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4 Ways to Create a Learning Culture on Your Team

Technology is disrupting every industry and area of life, and work is no exception. One of the main career implications of the digital revolution is a shift in demand for human expertise. For instance, LinkedIn’s talent research shows that half of today’s most in-demand skills weren’t even on the list three years ago.

As a result, there is now a premium on intellectual curiosity and learnability, the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt one’s skill set to remain employable. What you know is less relevant than what you may learn, and knowing the answer to questions is less critical than having the ability to ask the right questions in the first place. Unsurprisingly, employers such as Google, American Express, and Bridgewater Associates make learning an integral part of their talent management systems. As a Bersin report pointed out: “The single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization’s learning culture.”

However, true learning cultures, defined by CEB as “a culture that supports an open mindset, an independent quest for knowledge, and shared learning directed toward the mission and goals of the organization,” are still the exception rather than the norm. Recent research found that only 10% of organizations have managed to create them, with just 20% of employees demonstrating effective learning behaviors at work. Research by Bersin examined the issue of learning culture in great detail and found that companies who effectively nurture their workforce’s desire to learn are at least 30% more likely to be market leaders in their industries over an extended period of time.

Here are four science-based recommendations to help you create a learning culture on your team or in your organization:

Reward continuous learning. It is impossible to trigger deliberate changes in your team’s or organization’s culture unless you actually put in place formal reward systems to entice them — and even then there is no guarantee you will achieve change unless the rewards are effective. Sadly, even when managers understand the importance of learning — at least in theory — they are often more interested in boosting short-term results and performance, which can be an enemy of learning. By definition, performance is highest when we are not learning. Equally, it is hard for employees to find the necessary time and space to learn when they are asked to maximize results, efficiency, and productivity. A report by Bersin found that among the more than 700 organizations studied, the average employee had only 24 minutes a week for formal learning. Note that rewarding curiosity is not just about praising and promoting those who display an effort to learn and develop; it’s also about creating a climate that nurtures critical thinking, where challenging authority and speaking up are encouraged, even if it means creating discord. This is particularly important if you want your team to produce something innovative.

Give meaningful and constructive feedback. In an age where many organizations focus their developmental interventions on “strengths,” and feel-good approaches to management have substituted “flaws” and “weaknesses” with the popular euphemism of “opportunities,” it is easy to forget the value of negative feedback. However, it is hard to improve on anything when you are unaware of your limitations, fully satisfied with your potential, or unjustifiably pleased with yourself. Although one of the best ways to improve employees’ performance is to tell them what they are doing wrong, managers often avoid difficult conversations, so they end up providing more positive than negative feedback. This is particularly problematic when it comes to curiosity and learning, since the best way to trigger curiosity is to highlight a knowledge gap — that is, making people aware of what they don’t know, especially if that makes them feel uncomfortable. Note that people are generally unaware of their ignorance and limitations, especially when they are not very competent, so guidance and feedback from others is critical to helping them improve. However, negative feedback must be provided in a constructive and delicate way — it is a true art — as people are generally less receptive of it than of praise and appreciation, especially in individualistic (aka narcissistic) cultures.

Lead by example. Another critical driver of employee learning is what you, as a manager or leader, actually do. As illustrated by the leadership value chain model, leaders’ behaviors — particularly what they routinely do — have a strong influence on the behavior and performance of their teams. And the more senior that leaders are, the more impactful their behaviors will be on the rest of the organization. Accordingly, if you want to nurture your team’s curiosity or unlock learning in your organization, you should practice what you preach. Start by displaying some learning and unlocking your own curiosity. It is a sort of Kantian imperative: Don’t ask your employees to do what you don’t do yourself. If you want people to read more, then read — and make others aware of your voracious reading habits (share your favorite books or most recent learnings with them). If you want them to take on novel and challenging tasks, then take on novel and challenging tasks yourself. For example, learn a new skill, volunteer to work on something unrelated to your main job, or take on tasks outside your comfort zone even if you are not good at it — you will be able to show that with a bit of curiosity and discipline you can get better, and this should inspire others. And if you want them to question the status quo and be critical and nonconformist, then don’t be a sucker for order and rules!

