7 Challenges Faced by Leaders of Multigenerational Organization

Is Your Workplace Environment Conducive to Collaboration?

As younger employees join your workforce and older employees remain employed for longer, your organization is likely to become more multigenerational. This diversity of age demographic presents leaders with many challenges that must be overcome. In this article, we examine seven of these challenges.

1. Age

There are many personal challenges associated with age, and these manifest in the workplace. Younger employees may desire more flexibility and the opportunity to work from home. Older employees may have more exacting wellness needs. Leaders should create the flexible workplace environment that addresses the needs of all employees.

2. Values

Our values are determined by many factors, including upbringing and experiences. Older generations have lived through the Cold War and economic strife. They were raised by parents who suffered war. They took part in civil rights movements. Younger generations have been at the forefront of technological advance, and are living with a future shaped by climate change.

Baby boomers expect millennials to have the same commitment to hard work and long hours. Millennials expect more flexibility and shorter hours in the office with greater autonomy. Leaders must manage these conflicting values, respecting all workers and helping each to understand and accept the different ways in which full contributions are made.

3. Workplace Relationship Issues

Older employees tend to be more conservative in their approach to workplace relationships. They have been conditioned that work is work, and personal issues should be left at the door. However, today mental health and wellbeing is considered of great importance. Employees are encouraged to discuss a wider range of issues, and organizations accept the overlap between personal and professional lives more readily. This can create friction between employees, as some wish to discuss subjects that others consider to be taboo.

Organisations are combatting this challenge by providing ‘safe spaces’ where controversial subjects may be discussed openly, and equipping managers with the skills to carefront rather than confront conflict between work colleagues.

4. Feedback

The need for feedback differs between generations. Younger employees tend to thrive on constant feedback, whereas older workers require less. For older employees, feedback should be given when necessary, not when desired.

How does a leader know how often to give feedback? Ask each employee, and set a schedule for them. Remember, though, that continuous communication leads to healthier relationships, and less confusion when honest truths are finally revealed.

5. Preferred Communication Styles

The communication preferences of different generations stretch from the millennials’ use of social media and digital communication channels, to the baby boomers’ desire for face-to-face conversation or email.

An organization must establish how best to communicate, and set a strategy that embraces all preferences. For example, a team meeting may be followed up by a video summary posted to employees’ email inboxes or on the company’s intranet.

6. Dress Code

Older workers are used to the formality of workwear. It helps them draw a line between their professional self and their personal self. Younger workers are more likely to wish to wear the same clothes in the office as they would outside. While many organizations have relaxed their dress code, many have not. This can cause conflict between employees and management.

While there is no single correct answer to dress code – often it is part of the DNA of an organization – it is important that, while a workplace may not have a uniform, workplace dress code is uniform and observed consistently by all.

7. Perceptions of Work Ethics

Older generations often accuse younger workers of having poor work ethics. However, perception of work ethic varies between generations.

Older employees are more likely to remain at work until their work is complete before leaving for home. They see younger employees leaving before their work is complete and believe that this is indicative of a poor work ethic. However, these younger employees – often more digitally adept – may be working remotely from home, where they feel more relaxed and productive.

Organisations may combat these perceptions by managing by performance and introducing workplace project management systems to routine. Taking this action often helps people to work more collaboratively and understand that being office based is not always necessary to be productive.

In Summary

In multigenerational workplaces there is a wide diversity of values, preferred communication styles, mental wellbeing issues and preferred methods of working. Differences even stretch to how employees dress for work.

When leaders understand the different characters of each generation, they will more easily discover the strengths of each generation and use these to improve collaboration. To build a cohesive team, managers must create a workplace environment that allows all generations to contribute fully and embrace the qualities of their work colleagues.

Contact us today, and discover how we could help your managers and leaders be more effective in developing multigenerational teams and foster the collaboration that delivers high performance.

7 Challenges Faced by Leaders of Multigenerational Organization

Is Your Workplace Environment Conducive to Collaboration?

As younger employees join your workforce and older employees remain employed for longer, your organisation is likely to become more multigenerational. This diversity of age demographic presents leaders with many challenges that must be overcome. In this article, we examine seven of these challenges.

1. Age

There are many personal challenges associated with age, and these manifest in the workplace. Younger employees may desire more flexibility and the opportunity to work from home. Older employees may have more exacting wellness needs. Leaders should create the flexible workplace environment that addresses the needs of all employees.

2. Values

Our values are determined by many factors, including upbringing and experiences. Older generations have lived through the Cold War and economic strife. They were raised by parents who suffered war. They took part in civil rights movements. Younger generations have been at the forefront of technological advance, and are living with a future shaped by climate change.

Baby boomers expect millennials to have the same commitment to hard work and long hours. Millennials expect more flexibility and shorter hours in the office with greater autonomy. Leaders must manage these conflicting values, respecting all workers and helping each to understand and accept the different ways in which full contributions are made.

3. Workplace Relationship Issues

Older employees tend to be more conservative in their approach to workplace relationships. They have been conditioned that work is work, and personal issues should be left at the door. However, today mental health and wellbeing is considered of great importance. Employees are encouraged to discuss a wider range of issues, and organisations accept the overlap between personal and professional lives more readily. This can create friction between employees, as some wish to discuss subjects that others consider to be taboo.

Organisations are combatting this challenge by providing ‘safe spaces’ where controversial subjects may be discussed openly, and equipping managers with the skills to carefront rather than confront conflict between work colleagues.

4. Feedback

The need for feedback differs between generations. Younger employees tend to thrive on constant feedback, whereas older workers require less. For older employees, feedback should be given when necessary, not when desired.

How does a leader know how often to give feedback? Ask each employee, and set a schedule for them. Remember, though, that continuous communication leads to healthier relationships, and less confusion when honest truths are finally revealed.

5. Preferred Communication Styles

The communication preferences of different generations stretch from the millennials’ use of social media and digital communication channels, to the baby boomers’ desire for face-to-face conversation or email.

An organisation must establish how best to communicate, and set a strategy that embraces all preferences. For example, a team meeting may be followed up by a video summary posted to employees’ email inboxes or on the company’s intranet.

6. Dress Code

Older workers are used to the formality of workwear. It helps them draw a line between their professional self and their personal self. Younger workers are more likely to wish to wear the same clothes in the office as they would outside. While many organisations have relaxed their dress code, many have not. This can cause conflict between employees and management.

While there is no single correct answer to dress code – often it is part of the DNA of an organisation – it is important that, while a workplace may not have a uniform, workplace dress code is uniform and observed consistently by all.

7. Perceptions of Work Ethics

Older generations often accuse younger workers of having poor work ethics. However, perception of work ethic varies between generations.

Older employees are more likely to remain at work until their work is complete before leaving for home. They see younger employees leaving before their work is complete and believe that this is indicative of a poor work ethic. However, these younger employees – often more digitally adept – may be working remotely from home, where they feel more relaxed and productive.

Organisations may combat these perceptions by managing by performance and introducing workplace project management systems to routine. Taking this action often helps people to work more collaboratively and understand that being office based is not always necessary to be productive.

In Summary

In multigenerational workplaces there is a wide diversity of values, preferred communication styles, mental wellbeing issues and preferred methods of working. Differences even stretch to how employees dress for work.

When leaders understand the different characters of each generation, they will more easily discover the strengths of each generation and use these to improve collaboration. To build a cohesive team, managers must create a workplace environment that allows all generations to contribute fully and embrace the qualities of their work colleagues.

Contact us today, and discover how we could help your managers and leaders be more effective in developing multigenerational teams and foster the collaboration that delivers high performance.

Managing Ambivalent Team Relationships

What is an Ambivalent Relationship?

An ambivalent relationship is classed as a relationship in which both positive and negative feelings are present, usually with tension and conflict.

It’s the classic love/hate situation and research has shown that this dynamic usually leads to positive outcomes when in the workplace.

Indeed, ambivalent relationships often result in creative problem-solving and accurate decision-making. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Shimul Melwani, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the University of North Carolina, and Naomi Rothman, assistant professor of management at Lehigh University, explained that when ambivalent relationships are present, individuals are more likely to spend time trying to understand what the relationship means, and therefore put themselves in the other’s shoes. Furthermore, because ambivalent relationships breed a sense of uncertainty, those involved are more likely to work harder to establish their position.

