Cross-cultural teams - critical success factors | Learning & Development | Primeast

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.

  1. Creating the conditions for successful collaboration.
  2. 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.

  3. Understanding, awareness, and empathy
  4. 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.

  5. Communication is everything
  6. 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.

    To find out how we can help your teams get the results you need to grow your business, speak to a member of the team today.

    About the Author


    Warwick Abbott

    As a founding director of Primeast, Warwick has worked with organisations globally for over thirty years developing outstanding leaders and high-performing teams. He has supported cross-cultural teams, helping them to develop the both the hard skills and the 'human skills' needed to work in global teams successfully.

    Warwick is an expert facilitator and highly experienced at making the learning and development relevant and personal to each participant. He takes great care in guiding participants to change their thinking to enable them to be more productive, improve performance and achieve greater personal success.

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