Hire curious people. Too often with big management problems, we focus on training and development while undermining the importance of proper selection. But the reality is that it’s easier to prevent and predict than to fix and change. When selection works, there’s far less need for training and development, and good selection makes training and development much more effective because it is easier to augment potential than to go against someone’s nature. Learning and curiosity are no exception: If you hire people who are naturally curious, and maximize the fit between their interests and the role they are in, you will not have to worry so much about their willingness to learn or be on their case to unlock their curiosity. Fortunately, meta-analytic studies provide a detailed catalogue of traits — and their corresponding measures — that increase an individual’s propensity to learn and develop intellectually, even after adulthood. And there is a well-established science to predicting people’s probability of displaying such traits (for example, personality assessments measuring openness to new experience, tolerance for ambiguity, critical thinking, and inquisitiveness). Likewise, decades of research into vocational interests show that aligning people’s drive and interests to the characteristics of the job and culture of the organization tends to increase not just their motivation to learn but also their performance.

In sum, if you want to nurture curiosity and learning in your employees, there’s no need to rely on your organization’s formal learning and development programs. Reinforcing positive learning behaviors, giving constructive and critical feedback to align employees’ efforts with the right learning goals, showcasing your own curiosity, and hiring people with high learnability and a hungry mind are all likely to create a stronger learning culture within your team and your organization.


Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is the Chief Talent Scientist at ManpowerGroup, a professor of business psychology at University College London and at Columbia University, and an associate at Harvard’s Entrepreneurial Finance Lab. His latest book is The Talent Delusion: Why Data, Not Intuition, Is the Key to Unlocking Human Potential. Find him on Twitter: @drtcp or at www.drtomascp.com. 


Josh Bersin is founder and principal at Bersin by Deloitte, a leading provider of research-based membership programs in human resources (HR), talent, and learning. He is a global research analyst, public speaker, and writer on the topics of corporate human resources, talent management, recruiting, leadership, technology, and the intersection between work and life.

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There Are Differences In What the Generations Want From Work

I was doing some research for a client and came across this report from Monster:  Monster Multi-Generational Survey, published in 2016. The underlying survey was concluded in January 2016 and surveyed more than 2,000 across the Boomer, X, Y and Z generations.

I’m actually not a big fan of reports that show how differently each generation at work needs to be treated. I’m more in the camp of how to bring people together rather than solidify their differences. However, this is a very useful report. It’s not long, but it’s full of interesting tidbits. In its descriptions of each of the four generations active in the workplace today, these are the top motivators by generation.

The generational differences are fascinating. And it’s our job to figure out how to retain these differently motivated employees while we bring them together into effective work groups. A daunting challenge to be sure.

Of particular interest, I think, are the data that describe the differences in technology demands and expectations between the generations. This is a fascinating glimpse into how each generation relates with technology at work and which technology tools they view as most important:

This is a terrific overview of the workplace preferences of each generation. And while we don’t want to build walls between the generations, we certainly do want to leverage technology in a way that will enable higher levels of productivity as well as more complete and effective communication.

I’m always looking for ways to break down walls between employees and create stronger more compelling workplace cultures. Using information like this to more effectively communicate and to build strong relationships make this report interesting.

You can download the report here. It’s a pretty quick read – well worth the investment of your time.

China Gorman is a successful global business executive in the competitive Human Capital Management (HCM) sector. She is a sought-after consultant, speaker and writer bringing the CEO perspective to the challenges of building cultures of humanity for top performance and innovation, and strengthening the business impact of Human Resources.

 

https://www.tlnt.com/there-are-differences-in-what-the-generations-want-from-work/

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The More Senior Your Job Title, the More You Need to Keep a Journal

For leaders assuming the CEO title for the first time, taking time to learn and think translates into early successes. But the problem is there’s little time to do either. Information comes at them more quickly, more people than ever before demand their time, and they’re told that the myriad decisions piled in front of them are all important.