The impact on teams

What do love/hate relationships within a team mean for those leading them? After all, it’s important that all team members know where they stand and are aligned to the same purpose for a team to function and if there is uncertainty there can’t be unity, can there?

For leaders it’s important to ensure the conflict and tension created by ambivalent relationships doesn’t turn into fighting. When negotiations break down and discourse stops being constructive it’s a sign for team leaders that ambivalent relationships have become dysfunctional and there is no longer alignment to purpose. However, negative conflict might not manifest itself in obvious brawls and verbal fights. A failure to engage in open, unregulated debate is often the cause of disengagement and real hostility. At this point, ambivalent relationships no longer exist – relations are purely confrontational.

At Primeast we work with leaders and their teams to ensure a culture of openness is created to allow purpose to evolve through constructive dialogue. This ensures all parties remain engaged and feel they can air their opinions in a safe environment.

The importance of trust

To create such a culture, it’s important that trust exists, even when there are ambivalent relationships in a group. This poses a challenge, as being unwilling to admit vulnerabilities is one characteristic of an ambivalent relationship. Yet without honesty, there can be no trust. It’s the responsibility of leaders to create an environment in which weakness isn’t frowned upon in order to counteract the natural dynamic of a love/hate relationship.

It’s also important that leaders are clear with team members to help negate some of the uncertainty that comes with ambivalence. Part of doing this is ensuring each employee knows their role, how this relates to the overall purpose and values, and what accountability procedures are in place to protect against digression.

It’s a tough balancing act

Balancing all these factors means leaders can better ensure those in their team are working as a collective and are striving towards the same goals, without sacrificing the benefits that come with ambivalent relationships and conflict…it can be a difficult thing to do.

For more insights into the benefits of conflict, read Fighting, not conflict, is a sign of dysfunction.

Primeast have been working with organizations globally for over thirty years as learning and development partners, creating outstanding leaders who are equipped to lead organizations where people can thrive.

To start a conversation about how to ‘get the balance right’ with us today, you can email Simon directly or call Primeast on +44 (0) 1423 531083.

7 Top Tips for Better Hybrid Teamworking

Hybrid working is impacting many office workers and their colleagues who are having to change the way they do things. In some organizations, where the ink on the policies and procedures has only just dried, leaders are beginning to realise these new ways of working are presenting challenges and opportunities in equal measure.

We’ve been working with a number of organizations over the last eighteen months supporting them, their leaders and teams to develop the skills and knowledge required to be able to adapt, support and lead their teams as they move towards ‘hybrid’ or ‘blended’ working practices.

The process of adopting hybrid working practices isn’t simply a case of sharpening up on your employees’ online communication skills. There are a significant number of factors to take into account from policies and procedures to behaviors and performance measures. Not only that, you need engagement and commitment from all involved. We’ve provided this simple summary of some specific considerations if you’re having to adopt and embrace hybrid working practices.

What is Psychological Safety & Why is it Important?

Creating Psychological Safety at Work

What Is Psychological Safety and why Is It Important?

When we are not feeling emotionally safe in a situation, we might feel afraid to say what’s on our minds because we think it might offend someone else. Or if we criticize a certain piece of work or an idea put forward, others might make us feel bad about it for them to avoid confronting their own vulnerability.

Psychological safety is a term used in workplaces to ensure that individuals feel that they can speak up, as well as having the space and comfort to do so. This includes the knowledge that others will support you and that they will not judge you for your thoughts, feelings, or actions.

The concept of Psychological Safety has moved up the agenda in the last 18 months because of the impact of the pandemic and the introduction of new ways of working; hybrid and remote working in particular. We can all relate to the challenges of clear and open communication when working in hybrid or remote team environments. Leaders have had to adopt new skills and communication norms to be able to overcome these new challenges, ensuring teams and employees continue to feel free to communicate positively and honestly; the risk of not doing so being that vital contribution and ideas are not offered or generated which could significantly benefit the performance of the organization.

Psychological safety and diversity also go hand in hand. Diversity in the workplace refers to an organization’s efforts at hiring, retaining, promoting, rewarding, and supporting people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. The goal is to create a workplace where everyone feels like they have the freedom and support needed to attain their full potential as well as be inclusive towards others who are different from them. A strong working culture that promote inclusion and diversity will also impact on the opportunity for continuous improvement and innovation and design thinking – all of which have become increasingly critical for the growth and sustainability of any organization.

How creating psychological safety can help boost productivity & innovation

Psychological safety is foundational when it comes to creating a positive and productive work environment. For example, showing your employees how you have achieved something before in the past can help them feel less afraid of taking risks and making mistakes.

A psychologically safe work environment has many benefits. It can help boost employee engagement, productivity, and innovation. It can lead to increased creativity through ‘safe’ brainstorming, and the generation of new ideas that employees may not have expressed before because they were afraid of being judged or criticized.

What are the benefits of creating psychological safety at work?

It is all about the people. People are what make organizations successful or not, so it’s important for organizations to ensure that their employees feel valued and validated. Organisations must also take their responsibility seriously.

At the heart of creating psychological safety at work is a positive emotional vulnerability culture. This is one that empowers employees to express and share their emotions, feelings, and thoughts with their colleagues. It is a social environment where it can be safe to show emotions without judgment.

Having a positive organizational culture helps to build a sense of belonging in the workplace. It also creates trust between employees and organizations and improves employee morale. You’ll find your team suffers less burnout, develops better inter-departmental relationships, and that your business benefits from greater transparency.

Purpose: Your strategic anchor to psychological safety

Psychological safety is the feeling of belonging or connectedness to a group of people. It’s a state of mind, with elements such as trust and acceptance that is not threatened by others in the working environment. Purpose is your strategic anchor to psychological safety.

Clive Wilson, Primeast consultant is author of ‘Designing the Purposeful Organization’. In this book, he presents an approach to implementing a more enlightened and authentic leadership style that aligns people’s strengths to the delivery of a compelling future. This is fundamental to creating a psychologically safe working environment.

The book examines the eight-point framework, PrimeFocus™, which can be used to align people and purpose, moving beyond the boundaries of transactional leadership to release talent, creativity, and employee engagement:

Purpose

Purpose is the force that keeps all of life growing, creating, and thriving. Where an organization is purposeful, there exists collective energy to create and grow, to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems.

Vision

Vision is the articulation of where an organization wants to get to within an agreed timescale.

Engagement

Engagement with purpose and vision develops energy to ensure sustainable growth.

Structure

The structure should be designed to support the purpose of the business. This encompassed both physical and non-physical structures such as processes, policies, and systems.

Character and culture

Important for the organization, its teams, and individual employees, culture defines how things are done and how people conduct themselves and behave towards others.

Results

Wilson promotes the alignment of results to purpose. This removes over-emphasising transactional objectives and inspires creativity and alignment with purpose.

Success

Wilson defines a successful team as one that has a shared sense of success that takes account of, but which is more powerful than, the personal successes of all its members.

Talent

Liberating talent within an organization will engender a heightened sense of purpose and deliver better individual and collective performance.

Is your leadership promoting psychological safety at work?

Organisations that create an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing themselves and talking about their emotions can benefit in a variety of ways. These benefits include increased productivity, an improved sense of purpose or meaning at work, and happier employees.

A good environment that is conducive for the creativity and productivity of your employees will help boost their morale, motivation, and engagement. This will lead to a stronger team that helps you produce better products. Leadership plays a key role in creating psychological safety in the workplace. How is yours faring?

To learn how the Leadership Circle™ can be used to develop the skills your organization needs to deliver impactful leadership, click here.

How to Manage a Remote Team

The Role of the Leader in the Remote Working Employee Experience

The employee experience is a critical component of high-performing remote teams. Integral to this is the role of the leader. It is he or she who fosters a culture of trust and transparency in which people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. The leader can also keep remote workers engaged and motivated, making sure that they have clear communication policies in place so that employees understand expectations for them.

How can leaders help create a better employee experience in a remote environment?

