In modern society, people of differing cultures and backgrounds have the opportunity to work together like never before. Technology allows all people to connect and achieve all kinds of goals. However, even with all these open doors, misunderstandings can sometimes slip through. An intercultural team is capable of great things when properly managed. It is important to be aware of and acknowledge language, culture, and behavioral differences. Words, ideas, and actions can mean different things to other people.
When managing an intercultural team, it is important to have a plan, embrace differences, and learn to use the diversity as a tool of success. How can you do this?
Ways you can become an effective intercultural team manager:
Create ground rules and consistent procedures that will apply to the entire team.
Do this with your entire intercultural team present, allowing them each to communicate and contribute ideas on how to be the best team they can be. After establishing the norms for the team, check in periodically with everyone to be sure everything is working out properly. Make sure everyone is thriving and that they all feel comfortable voicing their opinions and issues if something is not working for them.
Clarify roles and goals with your whole intercultural team.
Be sure everyone understands their own jobs, and who they need to consult for other jobs on the team. Break it down into a comprehensive list for everyone to keep so they will have a hard copy of who does what. Helping your team be able to work together easily creates cohesion and a team identity.
It is okay to “over”communicate.
When managing an intercultural team, you can never have too much communication. Always use clear and straightforward language, avoiding idioms or joking sarcasm. Reiterate your points as needed and check that everyone is on the same page. Be patient and kind with team members who may need extra clarification It is to everyone’s best interest that they feel comfortable asking for this. Which leads to:
Keep all necessary information and resources accessible to all members of your intercultural team.
Making things that are needed easily available to everyone will reduce your team’s chances of misunderstandings and mistakes.
Use team building exercises to encourage your intercultural team to learn how best to work together.
This does not necessarily mean you have to set up a trust fall; you can use almost anything as a team building exercise… As long as you are encouraging them to communicate with each other and work together to resolve small problems. A great way to accomplish this is to have consistent meetings where everyone can see each other and work out any critical issues happening that day/week face to face.
Promote flexibility, understanding, listening skills, and adaptability among your intercultural team members.
When everyone has the mindset of being open and relaxed, communication is much easier. This attitude will help your employees work together without detrimental friction getting in the way.
Treat everyone as equals, but customize certain things for certain needs.
With an intercultural team, some members might not want to be in an “employee of the month” spotlight if they are not used to being praised in the workplace. It is important to pay attention to specific and individual preferences when managing this kind of group.
Learn the different cultures your team comes from so you can be aware of any possible points of contention between teammates. It is okay to just be aware of the possibilities without addressing them. Not everything applies to everyone from a certain background, so use good judgement and be prepared to step in if needed.