If hired from outside, there is a new culture to get used to and it’s not clear who to trust. Even when promoted from inside, the pace can be jarring compared to running a division in the same company. In both cases, any new leader must manage intense exposure (as it sinks in that top leaders have few places to escape to) and unrealistic expectations (of both self and others).

There is nothing new leaders can do to avoid these problems completely. All they can control is how they react to them. Because we tend to make mistakes when things speed up, especially when in unfamiliar territory, it can make all the difference to find ways to slow things down.

The French philosopher Blaise Pascal pointed out that “All of humanity’s problems come from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” He didn’t mean sitting quietly in front of a laptop responding to emails. The best thinking comes from structured reflection — and the best way to do that is keeping a personal journal.

I started keeping a journal when I took over a manufacturing research, software, and consulting firm. I was very young, we were in crisis facing a challenging market, and I wasn’t sure whom I could rely on. I kept a journal through my 12 years as chairman and CEO and have since recommended it to people moving into any senior position for the first time.

There’s strong evidence that replaying events in our brain is essential to learning. While the brain records and holds what takes place in the moment, the learning from what one has gone through — that is, determining what is important and what lessons should be learned — happens after the fact during periods of quiet reflection.

Also, when we slow things down and reflect, we can be more creative about solving seemingly inscrutable problems. Take, for example, a technique called the “second solution method” that I’ve used in the past. If a group was struggling to come up with options to solve a tough problem, we would brainstorm to identify a list of possible solutions. Before switching to prioritizing, making items specific, etc., we tried to identify all possible options. I found the best approach was to tell the group to take a break and when it reconvened to ask, “What else occurs to you?” Inevitably, this simple question resulted in about 50% more items, often of higher quality. By experimenting, I found that the break that took place between the first and second rounds was more important than the question. A journal is an effective, efficient, private way to take a similar break.

Journal entries should provide not only a record of what happened but how we reacted emotionally; writing it down brings a certain clarity that puts things in perspective. In other cases, it’s a form of mental rehearsal to prepare for particularly sensitive issues where there’s no one to talk with but yourself. Journals can also be the best way to think through big-bet decisions and test one’s logic.

 While personality, style, and situation cause different approaches, some guidelines have proven useful for the best results. Notes should be made as soon as possible after an event from which one wants to learn—ideally the same day. Waiting more than 24 hours seems to sacrifice specificity about details that made the most difference and why they happened.

An entry should begin with the primary outcome — the headline that best captures the major result. Then, list the essential reason for that outcome; an always-subtle root cause made apparent by asking “why?” five times to peel back each layer, revealing what came before. (I remember reviewing my journal once and realized that several big-bet decisions turned on the right question asked at just the right point in the debates. Fortunately, my notes were in enough detail that they showed that the same subordinate asked the right question each time. I started listening to him much more closely). Third, recall the emotions that affected decision making and why they flared. Last, identify what you can learn from the whole experience and what you can do differently next time.

Many will opt to keep a journal on their computer or iPad. While that may be more efficient, the point of keeping a journal is not efficiency but to reflect and slow things down so that learning is maximized. For that purpose, handwriting may work better. The novelist Paul Theroux has said that he writes long-hand because, “The speed with which I write with a pen seems to be the speed with which my imagination finds the best… words.” He noted a 2011 Newsweek article that said, “Brain scans show that handwriting engages more sections of the brain than typing [and] it’s easier to remember something once you’ve written it down on paper.”

With so many benefits of keeping a journal, why do so few leaders do it?

  • It takes time, a most precious asset. Because a journal requires reflection, it’s best done during quiet periods, which are rare for any leader.
  • Sometimes, keeping a journal requires reliving something one would just as soon forget. Even though a vital step in learning, it’s unpleasant.
  • Because many leaders prefer to rapidly move on to the next challenge, reflection is not high on their list of things they enjoy or have much experience with.
  • Like any tool, it takes time to perfect the best way to use it. The methodology offered here did not happen right away, but came after many trials and errors.