Though remote work is gaining in popularity, there are still challenges when it comes to creating an employee experience that is positive and productive, and when developing a remote work environment that is conducive to developing high-performing teams.

These 11 tips will help leaders of remote teams to lead them effectively.

1. Hire the right people

The best people for remote teams are those who can be productive without the constant supervision of their manager or coworkers. They should be self-motivated learners, technically adept, and highly collaborative with an open personality. People who are not risk-averse, but who are highly accountable.

2. Set clear expectations

It is crucial to set clear expectations for the team and its members. Leaders should fully understand their own responsibility to provide guidance and leadership to remote team members and to keep the team on the same page with project scope, deadlines, and deliverables.

3. Manage accountability

To lead remote teams effectively, managers must manage the accountability of their team members. They should be able to clearly communicate expectations, keep track of progress, and know when they need to step in with guidance or leadership. To manage accountability effectively, leaders should:

4. Communicate effectively and consistently

When well-led, a remote team can be more productive, collaborative, and agile than its on-site counterpart. However, the team manager must ensure that team members are working effectively and consistently. This requires a lot of effort and discipline. To achieve this, it is not enough to just be able to talk with team members every day. Team leaders must be able to communicate in an effective manner, motivating employees with clear expectations and the sharing of vision.

5. Build team cohesion

Team cohesion ─ the ability of the team to work as one ─ is crucial. Remote teams are more likely to have lower levels of cohesion due to the lack of face-to-face interactions and the difficulty in maintaining relationships with people who are geographically dispersed. For remote teams to be cohesive, they must be given clear instructions from their managers, engaged in the vision and mission of the organization, and feel they are working toward a collective purpose and goal.

6. Provide a safe space for employees to share their ideas

To promote collaboration, cohesion, and creativity, remote employees must be given a safe space to share ideas. This may be via one-to-ones with managers, in virtual team meetings, or by using technologies to provide channels of communication. Whatever the method selected (and those mentioned are by no means an exhaustive list of opportunities), team leaders must ensure that people feel comfortable sharing their ideas.

7. Create context by painting the big picture for the team

It is critical that leaders create the context for the team, helping the team and each member to understand how what they do connects to the big picture. Leaders of remote teams should find ways to bring this big picture to life as they:

8. Help employees develop their group work skills

Although it can be difficult for some employees, it is possible to lead remote teams effectively by helping them develop their group work skills and finding a way to work effectively with each other. Leaders must know their people and help them to improve qualities such as communication, collaboration, and teamwork.

9. Make meetings more effective and enjoyable

It is important for the team leader to set up meetings in an effective and efficient way. Tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Skype enable easy video conferencing and screen sharing and can be used for both audio-only calls and video-only calls. However, while technology enables effective meetings, it is how they are organised and managed that makes them effective and enjoyable. Tips here include to:

10. Don’t micromanage

One of the key reasons why micromanagement is such a widespread problem in remote teams is that it’s difficult to keep track of what employees are doing. Leaders might be able to see work in real-time, but they won’t always be able to tell if employees are doing an excellent job or not.

To avoid micromanaging, leaders must set clear expectations with their team, and make sure they are providing the tools needed to succeed ─ like feedback loops, metrics, and visibility into their work.

11. Lead with empathy

Leaders must put themselves in the shoes of their team members and understand what they might be going through. They must also take time to listen and learn from their team members’ perspectives before making decisions. It is crucial to ensure that team members feel fulfilled by their work and that leaders understand how team members feel when they are struggling, what they need, and how they can help their employees succeed in their work.

Are your leaders and managers leading their remote teams effectively? Are your once high-performing teams struggling in the remote work environment?

Complete the Personal Values Assessment to get a comprehensive insight into your organizational culture and the qualities that will help your team leaders and managers when building and leading high-performing remote teams.

3 Critical Success Factors for Cross-Cultural Teams

Supporting your cross-cultural teams to achieve better results

The experience of the pandemic and the resulting, accelerated digital transformation has catapulted our ability to work virtually which has, for many, unlocked the opportunity of teamworking beyond boundaries. This has been a critical opportunity to capture diversity of skills, knowledge and thinking to support research and development within organizations. Many organizations, of course, have been working this way, particularly in heavily matrixed structures for many years. It is true in both situations that the opportunity to harness cross-cultural talent presents some critical success factors which leaders and organizations must consider to ensure cross-cultural working success.

Creating the conditions for successful collaboration.

Common ground must be established through setting of expectations and some norms for behaviors. Purpose and process should be agreed early on so that all team members are aligned and engaged to the vision and desired outcomes for the team. Values inform behaviors and are a great foundation on which to build consensus for behaviors as the team proceeds. Trust and respect are equally important, and time spent on building the conditions for this to happen is well spent. Teams can work together to identify each other’s strengths as well as their roles and expected contribution to the team; Primeast employ several tools to support this process and guide teams through the process of extracting insights from the completed assessments. The power of unlocking this awareness can be measured directly in the results and experience of the team as they achieve their desired goals.

Understanding, awareness, and empathy

Cultural intelligence (CQ) is critical to bridge cultural gaps that may prohibit successful teamworking and is one of the essential ‘human skills’ that must be developed to unlock cross-cultural teamworking. Cultural understanding and an appreciation of the other’s perspective and different ways of working encourages a shared sense of responsibility and recognition when activities are completed and progress is observed and measured. It removes the potential for misunderstanding, conflict and barriers to communication and allows the whole team to benefit from different backgrounds and perspectives.

This embracing of diversity of thinking reduces the incidences of confusion which cause unwelcome distractions that are contrary to the team’s success. Team members will also benefit from the learning and teaching that occurs when a culture of cultural intelligence is established. Primeast employ several tools which support the promotion of cultural understanding and appreciation of different perspectives including Globe Smart, DiSC and EQi to name a few and not including bespoke assessments and activities we create for clients. When designing a cross-cultural teamworking program we identify the true, sometime hidden barriers and select the best tool to achieve the desired result. Team building activities will help individuals bond with each other and are often an important element in cross-cultural team development.

Communication is everything

Leaders and participants of cross-cultural teams must master the nuances of communication and expression and encourage empathy and understanding for diverse communication styles. When working virtually it is important to be mindful of the mode of communication and to ensure the best method of delivery or communication is selected for the message, purpose and audience. There are a range of tools and frameworks which can be adopted to help find common ground with communication.

Listening is also important when it comes to sharing information and understanding (read more in our article on generative listening)- checking back and mirroring are simple-to-adopt techniques to ensure everyone is clear about the intention and message. Questions can help team members dig deeper to ensure they appreciate the various perspectives which might be influencing the communication style. Be curious and dig deeper – you’ll be surprised what you will uncover. Be clear about how team members can express and contribute when working together or in meetings and make sure voices are heard and valued.

Primeast has been working with organizations for over 30 years helping to develop high performing cross-cultural teams. Our facilitators are highly experienced at providing the conditions for teams to begin to understand the strengths and differences they can harness to improve communication, productivity, and results. With supporting coaching, we have created sustained change in performance which has proven to have a significant impact on the business.

You can read more about one such program we created for a leading pharmaceutical company seeking to unlock the potential of cross-cultural, multi-disciplined matrix teams responsible for working together as part of the clinical trials process. The results were incredibly powerful, reducing timelines by up to 14 days which, if you consider the cost of 1 day’s clinical trial project, the impact was significant.

How to resolve cross-cultural misunderstandings before they arise

With businesses becoming increasingly internationalized, and in-house and extended teams increasingly multicultural, today’s managers are faced with a conundrum that did not fall on their predecessors: how to communicate effectively across cultures.

In order for businesses to remain effective and competitive, leaders need to engage their employees rather than inform and instruct. There are challenges in doing this: communication contexts differ across cultures. Managers who get it wrong are left to resolve cross-cultural misunderstandings. Often, this can be damaging to the organization’s internal and external reputation.

In the worst cases, the inability to resolve cross-cultural misunderstandings can decimate promising businesses and mergers. Think DaimlerChrysler (a merger that was called a ‘merger of equals’ when it was conceived, a fiasco a few years later) or AOL and Time Warner (with the AOL-Time Warner share price down from $72 in 2000 to $15 in 2008), and you’ll realize the damage that cross-cultural differences can cause if left unresolved.

