'Building Trust is the key to successful teamworking'
Working in a multinational team presents complex opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, effective teams can identify and share best practice and expertise on a worldwide basis. On the other hand, different values, expectations and working practices can make a common vision and way of working very difficult to bring about.
The key elements of trust, common values and decision making processes are often problematic in an intercultural context. There is the added complication of different timezones, distances and languages to take into account.
Research has shown that multicultural teams are more likely than monocultural ones to be highly effective or highly ineffective. However, there is now a considerable body of learning that can be used to significantly influence the likelihood of success or failure.
Six key issues need to be addressed in order to help intercultural teams work well:
- What are the specific requirements that may affect integration ? Eg What stage is the team in its life cycle ? What preparation and support do team members need ?
- What are the differences in cultural norms within the team ? Eg What expectations do team members have with regard to relationship building, hierarchy, communication and leadership styles etc.
- To what extent is communication in English an issue ? Eg: Do native speakers understand how to adapt to the needs of non-native speakers ? How is language likely to affect members’ perception of their status ?
- What impact does top management have on the success of the team ? Do senior managers understand the particular challenge of building and sustaining remote teams ? Does the prevailing culture and reward system help or hinder the success of international teams ? Are team members in the loop of decision making ?
- What diversity management skills and experience do team members already have ? Sometimes very little – people are selected on the basis of technical skills rather than on their ability to motivate and communicate.
- How will distance affect the dynamics of the team ? Distance often creates isolation and a ‘them and us’ mentality, especially when there are numerically more from one culture than another.
WorldWork has pioneered a comprehensive set of tools and approaches to enable organisations to address and resolve these issues. Over the last six years it has developed a unique expertise in identifying and working through the problems associated with multicultural teamworking. (see ‘our clients’)