Managing cross-cultural teams poses challenges for founders – when not managed properly, team dynamics can lead to a recipe for disaster. Thankfully we’ve identified several aspects founders can take into consideration to make sure their cross-cultural teams are managed properly and working frictionlessly in the same direction.
Keep in mind that founders themselves must set the tone – be great leaders, inspire their team towards a unified vision from the company, give guidelines for establishing company culture, understand that in cross cultural teams a one size fits all approach is not an effective solution and integrate all cultures, styles, and beliefs.
Lets see which are the most important aspects for founders when managing cross-cultural teams:
Unsurprisingly, empathy is becoming a popular term to refer to in the workplace. It is often related to inclusion and is one of the most valued qualities leaders must have. The ability to understand different worldviews and integrate them into a space where people feel comfortable sharing and expressing their views is key to managing cross-cultural teams. Team members from different cultures have different beliefs, values and ideas over similar concepts and common experiences. For example, holidays have a completely different meaning for different cultures and jokes are the most delicate things to handle. Managing different worldviews requires founders to show empathy, integrate team members’ worldviews, and pay attention to details on different beliefs and values to integrate them.
If you’ve worked with teams you know communication is key to accomplish goals, build trust and rapport, and establish relationships, among others. Whether you’re hiring freelancers to create successful collaborations or if you’re building and maintaining a remote team and don’t want to lose your head, communication is the one thing that you must pay a lot of attention to. When leading cross-cultural teams, you will find members who feel comfortable or even raise their voice when sharing their unfiltered thoughts and ideas, which could startle members who are more quiet and reserved. A great way to tackle this challenge is to give everyone the chance to express their thoughts in a way that feels safe for them in particular – where feedback is given and received to build better solutions to common problems.
3. Working styles
You might have guessed that everyone has a different working style. Some people are willing to be flexible with their time or prefer to work late, while others prefer to stick to specific hours and only alter them in emergency situations. Some team members might feel as if they need to be isolated to make progress with their tasks and others typically wish for more human interaction to develop their ideas. A great way to tackle those differences, is to provide flexibility for working styles, while following guidelines and fostering strong team relationships to build trust and rapport, making sure everyone feels their working style is heard.
4. Motivational factors
Team motivation is one of the most common challenges for founders. Without it, teams will have issues to move forward, so it’s natural that founders seek to have teams who are motivated. Different cultures need different motivational factors. What works well for one team member like benefits, increments or bonus, might not work as well for other members whose motivation is ignited by intangible benefits like satisfaction, encouragement, recognition, etc. Founders and leaders must be empathetic with their teams, finding out which type of different factors ignite their motivation, tailor different solutions and then let people choose what they want.
5. Personal relationships
Cross-cultural teams can also present a hurdle when building personal relationships. Members from different cultures can learn how to interact with others from different cultures effectively, embracing different cultures and integrating them through team workshops. Team workshops can benefit teams in developing more personal relationships, which can lead to developing more trust and rapport, in turn allowing collaborations to move faster and without friction. A great way to solve this is to cultivate the culture of team workshops, delivering them regularly for everyone and if possible creating global team workshops in one place, at the same time.
To read more about the benefits of a diverse team, check out our interview with Adeva’s CEO and co-founder Katerina Trajchevska, as well as the benefits of creating a community of inclusion from day 1 of your startup.