In this post I study a five-step strategy to avoid the need to resolve cross-cultural misunderstandings by preparing for them first.

1.     Understand the communication style of different cultures

People from different cultures communicate differently.

Some, like the United States, Australia and the UK, are more direct. Communication is precise and open, and more emotional. This is called ‘low-context’ culture.

Others, especially Chinese, Japanese and Indian, are subtler. Meanings are often not explicitly stated, but instead implied within information provided. This is called ‘high-context’ culture.

Some cultures communicate calmly, basing discussion wholly on facts and acting decisively (linear-active). Others are courteous, good listeners, and amiable (reactive). A third type of culture is warm and emotional (multi-active).

By understanding these differences, you will be able to temper your communication style accordingly and be more effective in cross-cultural teams.

2.     Understand that there will be differences in cultural value

Every culture has different values. These may develop over time. For example, the class-based society that was prevalent in the United Kingdom for many hundreds of years has largely been expunged. In India, the caste system is still very much alive despite being outlawed.

Geert Hofstede identifies five dimensions of cultural perspectives:

As an example of the above, power distance is the dimension that describes India’s caste culture – the acceptance of inequality between different people:

By understanding how different cultures ‘operate’ within these five dimensions, you will be able to bridge the gap that exists between your cultural dimension and that of your employees or customers.

3.     Develop effective communication style

When you understand these cultural differences, you can develop your communication style to avoid the need to resolve cross-cultural misunderstandings. This ability interlinks seamlessly with high-level emotional intelligence. You’ll become more tolerant of ambiguity, be more flexible toward different cultures, and less certain that your culture is right in all circumstances and situations.

Developing communication skills such as openness and agreeability will help to build respect for you as a leader and engender effective communication. Request and expect feedback to help develop your cross-cultural communication capabilities. By appreciating cultural differences you’ll avoid cross-cultural misunderstandings, which can ruin promising relationships.

4.     Avoid becoming frustrated

It is natural to expect others to behave in line with our own cultural norms. Should this not be the case, instinct is to reject it. Managers and leaders should not show such frustration toward behavior dictated by different cultural values, though this is incredibly difficult to do.

The way to combat this is to open up to cultural differences. Instead of acting with prejudice, seek to learn more by asking about the values that dictate certain behaviors. This should help you resolve differences in a more understanding and cooperative environment.

5.     Employ appropriate motivations

Motivational techniques and incentives are often dictated by organizational culture, and this is often highly linked to where the organization was founded or is currently headquartered. Companies often employ a single incentive scheme, with recognition and reward uniform across all their geographical locations. These are often made without regard for cultural differences within teams, also.

When expanding to other geographical locations, employing a cross-cultural team, or seeking to benefit from talent via remote employment, it is possible that your current incentive scheme and motivational techniques lead to a reduction in productivity and effectiveness of your employees where cultural differences exist.

It should be noted that such cultural differences can exist happily within communities of workers. For example, while one person may be motivated by being offered more autonomy, another may reject the freedom as they expect their supervisor or manager to be responsible for the task being done.

Understand how people react and interact, and how you do

Natural reactions are, in large part, attributable to cultural upbringing. By understanding this, a leader is better able to employ the right person for individual cultural diversity and customize the approach to policies and procedures.

However, this is not enough for a leader to supercharge his or her culturally diverse team. It is also necessary to understand how you react and behave, and to what extent these behaviors are dictated by your cultural background. By having such understanding of self, you will be able to be more empathetic toward others in a multicultural team by adapting your leadership style to integrate different cultures.

To find out more

Contact Primeast today to discuss our Management Development Series, including our Energy Leadership Program, which helps develop high-performing managers into inspirational leaders.

Teamwork Lies at the Heart of a Successful Matrix Structure

For many years, large-scale businesses have been turning to the often criticized corporate matrix structure to help to break down silos, create flexibility and ensure resources are used as effectively as possible. However, without a commitment to building strong teams that are capable of engaging with stakeholders across all departments, the structure simply will not work.

What is a matrix structure?

In its simplest form, a matrix organizational structure provides a mix of self-contained units and lateral teams. This model helps to provide greater flexibility in terms of chains of command, while at the same time ensuring staff are able to develop their skills across multiple disciplines.

It means that in practice, individuals within a team may have more than one boss, with differing levels of influence depending upon their position within the business. Examples of this can be found in many large and multinational organizations, which often operate at local, regional, national and international levels. As such, while individual team members will often report to a direct manager, there are multiple lines of communication between all members of staff that mean collaboration is key to the fulfilment of even the most basic of work functions.

Due to the global nature of many large corporations, this form of multi-line management allows for a more coordinated approach to the delivery of large-scale projects, many of which will make use of skills from separate departments.

However, one of the difficulties with this management structure can be in ensuring staff do not become insular and see their role purely within the realm of the function which makes up the mainstay of their job. This can result in the formation of unwanted silos, as individuals fail to see the benefits of working outside of their preferred function, hindering the ability of teams to deliver on their goals.

It also means that the role of the manager can become blurred, leading to less effective leadership, as individuals do not feel they have full control over all aspects of their team – something that may be alien to many corporate leaders that are used to a more traditional, vertical approach to team integration and design.

Herman Vantrappen, managing director of strategic advisory firm Akordeon, and Frederic Wirtz, head of organization advisory business The Little Group, wrote in an article for Harvard Business Review that the key to a successful matrix is to clearly define the structure from the outset and ensure these systems are only used when they are the best way to achieve overarching business aims.

A sparing use of the matrix structure can therefore often be far more beneficial to achieving these goals than a blanket rollout across the board. For example, Vantrappen and Wirtz describe the situation of a regional finance manager who must coordinate closely with subsidiaries in many different countries. In this case, it would be sensible to place this individual in a matrix managerial role, with multiple lines of reporting that ensure there is a single point of contact for all. This helps to make the disparate team members into a cohesive unit and ensures everyone is working to achieve the same purpose.

The role of teams in matrix organizations

The ability of individuals from both different teams and different disciplines within a business to operate as a cohesive whole plays an important role in determining how successful a matrix structure will be.

To achieve positive results, all team members must operate with the same purpose, otherwise conflicts will arise and overall productivity will be lost. Creating solid lines of communication is also important to ensure all staff are on the same page and feel comfortable discussing issues that would otherwise lead to conflict.

In Patrick Lencioni’s book ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’, he sets out some of the significant stumbling blocks that corporations need to overcome in order to foster a stronger collaborative ethic, many of which will be a factor in ensuring teamwork is not diminished through potentially blurred lines of command.

He states that the fundamental issues that impact effective team building within an organization include:

Each of these obstacles must be overcome if teamwork is to be bolstered and a true matrix structure is to deliver real and lasting benefits for a business.

Creating strong teams

According to Bruce Tuckman’s 1965 team-development model ‘Forming Storming Norming Performing’, the development of a strong team that is able to deliver on its promise does not take place overnight; it takes a period of effort to adapt to change and to then begin performing at the team’s maximum potential.

Each stage of the process throws up a new set of problems that teams must overcome in order to move forward. At first, during the ‘forming’ stage, teams will generally suffer from several of the key dysfunctions as highlighted in Lencioni’s work – a situation which, in turn, will result in the ‘storming’ stage, as these issues are brought to a head and resolved.

Once teams have been established for a long enough time to have overcome these initial difficulties, they will then enter the ‘norming’ stage, which often leads to a general ramping up of output, productivity and stability as a cohesive unit.

Finally, when well-established teams are supported correctly and all members are working towards the same purpose and goals, this results in entry to the ‘performing’ stage – a situation where all are working as one and the best results are likely to be seen.

However, any disruption to the structure of a team – such as through the creation of multiple chains of command that are not all acting with a single purpose – can reset this process, pushing back the ability of individual team members to work to their full. A strong team ethos and a clear understanding of overarching goals is therefore imperative when planning the rollout of a matrix structure.

Managers should bear in mind the attributes of staff when determining who will work best within a matrix setup, as not all individuals are ideally suited to working in this manner. Business leaders should take into account the current culture within existing silos and hand-pick those individuals that demonstrate the core key skills of strong communication, leadership and an ability to act effectively both within the team setting and autonomously when required as being the best fit for this management style.