These are minor drawbacks compared to the benefits. Slowing things down leads to better-thought-through, more effective judgement and to learning what to do more of and what to change. One result, as important as anything, is an increase in the satisfaction that should come from being in charge. A personal journal should be part of any leader’s toolkit.

Dan Ciampa (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) is a former CEO, an adviser to boards and chief executives, and the author of five books, including Transitions at the Top: What Organizations Must Do to Make Sure New Leaders Succeed (with David L. Dotlich, Wiley, 2015) and Right from the Start: Taking Charge in a New Leadership Role (with Michael Watkins, Harvard Business Review Press, 1999). 

 

HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW: https://hbr.org/2017/07/the-more-senior-your-job-title-the-more-you-need-to-keep-a-journal?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter_weekly&utm_campaign=weeklyhotlist&referral=00202&spMailingID=17626641&spUserID=OTA1Njk1ODMwMAS2&spJobID=1060705986&spReportId=MTA2MDcwNTk4NgS2

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Changing Company Culture Requires a Movement, Not a Mandate

Culture is like the wind. It is invisible, yet its effect can be seen and felt. When it is blowing in your direction, it makes for smooth sailing. When it is blowing against you, everything is more difficult.

For organizations seeking to become more adaptive and innovative, culture change is often the most challenging part of the transformation. Innovation demands new behaviors from leaders and employees that are often antithetical to corporate cultures, which are historically focused on operational excellence and efficiency.

But culture change can’t be achieved through top-down mandate. It lives in the collective hearts and habits of people and their shared perception of “how things are done around here.” Someone with authority can demand compliance, but they can’t dictate optimism, trust, conviction, or creativity.

At IDEO, we believe that the most significant change often comes through social movements, and that despite the differences between private enterprises and society, leaders can learn from how these initiators engage and mobilize the masses to institutionalize new societal norms.

Dr. Reddy’s: A Movement-Minded Case Study

One leader who understands this well is G.V. Prasad, CEO of Dr. Reddy’s, a 33-year-old global pharmaceutical company headquartered in India that produces affordable generic medication. With the company’s more than seven distinct business units operating in 27 countries and more than 20,000 employees, decision making had grown more convoluted and branches of the organization had become misaligned. Over the years, Dr. Reddy’s had built in lots of procedures, and for many good reasons. But those procedures had also slowed the company down.

Prasad sought to evolve Dr. Reddy’s culture to be nimble, innovative, and patient-centered. He knew it required a journey to align and galvanize all employees. His leadership team began with a search for purpose. Over the course of several months, the Dr. Reddy’s team worked with IDEO to learn about the needs of everyone, from shop floor workers to scientists, external partners, and investors. Together they defined and distilled the purpose of the company, paring it down to four simple words that center on the patient: “Good health can’t wait.”

 But instead of plastering this new slogan on motivational posters and repeating it in all-hands meetings, the leadership team began by quietly using it to start guiding their own decisions. The goal was to demonstratethis idea in action, not talk about it. Projects were selected across channels to highlight agility, innovation, and customer centricity. Product packaging was redesigned to be more user-friendly and increase adherence. The role of sales representatives in Russia was recast to act as knowledge hubs for physicians, since better physicians lead to healthier patients. A comprehensive internal data platform was developed to help Dr. Reddy’s employees be proactive with their customer requests and solve any problems in an agile way.

At this point it was time to more broadly share the stated purpose — first internally with all employees, and then externally with the world. At the internal launch event, Dr. Reddy’s employees learned about their purpose and were invited to be part of realizing it. Everyone was asked to make a personal promise about how they, in their current role, would contribute to “good health can’t wait.” The following day Dr. Reddy’s unveiled a new brand identity and website that publicly stated its purpose. Soon after, the company established two new “innovation studios” in Hyderabad and Mumbai to offer additional structural support to creativity within the company. 

Prasad saw a change in the company culture right away: After we introduced the idea of “good health can’t wait,” one of the scientists told me he developed a product in 15 days and broke every rule there was in the company. He was proudly stating that! Normally, just getting the raw materials would take him months, not to mention the rest of the process for making the medication. But he was acting on that urgency. And now he’s taking this lesson of being lean and applying it to all our procedures.

