From the Desk of the President

On Effective International Team Work

By Neal Goodman, Ph.D.

Considering how long global teams have been a “must” now, it is surprising the extent to which differing cultural backgrounds and communication styles still cause international teams to work below peak efficiency. Equally surprising is the effectiveness of self-awareness and cultural intelligence. Education is imperative for ensuring that the team has a shared understanding of how each member operates.

There are countless cultural “eye-openers” that would make all the difference in increasing efficiency and avoiding misunderstanding, if understood by all team members.  For any team, the key is to learn the particulars of all cultural combinations involved, but here are just a few of those tidbits of information that can make all the difference in the world when fully understood:

In a number of hierarchical cultures it would be considered uncomfortable for a subordinate to criticize someone higher in rank, even when that criticism is requested.

Americans, in general, are more forward in their criticisms but expect a balance by giving and receiving praise based on what was done well.

Other cultures, such as the Dutch , generally tend to be extremely critical, with little to no praise offered. This is actually out of respect and only done for the sake of improving work, even if it is of high-quality. (See our blog post and animated scenario from Apr. 13).

The behaviors exhibited in these examples are a result of different cultural upbringings, and working out an understanding by team members of these differing behaviors will take some work.

Cultural intelligence empowers members to work toward a common understanding of communication and work styles.  This awareness also helps team members expand their communication patterns and analyze the effects that culture has on their interactions with one another and, in turn, improve the quality of the team’s output.

Neal Goodman is the president of Global Dynamics Inc.