As a result, there can be no no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a successful matrix, instead there needs to be a thoughtful use of this practice to deliver positive gains in areas where a collaborative approach to business functionality is essential to securing good results.

By embracing the lessons of starting small, only implementing these structures when they provide a clear organizational benefit and committing to ensuring individuals with the best fit are drafted into this model, companies could see clear and lasting benefits from the uptake of a matrix structure.

To find out more, read ‘Building Trust in Teams’ and view our Scaling Talent ‘Improving Team Performance’ modules

The Challenges & Attributes of High Performing Teams

When organizations are acquired only to be sold piecemeal, we often hear that “the sum of the parts is greater than the sum of the whole.” This runs contrary to an efficient, high impact team, where the sum of the whole is magnified by the performance of individuals within the team. Harnessing this effectiveness requires leaders to overcome four distinct challenges. Only by doing so can they embed the attributes of high performing teams within their own sphere of supervisory responsibility.

Defining the attributes of high performing teams

When seeking to create something unique and exceptional, you must first define what characteristics will define your creation. When examining the traits of the most impactful teams within the business context, it can be seen that there are several commonalities that directly lead to outperformance in the competitive market.

For example, a 2006 study by Dahlin, Weingart, and Hinds, and published in the Academy of Management Journal, summarized that teams comprised of members from diverse educational and national backgrounds perform more highly than those not benefitting from such diversity.

Four other essential attributes of team excellence are:

1.     Shared Goals

Aims should be specific, clearly defined and resonate with all members of the group while promoting the contribution of the group as opposed to individuals within the group. Goals should be challenging but achievable and resonate with organizational values and beliefs.

2.     Having the right mix of people

Teams benefit from having a diverse mix of capabilities, backgrounds and personalities. When considering individuals, look to create a mix of interpersonal and technical skills, commerciality and financial awareness. Look to recruitment processes and augment with continuous training and coaching to upgrade skills as the team evolves.

3.     Team size

The best teams are small, agile and flexible. They benefit from free flow of information. Larger teams require greater resource and a more inflexible management structure.

4.     Define roles and responsibilities

The roles of individuals within the team context must be clearly defined. This includes the level of authority ­– some teams function with authority equally distributed while others have a clearly defined leader. When responsibilities are unknown or misunderstood, internal conflict is a real danger to effectiveness.

Overcoming the challenges

A cohesive team is one in which individuals want to remain. It outperforms because everyone pulls in the same direction, working toward a common cause and with shared behavioral norms. These characteristics become part of group culture, the fabric that holds the group together. However, there will be challenges to face and overcome on the way to creating this zenith. The major of these are:

1.     Engagement

There is a definite connection between the performance of individuals within a team and the degree to which they feel engaged. Leaders who attain high competence in employee empowerment skills are best able to empower their people and create the ownership that engenders productivity. These skills include:

2.     Conflict resolution

Conflict is a naturally occurring event within any group. It can either be constructive or destructive. Leaders who take a care-fronting rather than confronting approach in their communicative technique will find that open communication is encouraged and conflict errs progressively on the side of constructiveness.

3.     Task management

Though it may seem obvious, leaders who mismanage tasks within their team environment risk disrupting its balance. Individuals (and the group) will work best where they benefit from:

These issues will be a joint consideration of the organization and team leadership.

4.     Organizational issues

The organizational structure and management will impact upon a team’s effectiveness. How one team is allowed to interact with others, the high-level support it receives, and the resources that are made available to it will all be telling factors on performance.

In summary

When team leadership challenges are overcome, a cohesive and effective team will produce a number of benefits that include (but are not limited to):

Contact Primeast today to discuss our Management Development Series, including our Energy Leadership Program that will provide your leaders with the skills to embed the attributes of high performing teams in their team.

The Challenges & Attributes of High Performing Teams

When organisations are acquired only to be sold piecemeal, we often hear that “the sum of the parts is greater than the sum of the whole.” This runs contrary to an efficient, high impact team, where the sum of the whole is magnified by the performance of individuals within the team. Harnessing this effectiveness requires leaders to overcome four distinct challenges. Only by doing so can they embed the attributes of high performing teams within their own sphere of supervisory responsibility.

Defining the attributes of high performing teams

When seeking to create something unique and exceptional, you must first define what characteristics will define your creation. When examining the traits of the most impactful teams within the business context, it can be seen that there are several commonalities that directly lead to outperformance in the competitive market.

For example, a 2006 study by Dahlin, Weingart, and Hinds, and published in the Academy of Management Journal, summarized that teams comprised of members from diverse educational and national backgrounds perform more highly than those not benefitting from such diversity.

Four other essential attributes of team excellence are:

1.     Shared Goals

Aims should be specific, clearly defined and resonate with all members of the group while promoting the contribution of the group as opposed to individuals within the group. Goals should be challenging but achievable and resonate with organisational values and beliefs.

2.     Having the right mix of people

Teams benefit from having a diverse mix of capabilities, backgrounds and personalities. When considering individuals, look to create a mix of interpersonal and technical skills, commerciality and financial awareness. Look to recruitment processes and augment with continuous training and coaching to upgrade skills as the team evolves.

3.     Team size

The best teams are small, agile and flexible. They benefit from free flow of information. Larger teams require greater resource and a more inflexible management structure.

4.     Define roles and responsibilities

The roles of individuals within the team context must be clearly defined. This includes the level of authority ­– some teams function with authority equally distributed while others have a clearly defined leader. When responsibilities are unknown or misunderstood, internal conflict is a real danger to effectiveness.

Overcoming the challenges

A cohesive team is one in which individuals want to remain. It outperforms because everyone pulls in the same direction, working toward a common cause and with shared behavioural norms. These characteristics become part of group culture, the fabric that holds the group together. However, there will be challenges to face and overcome on the way to creating this zenith. The major of these are:

1.     Engagement

There is a definite connection between the performance of individuals within a team and the degree to which they feel engaged. Leaders who attain high competence in employee empowerment skills are best able to empower their people and create the ownership that engenders productivity. These skills include:

2.     Conflict resolution

Conflict is a naturally occurring event within any group. It can either be constructive or destructive. Leaders who take a care-fronting rather than confronting approach in their communicative technique will find that open communication is encouraged and conflict errs progressively on the side of constructiveness.

3.     Task management

Though it may seem obvious, leaders who mismanage tasks within their team environment risk disrupting its balance. Individuals (and the group) will work best where they benefit from:

These issues will be a joint consideration of the organisation and team leadership.

4.     Organizational issues

The organisational structure and management will impact upon a team’s effectiveness. How one team is allowed to interact with others, the high-level support it receives, and the resources that are made available to it will all be telling factors on performance.

In summary

When team leadership challenges are overcome, a cohesive and effective team will produce a number of benefits that include (but are not limited to):

Contact Primeast today to discuss our Management Development Series, including our Team Leadership Program that will provide your leaders with the skills to embed the attributes of high performing teams in their team.

Managing Ambivalent Team Relationships

What is an Ambivalent Relationship?

An ambivalent relationship is classed as a relationship in which both positive and negative feelings are present, usually with tension and conflict.

It’s the classic love/hate situation and research has shown that this dynamic usually leads to positive outcomes when in the workplace.

Indeed, ambivalent relationships often result in creative problem-solving and accurate decision-making. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Shimul Melwani, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at the University of North Carolina, and Naomi Rothman, assistant professor of management at Lehigh University, explained that when ambivalent relationships are present, individuals are more likely to spend time trying to understand what the relationship means, and therefore put themselves in the other’s shoes. Furthermore, because ambivalent relationships breed a sense of uncertainty, those involved are more likely to work harder to establish their position.

The impact on teams

What do love/hate relationships within a team mean for those leading them? After all, it’s important that all team members know where they stand and are aligned to the same purpose for a team to function and if there is uncertainty there can’t be unity, can there?

For leaders it’s important to ensure the conflict and tension created by ambivalent relationships doesn’t turn into fighting. When negotiations break down and discourse stops being constructive it’s a sign for team leaders that ambivalent relationships have become dysfunctional and there is no longer alignment to purpose. However, negative conflict might not manifest itself in obvious brawls and verbal fights. A failure to engage in open, unregulated debate is often the cause of disengagement and real hostility. At this point, ambivalent relationships no longer exist – relations are purely confrontational.