What Does a Movement Look Like?

To draw parallels between the journey of Dr. Reddy’s and a movement, we need to better understand movements.

We often think of movements as starting with a call to action. But movement research suggests that they actually start with emotion — a diffuse dissatisfaction with the status quo and a broad sense that the current institutions and power structures of the society will not address the problem. This brewing discontent turns into a movement when a voice arises that provides a positive vision and a path forward that’s within the power of the crowd.

What’s more, social movements typically start small. They begin with a group of passionate enthusiasts who deliver a few modest wins. While these wins are small, they’re powerful in demonstrating efficacy to nonparticipants, and they help the movement gain steam. The movement really gathers force and scale once this group successfully co-opts existing networks and influencers. Eventually, in successful movements, leaders leverage their momentum and influence to institutionalize the change in the formal power structures and rules of society.

Practices for Leading a Cultural Movement 

Leaders should not be too quick or simplistic in their translation of social movement dynamics into change management plans. That said, leaders can learn a lot from the practices of skillful movement makers.

Frame the issue. Successful leaders of movements are often masters of framing situations in terms that stir emotion and incite action. Framing can also apply social pressure to conform. For example, “Secondhand smoking kills. So shame on you for smoking around others.”

In terms of organizational culture change, simply explaining the need for change won’t cut it. Creating a sense of urgency is helpful, but can be short-lived. To harness people’s full, lasting commitment, they must feel a deep desire, and even responsibility, to change. A leader can do this by framing change within the organization’s purpose — the “why we exist” question. A good organizational purpose calls for the pursuit of greatness in service of others. It asks employees to be driven by more than personal gain. It gives meaning to work, conjures individual emotion, and incites collective action. Prasad framed Dr. Reddy’s transformation as the pursuit of “good health can’t wait.”

 Demonstrate quick wins. Movement makers are very good at recognizing the power of celebrating small wins. Research has shown that demonstrating efficacy is one way that movements bring in people who are sympathetic but not yet mobilized to join.

When it comes to organizational culture change, leaders too often fall into the trap of declaring the culture shifts they hope to see. Instead, they need to spotlight examples of actions they hope to see more of within the culture. Sometimes, these examples already exist within the culture, but at a limited scale. Other times, they need to be created. When Prasad and his leadership team launched projects across key divisions, those projects served to demonstrate the efficacy of a nimble, innovative, and customer-centered way of working and of how pursuit of purpose could deliver outcomes the business cared about. Once these projects were far enough along, the Dr. Reddy’s leadership used them to help communicate their purpose and culture change ambitions.

Harness networks. Effective movement makers are extremely good at building coalitions, bridging disparate groups to form a larger and more diverse network that shares a common purpose. And effective movement makers know how to activate existing networks for their purposes. This was the case with the leaders of the 1960s civil rights movement, who recruited members through the strong community ties formed in churches. But recruiting new members to a cause is not the only way that movement makers leverage social networks. They also use social networks to spread ideas and broadcast their wins.

Leadership at Dr. Reddy’s did not hide in a back room and come up with their purpose. Over the course of several months, people from across the organization were engaged in the process. The approach was built on the belief that people are more apt to support what they have a stake in creating. And during the organization-wide launch event, Prasad invited all employees to make the purpose their own by defining how they personally would help deliver “good health can’t wait.”

Create safe havens. Movement makers are experts at creating or identifying spaces within which movement members can craft strategy and discuss tactics. Such spaces have included beauty shops in the Southern U.S. during the civil rights movement, Quaker work camps in the 1960s and 1970s, the Seneca Women’s Encampment of the 1980s and early 1990s. These are spaces where the rules of engagement and behaviors of activists are different from those of the dominant culture. They’re microcosms of what the movement hopes will become the future.

