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Tips to Improve Teamwork across Cultural Boundaries

TeamworkMost of the teams you will work on will involve virtual team members. And in many cases they will come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Consider these best practice steps to improve teamwork that involves working with team members across cultural boundaries:

Communicate in a variety of ways (verbal and written)

Communicating in a variety of ways enables for language barriers to be addressed a bit more easily. You might, for example, include a presentation that uses charts/graphics and text to convey the message, providing those who want more detail with a handout of back up data. If a team member has difficulty following a conversation, he can read the information and take some time to process it. This means, of course, that you shouldn’t expect to make decisions immediately at every team meeting. You may want to provide some information verbally then follow up with written information and then make a decision with the group. Alternatively, if the meeting is to get a decision made, be sure to provide information beforehand so that team members can read and process it. Be clear that a decision will be made at the meeting.

Concentrate on listening to others carefully

This means to use active listening skills. Focus on the individual who is talking to ensure you truly understand what they are communicating. This is especially important in virtual team meetings when you can’t see the body language of the speaker. When you know team members are quieter, reach out to them before a meeting to get their thoughts, ideas, and concerns ahead of time. This enables them to participate more comfortably.

Regularly self-evaluate how you are performing as the leader of team

For example:

  • Do you share information with everyone on the team equally?
  • Are you comfortable with your fellow team members?
  • How well do you listen to your team members?
  • What do you know and think about your team members?
  • How do your emotions, values and experiences affect how you work with the team?
  • Do you ensure equal participation among the team members in making decisions or solving problems?

When managed and nurtured, cultural diversity is an asset on any team. It certainly brings its own challenges when trying to manage a team across cultural boundaries but the benefits are fantastic! Diversity on the team enables for better projects overall due to the innovation that diversity enables.

When cultural diversity on the team is ignored, however, it impacts the team negatively. It causes reduced trust and loss of productivity and damaged relationships overall.

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