At Primeast we work with leaders and their teams to ensure a culture of openness is created to allow purpose to evolve through constructive dialogue. This ensures all parties remain engaged and feel they can air their opinions in a safe environment.

The importance of trust

To create such a culture, it’s important that trust exists, even when there are ambivalent relationships in a group. This poses a challenge, as being unwilling to admit vulnerabilities is one characteristic of an ambivalent relationship. Yet without honesty, there can be no trust. It’s the responsibility of leaders to create an environment in which weakness isn’t frowned upon in order to counteract the natural dynamic of a love/hate relationship.

It’s also important that leaders are clear with team members to help negate some of the uncertainty that comes with ambivalence. Part of doing this is ensuring each employee knows their role, how this relates to the overall purpose and values, and what accountability procedures are in place to protect against digression.

It’s a tough balancing act

Balancing all these factors means leaders can better ensure those in their team are working as a collective and are striving towards the same goals, without sacrificing the benefits that come with ambivalent relationships and conflict…it can be a difficult thing to do.

For more insights into the benefits of conflict, read Fighting, not conflict, is a sign of dysfunction.

Primeast have been working with organisations globally for over thirty years as learning and development partners, creating outstanding leaders who are equipped to lead organisations where people can thrive.

To start a conversation about how to ‘get the balance right’ with us today, you can email Simon directly or call Primeast on +44 (0) 1423 531083.

7 Top Tips for Better Hybrid Teamworking

Hybrid working is impacting many office workers and their colleagues who are having to change the way they do things. In some organisations, where the ink on the policies and procedures has only just dried, leaders are beginning to realise these new ways of working are presenting challenges and opportunities in equal measure.

We’ve been working with a number of organisations over the last eighteen months supporting them, their leaders and teams to develop the skills and knowledge required to be able to adapt, support and lead their teams as they move towards ‘hybrid’ or ‘blended’ working practices.

The process of adopting hybrid working practices isn’t simply a case of sharpening up on your employees’ online communication skills. There are a significant number of factors to take into account from policies and procedures to behaviours and performance measures. Not only that, you need engagement and commitment from all involved. We’ve provided this simple summary of some specific considerations if you’re having to adopt and embrace hybrid working practices.

What is Psychological Safety & Why is it Important?

Creating Psychological Safety at Work

What Is Psychological Safety and why Is It Important?

When we are not feeling emotionally safe in a situation, we might feel afraid to say what’s on our minds because we think it might offend someone else. Or if we criticise a certain piece of work or an idea put forward, others might make us feel bad about it for them to avoid confronting their own vulnerability.

Psychological safety is a term used in workplaces to ensure that individuals feel that they can speak up, as well as having the space and comfort to do so. This includes the knowledge that others will support you and that they will not judge you for your thoughts, feelings, or actions.

The concept of Psychological Safety has moved up the agenda in the last 18 months because of the impact of the pandemic and the introduction of new ways of working; hybrid and remote working in particular. We can all relate to the challenges of clear and open communication when working in hybrid or remote team environments. Leaders have had to adopt new skills and communication norms to be able to overcome these new challenges, ensuring teams and employees continue to feel free to communicate positively and honestly; the risk of not doing so being that vital contribution and ideas are not offered or generated which could significantly benefit the performance of the organisation.

Psychological safety and diversity also go hand in hand. Diversity in the workplace refers to an organisation’s efforts at hiring, retaining, promoting, rewarding, and supporting people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. The goal is to create a workplace where everyone feels like they have the freedom and support needed to attain their full potential as well as be inclusive towards others who are different from them. A strong working culture that promote inclusion and diversity will also impact on the opportunity for continuous improvement and innovation and design thinking – all of which have become increasingly critical for the growth and sustainability of any organisation.

How creating psychological safety can help boost productivity & innovation

Psychological safety is foundational when it comes to creating a positive and productive work environment. For example, showing your employees how you have achieved something before in the past can help them feel less afraid of taking risks and making mistakes.

A psychologically safe work environment has many benefits. It can help boost employee engagement, productivity, and innovation. It can lead to increased creativity through ‘safe’ brainstorming, and the generation of new ideas that employees may not have expressed before because they were afraid of being judged or criticised.

What are the benefits of creating psychological safety at work?

It is all about the people. People are what make organisations successful or not, so it’s important for organisations to ensure that their employees feel valued and validated. Organisations must also take their responsibility seriously.

At the heart of creating psychological safety at work is a positive emotional vulnerability culture. This is one that empowers employees to express and share their emotions, feelings, and thoughts with their colleagues. It is a social environment where it can be safe to show emotions without judgment.

Having a positive organisational culture helps to build a sense of belonging in the workplace. It also creates trust between employees and organisations and improves employee morale. You’ll find your team suffers less burnout, develops better inter-departmental relationships, and that your business benefits from greater transparency.

Purpose: Your strategic anchor to psychological safety

Psychological safety is the feeling of belonging or connectedness to a group of people. It’s a state of mind, with elements such as trust and acceptance that is not threatened by others in the working environment. Purpose is your strategic anchor to psychological safety.

Clive Wilson, Primeast consultant is author of ‘Designing the Purposeful Organization’. In this book, he presents an approach to implementing a more enlightened and authentic leadership style that aligns people’s strengths to the delivery of a compelling future. This is fundamental to creating a psychologically safe working environment.

The book examines the eight-point framework, PrimeFocus™, which can be used to align people and purpose, moving beyond the boundaries of transactional leadership to release talent, creativity, and employee engagement:

Purpose

Purpose is the force that keeps all of life growing, creating, and thriving. Where an organisation is purposeful, there exists collective energy to create and grow, to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems.

Vision

Vision is the articulation of where an organisation wants to get to within an agreed timescale.

Engagement

Engagement with purpose and vision develops energy to ensure sustainable growth.

Structure

The structure should be designed to support the purpose of the business. This encompassed both physical and non-physical structures such as processes, policies, and systems.

Character and culture

Important for the organisation, its teams, and individual employees, culture defines how things are done and how people conduct themselves and behave towards others.

Results

Wilson promotes the alignment of results to purpose. This removes over-emphasising transactional objectives and inspires creativity and alignment with purpose.

Success

Wilson defines a successful team as one that has a shared sense of success that takes account of, but which is more powerful than, the personal successes of all its members.

Talent

Liberating talent within an organisation will engender a heightened sense of purpose and deliver better individual and collective performance.

Is your leadership promoting psychological safety at work?

Organisations that create an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing themselves and talking about their emotions can benefit in a variety of ways. These benefits include increased productivity, an improved sense of purpose or meaning at work, and happier employees.

A good environment that is conducive for the creativity and productivity of your employees will help boost their morale, motivation, and engagement. This will lead to a stronger team that helps you produce better products. Leadership plays a key role in creating psychological safety in the workplace. How is yours faring?

To learn how the Leadership Circle™ can be used to develop the skills your organisation needs to deliver impactful leadership, click here.

How to Manage a Remote Team

The Role of the Leader in the Remote Working Employee Experience

The employee experience is a critical component of high-performing remote teams. Integral to this is the role of the leader. It is he or she who fosters a culture of trust and transparency in which people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. The leader can also keep remote workers engaged and motivated, making sure that they have clear communication policies in place so that employees understand expectations for them.

How can leaders help create a better employee experience in a remote environment?

Though remote work is gaining in popularity, there are still challenges when it comes to creating an employee experience that is positive and productive, and when developing a remote work environment that is conducive to developing high-performing teams.

These 11 tips will help leaders of remote teams to lead them effectively.

1. Hire the right people

The best people for remote teams are those who can be productive without the constant supervision of their manager or coworkers. They should be self-motivated learners, technically adept, and highly collaborative with an open personality. People who are not risk-averse, but who are highly accountable.

2. Set clear expectations

It is crucial to set clear expectations for the team and its members. Leaders should fully understand their own responsibility to provide guidance and leadership to remote team members and to keep the team on the same page with project scope, deadlines, and deliverables.

