This week’s post continues with 2 more strategies for improving your intercultural communications and cross cultural interactions at work. If you are already a virtual manager, you probably may have faced similar issues and had to put in place related systems in place that enable your cross-cultural (and usually global) team to better interact, connect and communicate.
Keeping the communication clean so that things don’t get ‘Lost in Translation’ is one of your key responsibilities, especially when business English is the ‘part time’ language of many team members. You must be well adapted to the cultural cues, and their solutions. This post continues with 2 more strategies that I usually coach managers to help them lead diverse teams. These suggestions are summarized below.
3. Create Cross Cultural Collaboration
Creating commonalities is challenging when working across cultures and time zones. How to do that? One way is to subdivide an overriding goal into smaller goals that can be worked on by some members across the team. Provide clear and specific direction, with support and encouragement. Here is an example: “We have colleagues all over Europe. Before new members join us we send basic information about their culture to the rest of the team, and we send them a PowerPoint presentation with details about every culture represented on our team. We also ask them to email everyone on the team two things: (1) what one thing – personal or professional – do they want colleagues to know about them, and (2) what their favorite holiday is, and why. We do this so that people can begin to build connections and we encourage them to dialog among themselves. In order to avoid any misunderstanding, we give clear and univocal instructions and we repeat them via mail, phone or internal IMs.
When working across cultures and time zones, it is paramount to (despite the differences, time zones and nationalities) it is important to create commonalities across your team. How should you do that? One way is to create shared goals across your team, provide clear and specific direction and provide support and encouragement.
“In order to avoid any misunderstanding, we give clear and univocal instructions. If something is not clear, we repeat the instructions (via mail, phone or internal instant messaging). And before integrating multi-cultural team members, we take care of providing basic information about the other cultures” – Partner, Accounting Firm, Belgium
Besides putting communication routines in place and constantly checking on your virtual team, what else can you do to create cross cultural commonalities? As one virtual manager from a Litigation Consulting Firm told me,
“It is just a matter of finding that connection with people; finding the common piece that connects us as human beings, and it always starts with respecting people and their experiences and discovering new ways for linking people.”
Yes virtual manager, your greatest contribution to your team is to enable connection across time and space and maintain the human interaction vibrant across your team.
4. Become a True Manager of Cultures
Whether local or global, look at the landscape beyond the horizon, recognizing that events at one location impact another. I call this type of Visionary Leadership VISTA-leadership. It requires advanced understanding, visioning, and a hyper-openness to how people interact in different cultures. As so beautifully put by a client who led a global team at a Healthcare Solutions Company,
“When it comes to becoming a manager of cultures, you need to know that you don’t know. There are so many unknowns and you have to manage and look for them; people don’t speak exactly what they mean. They maintain distance, and when you are a global manager who is not from their side [location] you need to understand them.”
These strategies for getting “UN-lost in Translation” will help you translate English to English across your own teams. If you are interested in getting more specific cultural information, see “Communicating Through a Global Lens” 2nd Edition. In it I offer several suggestions to help you gain perspective and achieve a high comfort level when interacting with individuals from other cultures.
“Communicating Through a Global Lens” 2nd Edition describes the different dimensions of cultural differences and provides tips ‘how to’ strategies to work with these perspectives. This quick guide also consists of a short questionnaire to gauge your current skill level at communicating across cultures and provides practical pointers for handling global business relationships. If you need to build your personal action plan and want to increase your cross cultural communication skills, this interactive book will give you suggestions on how to do that.
Remember, quality business relationships grow through better understanding, and I will continue to help you raise your multicultural awareness by sharing my consulting, coaching and training experiences with you in the coming weeks/months.