanisms can be put in place to handle conflict situations?


This past Monday I addressed these questions and other questions during a session presented at the Project Management Institute.  Many project managers manage global teams and have experienced a variety of cross-cultural interactions. During my hour and a half presentation, we identified the four key elements essential to all virtual teams: Context Communication, Trust and Accountability, Virtual Conflict Mediation, and Deliverable Management. I also reviewed the analysis and results of 3-year research study AIM Strategies conducted on virtual teams trends and provided findings and tips for improving cross-cultural Interactions and building richer human connections in remote teams.


global communications imageNext, I talked about the importance of culture and how learning about our virtual colleagues’ cultural practices (i.e. system of values, beliefs, customs and behaviors) can help project managers improve virtual interactions with their team members. There are many inter-cultural stories about intercultural disconnect, such as different word significance, use of signs and gestures, and message significance –  which often cause misinterpretations and lead to misunderstanding and conflicts in virtual environments. I then used virtual interaction scenarios to illustrate where Intercultural Disconnect created challenges.  Finally, I instructed the audience on how to make sure that deliverables get out the door and shared the five consistent cultural communication strategies that I developed for any cross-cultural interactions: L E A R N (Listen, Effectively communicate, Avoid ambiguity, Respect differences and No judgment).


You can find additional case studies and many examples of virtual and cross cultural interactions in my book: “A Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams


Feel free to share your virtual stories in the comments section of this blog. I will be opening a live chat on my blog on Friday, Nov 11, from 4:00 to 5:00 ET to answer your questions and to share my solutions to the problems you encounter with your global and cross cultural virtual teams.


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