3. Manage accountability

To lead remote teams effectively, managers must manage the accountability of their team members. They should be able to clearly communicate expectations, keep track of progress, and know when they need to step in with guidance or leadership. To manage accountability effectively, leaders should:

4. Communicate effectively and consistently

When well-led, a remote team can be more productive, collaborative, and agile than its on-site counterpart. However, the team manager must ensure that team members are working effectively and consistently. This requires a lot of effort and discipline. To achieve this, it is not enough to just be able to talk with team members every day. Team leaders must be able to communicate in an effective manner, motivating employees with clear expectations and the sharing of vision.

5. Build team cohesion

Team cohesion ─ the ability of the team to work as one ─ is crucial. Remote teams are more likely to have lower levels of cohesion due to the lack of face-to-face interactions and the difficulty in maintaining relationships with people who are geographically dispersed. For remote teams to be cohesive, they must be given clear instructions from their managers, engaged in the vision and mission of the organisation, and feel they are working toward a collective purpose and goal.

6. Provide a safe space for employees to share their ideas

To promote collaboration, cohesion, and creativity, remote employees must be given a safe space to share ideas. This may be via one-to-ones with managers, in virtual team meetings, or by using technologies to provide channels of communication. Whatever the method selected (and those mentioned are by no means an exhaustive list of opportunities), team leaders must ensure that people feel comfortable sharing their ideas.

7. Create context by painting the big picture for the team

It is critical that leaders create the context for the team, helping the team and each member to understand how what they do connects to the big picture. Leaders of remote teams should find ways to bring this big picture to life as they:

8. Help employees develop their group work skills

Although it can be difficult for some employees, it is possible to lead remote teams effectively by helping them develop their group work skills and finding a way to work effectively with each other. Leaders must know their people and help them to improve qualities such as communication, collaboration, and teamwork.

9. Make meetings more effective and enjoyable

It is important for the team leader to set up meetings in an effective and efficient way. Tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Skype enable easy video conferencing and screen sharing and can be used for both audio-only calls and video-only calls. However, while technology enables effective meetings, it is how they are organised and managed that makes them effective and enjoyable. Tips here include to:

10. Don’t micromanage

One of the key reasons why micromanagement is such a widespread problem in remote teams is that it’s difficult to keep track of what employees are doing. Leaders might be able to see work in real-time, but they won’t always be able to tell if employees are doing an excellent job or not.

To avoid micromanaging, leaders must set clear expectations with their team, and make sure they are providing the tools needed to succeed ─ like feedback loops, metrics, and visibility into their work.

11. Lead with empathy

Leaders must put themselves in the shoes of their team members and understand what they might be going through. They must also take time to listen and learn from their team members’ perspectives before making decisions. It is crucial to ensure that team members feel fulfilled by their work and that leaders understand how team members feel when they are struggling, what they need, and how they can help their employees succeed in their work.

Are your leaders and managers leading their remote teams effectively? Are your once high-performing teams struggling in the remote work environment?

Complete the Personal Values Assessment to get a comprehensive insight into your organisational culture and the qualities that will help your team leaders and managers when building and leading high-performing remote teams.

3 Critical Success Factors for Cross-Cultural Teams

Supporting your cross-cultural teams to achieve better results

The experience of the pandemic and the resulting, accelerated digital transformation has catapulted our ability to work virtually which has, for many, unlocked the opportunity of teamworking beyond boundaries. This has been a critical opportunity to capture diversity of skills, knowledge and thinking to support research and development within organisations. Many organisations, of course, have been working this way, particularly in heavily matrixed structures for many years. It is true in both situations that the opportunity to harness cross-cultural talent presents some critical success factors which leaders and organisations must consider to ensure cross-cultural working success.

Creating the conditions for successful collaboration.

Common ground must be established through setting of expectations and some norms for behaviours. Purpose and process should be agreed early on so that all team members are aligned and engaged to the vision and desired outcomes for the team. Values inform behaviours and are a great foundation on which to build consensus for behaviours as the team proceeds. Trust and respect are equally important, and time spent on building the conditions for this to happen is well spent. Teams can work together to identify each other’s strengths as well as their roles and expected contribution to the team; Primeast employ several tools to support this process and guide teams through the process of extracting insights from the completed assessments. The power of unlocking this awareness can be measured directly in the results and experience of the team as they achieve their desired goals.

Understanding, awareness, and empathy

Cultural intelligence (CQ) is critical to bridge cultural gaps that may prohibit successful teamworking and is one of the essential ‘human skills’ that must be developed to unlock cross-cultural teamworking. Cultural understanding and an appreciation of the other’s perspective and different ways of working encourages a shared sense of responsibility and recognition when activities are completed and progress is observed and measured. It removes the potential for misunderstanding, conflict and barriers to communication and allows the whole team to benefit from different backgrounds and perspectives.

This embracing of diversity of thinking reduces the incidences of confusion which cause unwelcome distractions that are contrary to the team’s success. Team members will also benefit from the learning and teaching that occurs when a culture of cultural intelligence is established. Primeast employ several tools which support the promotion of cultural understanding and appreciation of different perspectives including Globe Smart, DiSC and EQi to name a few and not including bespoke assessments and activities we create for clients. When designing a cross-cultural teamworking programme we identify the true, sometime hidden barriers and select the best tool to achieve the desired result. Team building activities will help individuals bond with each other and are often an important element in cross-cultural team development.

Communication is everything

Leaders and participants of cross-cultural teams must master the nuances of communication and expression and encourage empathy and understanding for diverse communication styles. When working virtually it is important to be mindful of the mode of communication and to ensure the best method of delivery or communication is selected for the message, purpose and audience. There are a range of tools and frameworks which can be adopted to help find common ground with communication.

Listening is also important when it comes to sharing information and understanding (read more in our article on generative listening)- checking back and mirroring are simple-to-adopt techniques to ensure everyone is clear about the intention and message. Questions can help team members dig deeper to ensure they appreciate the various perspectives which might be influencing the communication style. Be curious and dig deeper – you’ll be surprised what you will uncover. Be clear about how team members can express and contribute when working together or in meetings and make sure voices are heard and valued.

Primeast has been working with organisations for over 30 years helping to develop high performing cross-cultural teams. Our facilitators are highly experienced at providing the conditions for teams to begin to understand the strengths and differences they can harness to improve communication, productivity, and results. With supporting coaching, we have created sustained change in performance which has proven to have a significant impact on the business.

You can read more about one such programme we created for a leading pharmaceutical company seeking to unlock the potential of cross-cultural, multi-disciplined matrix teams responsible for working together as part of the clinical trials process. The results were incredibly powerful, reducing timelines by up to 14 days which, if you consider the cost of 1 day’s clinical trial project, the impact was significant.

How to resolve cross-cultural misunderstandings before they arise

With businesses becoming increasingly internationalized, and in-house and extended teams increasingly multicultural, today’s managers are faced with a conundrum that did not fall on their predecessors: how to communicate effectively across cultures.

In order for businesses to remain effective and competitive, leaders need to engage their employees rather than inform and instruct. There are challenges in doing this: communication contexts differ across cultures. Managers who get it wrong are left to resolve cross-cultural misunderstandings. Often, this can be damaging to the organisation’s internal and external reputation.

In the worst cases, the inability to resolve cross-cultural misunderstandings can decimate promising businesses and mergers. Think DaimlerChrysler (a merger that was called a ‘merger of equals’ when it was conceived, a fiasco a few years later) or AOL and Time Warner (with the AOL-Time Warner share price down from $72 in 2000 to $15 in 2008), and you’ll realize the damage that cross-cultural differences can cause if left unresolved.

In this post I study a five-step strategy to avoid the need to resolve cross-cultural misunderstandings by preparing for them first.

1.     Understand the communication style of different cultures

People from different cultures communicate differently.

Some, like the United States, Australia and the UK, are more direct. Communication is precise and open, and more emotional. This is called ‘low-context’ culture.

Others, especially Chinese, Japanese and Indian, are subtler. Meanings are often not explicitly stated, but instead implied within information provided. This is called ‘high-context’ culture.

