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July 3, 2016

Aligning Intercultural Teams, Part 1

Aligning Intercultural Teams, Part 1

There are multiple angles from which to look at leadership team alignment, but applying Inter-Cultural Intelligence takes it to a whole new (and increasingly necessary) level.

High-performance teaming and optimal alignment have been hot issues in team leadership for at least two decades. Leaders who can align and motivate teams to perform effectively and efficiently are always going to be in high demand. But as more and more corporations are seeking to enter international markets, there is a corresponding rise in need for global leaders who can combine standard team alignment principles with Inter-Cultural Intelligence.

Particularly recently in the context of developing high-performance teams (HPTs), we have been revisiting this idea of alignment in teams—ensuring that every individual team member is acutely aware of what it is the organization is striving to achieve, bringing teammates together in one accord to accomplish specific tasks and to carry out organizational vision (even if they don’t agree on quite everything or even anything else!), and setting teams up—internally and externally—to perform to their utmost potential.

But to look at team alignment from another angle, from a consultative point of view—the team itself could be viewed as a small business unit, or as a “system,” as it is called in ORSC™ (Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching). It is imperative for leaders to analyze all facets of their teams—which include the internal, relationships-side of who the team members are and how they interact with one another, as well as the external, transactional-side of what the processes and protocol are and what steps and measures are structured for the team to fulfill their intended purpose.

A leader seeking to align his or her team must uncover how are relational systems operating in that team? How are the transactional systems in that team operating? To get to the root issues and do something about them, there must be a lot of investigating, asking questions, assessing, individual and group interviewing, and so forth.

One of the healthiest and most thorough tools for analyzing team alignment was developed by Bill and Cindy Adams (of Full Circle Group and The Leadership Circle®). (If you would like to learn what questions to ask and how to analyze whole systems from a framework of Inter-Cultural Intelligence, we suggest you connect with Bill Adams and explore more of the consultative work that they are doing.)

Adams’ whole systems analysis methodology inspired us at KnowledgeWorkx to apply the whole high-level framework of whole systems, looking at both health and systems of an organization in an interculturally intelligent way, which perspective is needful, since more and more teams are multicultural, and more and more organizations are reaching out internationally to carry out goals of increasingly global proportions.

When assessing what might be misaligned in a team, where there is smoke, there is fire. Whether it is a relational or transactional issue, and whether its significance ranges from hiccup to disaster, an apparent issue usually is an indicator that a few other issues exist (or soon will).

If there is an obvious problem on the transactional side of team operations—some issue with agreeing on a process, a flaw in the reporting mechanism, people deviating from protocol, failing to follow through, taking tasks in different directions than the leadership intended—then that glaring issue may be the smoke signaling several fires that need attention. For instance, if you see that so-and-so continually fails to meet a monthly deadline, there could have been a miscommunication (transactional or relational) about expectations, the person may not feel motivated to deliver to a supervisor who has lost credibility or respect in that person’s viewpoint (relational), or perhaps that person genuinely has been overloaded with too many tasks (transactional).

So, if something is clearly breaking down on the relational side for your team, it influences (or could have been provoked initially by) the transactional side. For example, if there is some disconnect, negative emotions between people, teammates don’t like each other—then that dislike may have stemmed from a transactional fail (so-and-so’s last report was full of typos, or so-and-so perpetually overbooks and misses meetings), or a different relational issue (so-and-so always shoots down our ideas), or multiple issues. And those negative emotions or dislike could also lead to future transactional problems (if so-and-so asked me to do this task, it can go to the bottom of my already-long to-do list because so-and-so can wait).

The transactional and relational sides of team operations really cannot be separated. They are like two poles of the same battery. That is why, when something goes wrong externally with a process or a result—odds are high that the problem stems from, is accompanied by, and/or eventuates in internal and other external issues, too. The converse is also true: “One” glaring internal issue could actually be sounding the alarm for multiple relational and transactional gaps that need to be addressed in order to bring the team into alignment.

Relational and transactional facets of team operations must be interwoven. For a team to be healthy and properly aligned, there must be a holistic approach to analyzing and addressing the hindrances—both the obvious “smoke” issues and the less-obvious “fire” issues, great or small.

For globally-minded educators and entrepreneurs (or even parents in some senses!), dealing with these interwoven aspects of team-building and alignment is becoming still more complex as our world becomes globalized. It is crucial to be able to apply a proper understanding of intercultural paradigm differences to what we already know about high-performance teaming. With intercultural organizations and intercultural teams there are multiple layers, multiple levels—relational and transactional, internal and external—that cannot even be fully discerned apart from Inter-Cultural Intelligence.

Part 2 of "Aligning Intercultural Teams" discusses how to apply the Inter-Cultural Intelligence framework in order to unpack those layers wholly and successfully. Read part 2 here.


How do I find out my own Colors of Worldview?

KnowledgeWorkx has published several articles exploring all three of the Colors of Worldview in-depth. For example, for those who want to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Innocence-Guilt cultural paradigm, read this article about applying the Innocence-Guilt paradigm. In fact, if you would like to learn about your own color(s), check out this opportunity to discover your own Three Colors of Worldview profile, and get a personalized report:

Three Colors of Worldview Discovery Tool & Report


Quickly becoming the global preferred choice for Inter-Cultural Intelligence development, KnowledgeWorkx promotes mutual understanding of other cultures and perspectives in the workplace, and helps teams to develop the intercultural capacity necessary to thrive in a globalized world.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 07 December 2016 14:28

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