The following 10 steps are for managers who lead culturally diverse teams:
1. Identify the strengths of your management style so far. These qualities have led you to where you are now and are right at hand. Name them and describe how they support you.
2. Find out which ones may cause “natural difficulty” because they are not on the same spectrum of behaviour as the mixed culture you face.
3. Name the behaviours you observe in your team and that you are curious about. What would you like to incorporate into your personal management style? What will be the most difficult for you?
4. Research your team: what are they made of? Is it just one culture, or a mix of cultures? What is the “main” group? What are the sub-groups?
5. Which tasks are dealt with ease in the team? What are the challenges for them? What are the strengths in comparison with the teams you were managing before?
6. Define team standards and communication rules early on and monitor them.
- Recap key points in meetings.
- Have each team member summarize his tasks.
- Have minutes in writing sent to all participants/relevant persons.
- Set the best-practice for handling mistakes.
- Make sure these are not only communicated, but brought into action.
- Communicate options about giving and receiving feedback. Which is the best for your team and why?
- Communicate with persons of your own hierarchical level. Try not to move around, or if so, use a go-to/intermediate person.
- If you email someone below your hierarchy or who is not part of your team, copy the person’s boss in.
- If you need to communicate upwards, include your boss.
- Initiate group activities and have the group results presented to you rather than having open group discussions or brainstorming meetings.
- Communicate clearly that you support open communication in meetings. Don’t talk too much yourself; rather, chair the meeting and invite team members to speak up.
7. All team members have to be themselves, yet make an effort to change at the same time. A conscious process of team management needs to be introduced to identify which behaviours need to be changed. Allow trial-and-error for yourself and others. Learning a new way of doing things requires a new way of thinking first. You will learn it step-by-step, through repetition, and it helps to have someone guide you through and correct you, provide feedback, and rehearse. And you may always keep your accent.
8. Evaluate situations where you have applied the newly learned behaviour – what went great? Where did you feel confused? Where did your team show confusion, lack of interest, resistance?
9. Have a sounding board, a mentor, a cultural coach to help you identify issues, evaluate behaviour, and be creative during your adjustment process.
10. Initiate something new to make your team bond: have a monthly joint lunch with a specific topic and each one telling their story, where you exchange experiences beyond the daily work. Communicate the culture where you come from and invite others to do the same.
- Used with permission by Jutta Depner, Cross-Cultural Trainer & Coach