Some cultures communicate calmly, basing discussion wholly on facts and acting decisively (linear-active). Others are courteous, good listeners, and amiable (reactive). A third type of culture is warm and emotional (multi-active).

By understanding these differences, you will be able to temper your communication style accordingly and be more effective in cross-cultural teams.

2.     Understand that there will be differences in cultural value

Every culture has different values. These may develop over time. For example, the class-based society that was prevalent in the United Kingdom for many hundreds of years has largely been expunged. In India, the caste system is still very much alive despite being outlawed.

Geert Hofstede identifies five dimensions of cultural perspectives:

As an example of the above, power distance is the dimension that describes India’s caste culture – the acceptance of inequality between different people:

By understanding how different cultures ‘operate’ within these five dimensions, you will be able to bridge the gap that exists between your cultural dimension and that of your employees or customers.

3.     Develop effective communication style

When you understand these cultural differences, you can develop your communication style to avoid the need to resolve cross-cultural misunderstandings. This ability interlinks seamlessly with high-level emotional intelligence. You’ll become more tolerant of ambiguity, be more flexible toward different cultures, and less certain that your culture is right in all circumstances and situations.

Developing communication skills such as openness and agreeability will help to build respect for you as a leader and engender effective communication. Request and expect feedback to help develop your cross-cultural communication capabilities. By appreciating cultural differences you’ll avoid cross-cultural misunderstandings, which can ruin promising relationships.

4.     Avoid becoming frustrated

It is natural to expect others to behave in line with our own cultural norms. Should this not be the case, instinct is to reject it. Managers and leaders should not show such frustration toward behaviour dictated by different cultural values, though this is incredibly difficult to do.

The way to combat this is to open up to cultural differences. Instead of acting with prejudice, seek to learn more by asking about the values that dictate certain behaviours. This should help you resolve differences in a more understanding and cooperative environment.

5.     Employ appropriate motivations

Motivational techniques and incentives are often dictated by organisational culture, and this is often highly linked to where the organisation was founded or is currently headquartered. Companies often employ a single incentive scheme, with recognition and reward uniform across all their geographical locations. These are often made without regard for cultural differences within teams, also.

When expanding to other geographical locations, employing a cross-cultural team, or seeking to benefit from talent via remote employment, it is possible that your current incentive scheme and motivational techniques lead to a reduction in productivity and effectiveness of your employees where cultural differences exist.

It should be noted that such cultural differences can exist happily within communities of workers. For example, while one person may be motivated by being offered more autonomy, another may reject the freedom as they expect their supervisor or manager to be responsible for the task being done.

Understand how people react and interact, and how you do

Natural reactions are, in large part, attributable to cultural upbringing. By understanding this, a leader is better able to employ the right person for individual cultural diversity and customize the approach to policies and procedures.

However, this is not enough for a leader to supercharge his or her culturally diverse team. It is also necessary to understand how you react and behave, and to what extent these behaviours are dictated by your cultural background. By having such understanding of self, you will be able to be more empathetic toward others in a multicultural team by adapting your leadership style to integrate different cultures.

To find out more

Contact Primeast today to discuss our Management Development Series, including our Energy Leadership Program, which helps develop high-performing managers into inspirational leaders.

Teamwork Lies at the Heart of a Successful Matrix Structure

For many years, large-scale businesses have been turning to the often criticised corporate matrix structure to help to break down silos, create flexibility and ensure resources are used as effectively as possible. However, without a commitment to building strong teams that are capable of engaging with stakeholders across all departments, the structure simply will not work.

What is a matrix structure?

In its simplest form, a matrix organisational structure provides a mix of self-contained units and lateral teams. This model helps to provide greater flexibility in terms of chains of command, while at the same time ensuring staff are able to develop their skills across multiple disciplines.

It means that in practice, individuals within a team may have more than one boss, with differing levels of influence depending upon their position within the business. Examples of this can be found in many large and multinational organisations, which often operate at local, regional, national and international levels. As such, while individual team members will often report to a direct manager, there are multiple lines of communication between all members of staff that mean collaboration is key to the fulfilment of even the most basic of work functions.

Due to the global nature of many large corporations, this form of multi-line management allows for a more coordinated approach to the delivery of large-scale projects, many of which will make use of skills from separate departments.

However, one of the difficulties with this management structure can be in ensuring staff do not become insular and see their role purely within the realm of the function which makes up the mainstay of their job. This can result in the formation of unwanted silos, as individuals fail to see the benefits of working outside of their preferred function, hindering the ability of teams to deliver on their goals.

It also means that the role of the manager can become blurred, leading to less effective leadership, as individuals do not feel they have full control over all aspects of their team – something that may be alien to many corporate leaders that are used to a more traditional, vertical approach to team integration and design.

Herman Vantrappen, managing director of strategic advisory firm Akordeon, and Frederic Wirtz, head of organisation advisory business The Little Group, wrote in an article for Harvard Business Review that the key to a successful matrix is to clearly define the structure from the outset and ensure these systems are only used when they are the best way to achieve overarching business aims.

A sparing use of the matrix structure can therefore often be far more beneficial to achieving these goals than a blanket rollout across the board. For example, Vantrappen and Wirtz describe the situation of a regional finance manager who must coordinate closely with subsidiaries in many different countries. In this case, it would be sensible to place this individual in a matrix managerial role, with multiple lines of reporting that ensure there is a single point of contact for all. This helps to make the disparate team members into a cohesive unit and ensures everyone is working to achieve the same purpose.

The role of teams in matrix organisations

The ability of individuals from both different teams and different disciplines within a business to operate as a cohesive whole plays an important role in determining how successful a matrix structure will be.

To achieve positive results, all team members must operate with the same purpose, otherwise conflicts will arise and overall productivity will be lost. Creating solid lines of communication is also important to ensure all staff are on the same page and feel comfortable discussing issues that would otherwise lead to conflict.

In Patrick Lencioni’s book ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’, he sets out some of the significant stumbling blocks that corporations need to overcome in order to foster a stronger collaborative ethic, many of which will be a factor in ensuring teamwork is not diminished through potentially blurred lines of command.

He states that the fundamental issues that impact effective team building within an organisation include:

Each of these obstacles must be overcome if teamwork is to be bolstered and a true matrix structure is to deliver real and lasting benefits for a business.

Creating strong teams

According to Bruce Tuckman’s 1965 team-development model ‘Forming Storming Norming Performing’, the development of a strong team that is able to deliver on its promise does not take place overnight; it takes a period of effort to adapt to change and to then begin performing at the team’s maximum potential.

Each stage of the process throws up a new set of problems that teams must overcome in order to move forward. At first, during the ‘forming’ stage, teams will generally suffer from several of the key dysfunctions as highlighted in Lencioni’s work – a situation which, in turn, will result in the ‘storming’ stage, as these issues are brought to a head and resolved.

Once teams have been established for a long enough time to have overcome these initial difficulties, they will then enter the ‘norming’ stage, which often leads to a general ramping up of output, productivity and stability as a cohesive unit.

Finally, when well-established teams are supported correctly and all members are working towards the same purpose and goals, this results in entry to the ‘performing’ stage – a situation where all are working as one and the best results are likely to be seen.

However, any disruption to the structure of a team – such as through the creation of multiple chains of command that are not all acting with a single purpose – can reset this process, pushing back the ability of individual team members to work to their full. A strong team ethos and a clear understanding of overarching goals is therefore imperative when planning the rollout of a matrix structure.

Managers should bear in mind the attributes of staff when determining who will work best within a matrix setup, as not all individuals are ideally suited to working in this manner. Business leaders should take into account the current culture within existing silos and hand-pick those individuals that demonstrate the core key skills of strong communication, leadership and an ability to act effectively both within the team setting and autonomously when required as being the best fit for this management style.

As a result, there can be no no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a successful matrix, instead there needs to be a thoughtful use of this practice to deliver positive gains in areas where a collaborative approach to business functionality is essential to securing good results.

By embracing the lessons of starting small, only implementing these structures when they provide a clear organisational benefit and committing to ensuring individuals with the best fit are drafted into this model, companies could see clear and lasting benefits from the uptake of a matrix structure.

To find out more, read ‘Building Trust in Teams’ and view our Scaling Talent ‘Improving Team Performance’ modules