Friday, September 11, 2015

Leading Cross-Cultural Teams

In this month's issue of HBR, Erin Meyer writes about the challenges of leading cross-cultural teams.  She has some good tips on how to prevent communication breakdowns and enhance team effectiveness.   I would like to highlight one of Meyer's recommendations.  Here is an excerpt from her article:

Train everyone in key norms.

When entering a new market, you’ll inevitably have to adapt to some of the local norms. But you should also train local employees to adapt to some of your corporate norms. For example, L’Oréal offers a program called Managing Confrontation, which teaches a methodical approach to expressing disagreement in meetings. Employees around the world hear about the importance of debate for success in the company. A Chinese employee told me, “We don’t do this type of debate traditionally in China, but these trainings have taught us a method of expressing diverging opinions which we have all come to practice and appreciate, even in meetings made up of only Chinese.”
Two points should be stressed here.  First, managing a global team is not simply about adapting to local culture.  It is also about deciding what core norms and principles should be applied globally.  Four Seasons, for instance, is known for doing an excellent job of adapting to local cultures.  However, all hotels and employees around the world adhere to some common guiding rules and principles that insure a consistent high quality brand experience.   Second, the L'Oreal example above provides a good model for how to handle the issue of conflict in meetings.  In some cultures, it will be much more difficult to encourage people to speak up and express dissent.  L'Oreal has recognized this challenge and addressed it head-on.  That's something all global teams should consider.  

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