Developing Global Teams: What Team Leaders Need to Know

Teams, global or domestic, typically develop through a series of phases, the sequence of which may be affected by change, for example, a member joining or leaving. Recognize what phase your team is in, and guide your members forward.

Forming Teams

Prepare yourself for team leadership. Be clear about team objectives and learn about each individual. During the first meetings, focus on relationships before tasks. Help everyone relate to each other as individuals. There may be an initial honeymoon period, when differences are treated as interesting novelties – be prepared for this to end. Keep checking for understanding about vision, mission, roles, and responsibilities.

Developing Teams

As work starts, team members will experience the impact of cultural diversity. Make sure that they all understand that differences are expected and welcomed. Express support for variations in expectations about leadership, communication, and so on. When differences emerge, use them to learn about each other and as resources for creativity. If stereotyping emerges when things get stressful, challenge it. Recognize that conflict is expressed and handled differently across cultures. Give time for differing views to be debated. Otherwise, all you will achieve is superficial agreement rather than learning and commitment.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Am I demonstrating an appreciation of the differences on my team?
  • Am I being empathetic to the difficulties others might be experiencing?
  • Am I enabling everyone to participate fully?
  • Am I coaching team members to collaborate effectively?
  • Have I allowed for differences in language fluency and comprehension?

Working as a Team

As team members develop shared working practices, ensure that you encourage common ground, but allow for exceptions. Avoid voting on procedures because voting creates majorities and minorities, and builds resentment. Put in writing any agreements that are reached and use these as a reference point. This is useful for reviewing what has been learned, and for sharing it with other teams.

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