The dominant culture and structure of today’s organizations are perfectly designed to produce their current behaviors and outcomes, regardless of whether those outcomes are the ones you want. If your hope is for individuals to act differently, it helps to change their surrounding conditions to be more supportive of the new behaviors, particularly when they are antithetical to the dominant culture. Outposts and labs are often built as new environments that serve as a microcosm for change. Dr. Reddy’s established two innovation labs to explore the future of medicine and create a space where it’s easier for people to embrace new beliefs and perform new behaviors.

Embrace symbols. Movement makers are experts at constructing and deploying symbols and costumes that simultaneously create a feeling of solidarity and demarcate who they are and what they stand for to the outside world. Symbols and costumes of solidarity help define the boundary between “us” and “them” for movements. These symbols can be as simple as a T-shirt, bumper sticker, or button supporting a general cause, or as elaborate as the giant puppets we often see used in protest events.

Dr. Reddy’s linked its change in culture and purpose with a new corporate brand identity. Internally and externally, the act reinforced a message of unity and commitment. The entire company stands together in pursuit of this purpose.

The Challenge to Leadership

Unlike a movement maker, an enterprise leader is often in a position of authority. They can mandate changes to the organization — and at times they should. However, when it comes to culture change, they should do so sparingly. It’s easy to overuse one’s authority in the hopes of accelerating transformation.

It’s also easy for an enterprise leader to shy away from organizational friction. Harmony is generally a preferred state, after all. And the success of an organizational transition is often judged by its seamlessness. 

In a movements-based approach to change, a moderate amount of friction is positive. A complete absence of friction probably means that little is actually changing. Look for the places where the movement faces resistance and experiences friction. They often indicate where the dominant organizational design and culture may need to evolve.

And remember that culture change only happens when people take action. So start there. While articulating a mission and changing company structures are important, it’s often a more successful approach to tackle those sorts of issues after you’ve been able to show people the change you want to see.

Bryan Walker is a Partner and Managing Director at IDEO San Francisco.

Sarah A. Soule is the Morgridge Professor of Organizational Behavior an Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

 

 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW: https://hbr.org/2017/06/changing-company-culture-requires-a-movement-not-a-mandate?referral=00563&cm_mmc=email-_-newsletter-_-daily_alert-_-alert_date&utm_source=newsletter_daily_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=alert_date&spMailingID=17494906&spUserID=OTA1Njk1ODMwMAS2&spJobID=1041540949&spReportId=MTA0MTU0MDk0OQS2

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How to Build Trust on Your Cross-Cultural Team

  • Category Teams

One of the most essential characteristics for a high-functioning team — perhaps the single most important characteristic — is trust. Anyone who has worked on a team knows that team members must be able to trust each other to get the job done, and be committed and dedicated to the overall welfare of the group. In any group of individuals, trust is challenging to create and sustain, but in the case of a multicultural team it can be especially difficult for a variety of different reasons.

First of all, communication styles vary across cultures; so, too, does the extent to which people socialize or get down to business at the start of a meeting. There are differences in conventions around time, giving feedback, and disagreeing publicly. Multicultural teams are prone to friction due to perceptions of ethnocentrism, with minority team members feeling ignored or not taken seriously.

How can leaders of multicultural teams leverage the upside of diversity without falling prey to its inherent challenges? In our collective experience working with hundreds of individuals on cross-cultural teams around the globe, leaders of multicultural teams can use the following five tips to build trust between team members.

Structure the team for success. The great organizational behavior scholar Richard Hackman used to argue that the best way to ensure a positive process in a team is to create initial conditions that set up the team for success. For a multicultural team, that means making sure the team has a clear and compelling direction, its members have access to the information and resources they need to successfully carry out the work, stakeholders in different geographies and functions are on board with the team’s agenda, and the team is staffed wisely — ideally with people who have the requisite technical skills as well as cultural intelligence and global dexterity. Given the built-in challenges these teams face to begin with, it’s essential to staff them with as many curious, flexible, thoughtful, and emotionally stable members as possible.

