Managing effectively across countries
The modern world we live in is a highly-connected global community with labor, goods and services crossing borders and regions like never before. Your organization is bound to encounter cross-cultural speedbumps in this international marketplace, whether internally among employees or externally with partners or customers.
Managing effectively across countries and cultures means adapting to cultural differences. Here we will go over management methods that can transform potential liabilities of cross-cultural team into synergistic groups of people with unique perspectives.
1. Aware, Adopt, Adapt
Being aware of the cultural differences that exist in and around your organization is the first and most important step.
When observing habits of a diverse team or a new culture, it will become clear that there are many small differences that are not important. These are differences that don’t change the nature of your duties or how you collaborate with others. In these cases, adopt and move on.
The cultural differences to focus on are those that undercut or impede your ability to work and lead. Stay on the look-out for key cross-cultural challenges so you can learn to adapt to them. More important cultural difference could include:
· Approaches to communication, including feelings around disclosing personal emotions
· Motivational factors, including the view on giving positive and constructive feedback
· Work styles, such as how to complete certain tasks
· Information sharing and disclosure
· Attitudes on conflicts and methods to address it
2. Finding Common Ground
When observing cultural differences, be receptive to all the commonalities between cultures. The vast majority of people have far more in common than one may think.
An example of this can be seen in a diverse team that have differing communication styles, but the same results-oriented approach to their work. Lean into what you discover to demonstrate your leadership credentials as well as your ability to find commo ground.
3. Identify with Global Over Local
If you oversee a regional team that is part of a larger company, emphasize the global apparatus rather than the local office. When you create a larger sense of belonging to the entire organizational unit, people will become more invested in it’s global success and be more likely to share its values.
Organizational identification is the foundation for employee satisfaction and increased performance excellence in international enterprises. By associating themselves with the entire network, employees have more motivation to align with the company’s global culture and goals, which helps with retaining and nurturing talent. Finally, by emphasizing the global over the local, you help overcome cultural differences through showing their insignificance in comparison to the progress made by the larger group.
4. Be the Bridge
Differing cultural assumptions and habits can easily result is misunderstandings or conflict – often without any ill intent from either party. When these conflicts occur, find the middle ground. Managing across countries and cultures means being the bridge that unites different people and different teams. Cultural obstacles can be overcome by discovering a way forward which doesn’t compromise anyone’s cultural identity, not the company values. Use these moments of cultural dissonance as a learning opportunity for yourself and the team.
5. Check Your Cultural Bias
Equitably finding the middle ground in a culturally diverse team can prove difficult if the leader has a cultural bias. Managing people across countries and cultures requires a considerable amount of self-awareness and self-examination to identify and root out your own cultural assumptions and biases that could hamper your role as a cultural mediator.
In order to reach your full aptitude as a cross-cultural manager, be very aware of making assumptions about the “right way to do things.” Drawing comparisons between how different cultures approach certain situations is not a problem itself; however, it can grow into conflict through bias and stereotyping leading to “my way of doing things is right, and their way is wrong”-type thinking.
It is natural to look for patterns and observe behavioral tendencies in a different culture. Use the insights you gain to expand your perspective and build your intrapersonal skills in order to become a more effective cross-cultural leader.
Take it to the Next Level: Cross-Cultural Leadership
Beyond being a manager, a cross-cultural leader has the ability to inspire a diverse team. A true leader doesn’t only fall into the role of flexible mediator during misunderstandings, they will also motivate diverse teams to come together and deliver outstanding personal and group performances.
To become an effective leader in this environment, one might rely on a cross-cultural awareness program that facilitates positive interactions and eradicates cultural bias and prejudice. A cross-cultural leader will also identify opportunities for skills training to improve their team’s abilities, and be aware of how these skills may intersect with the different cultures.
When correctly recognized and addressed, a training program aligned with cultural sensitivities will create equitable opportunities among employees, as well as nurture the sense that all employees are equally valued despite differing backgrounds.
Priority Management is a worldwide company with more than 50 offices world-wide. Our programs help companies and people be more effective and manage their workflow in and out of the office by providing tools, processes and discipline.
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