Cross-Cultural Teams: Are We Really Leveraging Diversity?

Blog Post A Culture that Fuels Our Strategy

Inherited paradigms for managing a business or a team

Large organizations have been working with cross-national teams for many years, constituted with a diverse set of skills, knowledge, and expertise; however, these teams are often dominated by one nationality in terms of cultural norms. In my observation working with clients for close to 20 years, while executives are culturally sensitive when working in a foreign country, or traveling to local affiliates, there is often an unspoken assumption that leaders from different nationalities embrace not only the vision and mission but also the cultural framework of the company that employs them, with individual specificities left in the background.

The value of expertise vs. individual perspectives and cultural specificities

Rarely do we take the time when a team is formulated to specifically inquire into what an individual brings to the team from a cultural or national perspective. The focus on diversity is most often on gender and behavioral preferences: Are we well-represented as a team, regarding our communication and decision-making styles? What might be missing in the team dynamics that one or more people could provide to enhance the performance of the team?

This is completely valid and we might be missing the opportunity to truly leverage diversity of thinking and perspective. We are not solely defined by our nationalities and cultural upbringing, but acknowledging the diversity of backgrounds and being curious about someone else’s world view and frame of reference will develop the ability to keenly listen and include points of view that we would otherwise miss. These are key skills in a globalized economy with mobile talent.

Where do you need to question some of your unconcealed habits or assumptions regarding your teams and colleagues?

Where do you see an opportunity for enhanced performance by leveraging different experiences and expectations? How can you turn this into an asset rather than a challenge?

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