Understand the cross-cultural makeup of your team. The leader of any cross-cultural team needs to understand the different cultures, language differences, and “fault lines” within the team, as well as the potential for misconception and miscommunication. For example, if the team comprises three Germans and three Koreans, you might guess that feedback will be a cultural tripwire. Many Germans are notoriously comfortable giving direct, unmitigated feedback, whereas the reverse is typically the case in Korea unless the dialogue is between senior and junior colleagues. Making note of these tensions can help you anticipate potential challenges and resolve them swiftly and effectively.

That said, leaders also must understand individual personalities. What if the three Korean members of the team all went to school in the U.S., lived and worked in Europe, and are anything but prototypical Korean in their cultural style? That would make for a very different set of predictions about group dynamics.

Set very clear norms and stick to them. Multicultural team members are inevitably going to bring a wide variety of different work styles and personal preferences to the table. The team leader must establish team norms that everyone sticks to — no matter what their personal default might be. Rather than simply imposing your own preferred style, start by taking into account what will work best for the team as a whole, and consider incorporating practices from other cultures that could be useful. For instance, if you normally assign individual responsibilities but many team members have a preference for handling work in small project groups, you could assign complex tasks to small groups.

Make the norms clear, but be aware of who on the team might find it difficult to meet those expectations due to cultural backgrounds. You may need additional communication for those team members. For example, if you have established that team members must arrive at meetings by the designated time to ensure a prompt start (Western-style punctuality), you’ll need to reinforce that norm consistently across the group. The same goes for patterns of communication. Multicultural team members benefit from knowing what type of information they will receive when, and from having a regular rhythm for video conferences, teleconferences, email updates, and one-on-one discussions. This creates context and predictability that helps to compensate for those instances when team members are remote from one another. Of course, sometimes things change and adjustment is required, but in general, keeping a consistent, clear structure regarding work styles and expectations is a critical way to create a common-ground team culture.

Find ways to build personal bonds. Both of us have found that one of the most powerful tools in easing potential conflict on a team is establishing personal connections. Naturally, different global cultures have different norms about relationship building. In some cultures, like the UK, it takes a long time for people to build a friendship; in other cultures, like Brazil, it seemingly happens overnight. Given this, you may not be able to encourage deep, personal relationships — but you can foster rapport and individual connections. Perhaps you discover that someone with a completely different background from you is also an amateur photographer, or you both have children who play the piano. You’d be surprised at the power of these personal bonds, especially on a multicultural team. Leaders must create conditions for these connections to form: Organize social events, pair quieter team members with vocal ones, or directly facilitate introductions between specific members who you think might have hidden commonalities. Chances are, the benefits will circle directly back to the team.

When conflict arises, address it immediately. Conflict is inevitable in any team, let alone a multicultural one. If tension arises, address it quickly so that a small conflict doesn’t balloon into something impossible to manage. Leaders need to be capable of understanding multiple cultural perspectives and serving as a cultural bridge between parties in conflict situations. This may require an understanding of indirect as well as direct communication styles, and a readiness to have a frank group discussion or confidential side conversations, depending on the situation.

Trust is the glue that makes any team function at a high level, but it doesn’t happen magically, especially in the case of a team composed of culturally diverse members. With the motivation to make things work and the tips above, you should be in a great position to leverage the benefits of diversity while minimizing its challenges.


Andy Molinsky is a Professor of International Management and Organizational Behavior at the Brandeis International Business School. He is the author of Global Dexterity (HBR Press, 2013) and the forthcoming book Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence (Penguin, 2017). You can receive his free e-book to master ten key cultural codes from around the world. Follow Andy on Twitter: @andymolinsky.


Ernest Gundling, Ph.D., is a Managing Partner at Aperian Global, a firm that provides clients with leadership development, intercultural skill-building, and assignee support services for their global employees, as well as the online product, GlobeSmart®. He is the author of several books, including Leading Across New Borders: How to Succeed as the Center Shifts(Wiley, 2015).


HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW:  https://hbr.org/2016/06/how-to-build-trust-on-your-cross-cultural-team?cm_mmc=email-_-newsletter-_-management_tip-_-tip_date&referral=00203&utm_source=newsletter_management_tip&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tip_date
 
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