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December 27, 2015

Intercultural teams can become high-performing teams, too!

Intercultural teams can become high-performing teams, too!

Given cultural and language barriers, intercultural teams find it difficult even to function as a unit at all, especially at their best. If we desire to develop and optimize high-performing teams, it is necessary first to assess what causes teams to be low-performing.

Behaviors are rooted in the spoken and unspoken agreements we make with each other. Our interactions with others change when we decide to be together in a different way. – Margaret Wheatley

We often feel extremely motivated by multiple factors, and anxious to tackle the tasks at hand. But even stellar intentions, drive, enthusiasm, and flawless strategy are not enough to overcome some basic obstacles that are inherent in teaming efforts in an increasingly globalized economy. Why in the world not?

Low-performing teams are such because they operate on limited resources and minimal power. Naturally, multicultural people who are grouped together feel an initial unfamiliarity with one another and uncertainty about their status, purpose, and potential for success.

Knowledge and understanding are foundational to trust, so there is going to be minimal trust among team members who do not know nor really understand one another. Limited self-awareness and limited others-awareness easily lead to miscommunication, friction, and sometimes all-out conflict. A situation with minimal trust makes for an environment that does not feel safe nor conducive for wholehearted participation. In fact, such a situation can degenerate relationally into a conference room full of people tiptoeing around on eggshells, metaphorically speaking.

Undefined or understated project purposes can also lead to confusion and low productivity. Team members may not feel valued or appreciated, especially if they feel their involvement is aimless, lacking a clearly-expressed rationale for why they ought to invest time and energy into a team effort. So it really is no wonder that a lack of careful team composition and adequate intercultural preparation eventually results in low- (if any) performance.

And yet—intercultural teams have astounding potential to out-perform monocultural teams in any industry! So how do intercultural teams achieve optimal performance when they are already maxed out trying to hurdle natural barriers to effectiveness (like language and worldview differences) within the context of a globalized economy?

Company-wide camaraderie and productive teaming could be boosted exponentially if the leaders of global organizations would acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of a globally distributed workforce and take the necessary preparatory and follow-up steps to develop their people. Especially in various globalized milieus, proven curriculum and broadly-experienced educators can make all the difference. Examples are the trainings offered by KnowledgeWorkx in areas like Inter-Cultural Intelligence, 3 Colors of Worldview, Listening Styles, Perceptions & Patterns—and the Four Pillars of High-Performing Teams, including the deliberate formation of a team charter.

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Last modified on Sunday, 17 January 2016 04:45

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