Author: Warwick Abbott
Global Working in demanding times
For many years global corporations have been navigating the variety of needs associated with working remotely with colleagues located internationally with differing cultures and ways of working. As anyone who has worked in, or led, cross-cultural teams can testify, many teams can experience performance cycles. For successful teamworking, whether that's in a global team, cross-cultural team, matrix, remote or hybrid working, it is important that teams set out with a clear purpose and vision, that all members have a clear understanding of processes and expectations and then, most importantly, they are given the time and space to develop the skills to be able to communicate, interact and work with diverse personalities from different cultures effectively.
Many will have observed that it is very common for both positive and negative patterns, trends and behaviours to become established in remote and global teams. When team memberships change and time passes it can often be the case that many teams continue without investing the time to develop understanding and awareness of team strengths, differences, and preferences. It is important to ensure teams are clear on the contribution and strengths of each team member while appreciating different working styles because this is a contributing factor towards building trust and respect in teams and developing a culture of psychological safety which enables people to perform to the best of their ability. The opportunities that working in remote, cross-cultural teams presents, are not static so the behaviours and assumptions also need to flex and be redefined. If time is not invested into the mechanics, dimensions and skills required for successful cross-cultural teamworking, many teams will begin to experience frustrations and conflict, whether overt or restrained and invisible.
The good news?
Investment into developing the skills and understanding of others pays dividends and will have a direct impact on team performance and results.
The opportunity of diversity of thinking
Engaging with personalities, cultures and differences adds richness, diversity, and challenge to our work life perspective and ensures we are making the most of the incredible talent in our organisations that might be located in multiple locations. Diversity of thinking is also the lifeblood of creativity and innovation thinking and is particularly fruitful when it comes to product or service development and R & D. However, when cross-cultural or global teams focus too much on the need for speed, outputs, and productivity they can miss the occasion to re-assess and check-in regarding how they can really embrace the differences and seek opportunities, or process and business improvements.
The nuances, understanding or skills necessary to deliver agility or embrace new ways of working like Hybrid or cross-cultural teamworking can often be missed or teams are not aware of the tools available to help them succeed. As human beings, we can adapt quickly and be successful in that moment, yet fatigue can soon set in, all of which has a direct impact on the team performance. The most effective way to re-energise is to allocate due care and attention to the skills, thinking and awareness which can unlock strengths and performance in teams. And if done experientially, through immersive development, the effects can be profound. This is our approach at Primeast; to integrate personalised learning providing insight into behaviours and mindset with the development of 'human skills' through experiential learning. Helping teams to create common understanding and awareness is critical to harnessing the the team's potential.
Take the opportunity to reset and establish healthy expectations.
Thankfully, any time is a good time for a re-set, and it is the leader’s responsibility to set the tone for change and establishing healthy expectations and then to empower the teams to take ownership of any agreed purpose, process, and behaviours. However, and this is critical; work must be done on helping people to communicate and interact with each other successfully.
We have all experienced over the course of the pandemic how many changes were just tolerated because we had no choice, yet as we emerge from those conditions with some new norms having been established, we must give due care and attention to our human skills which enable successful interaction to be able to deliver the next wave of productivity.
As we emerge into the new reality of having to accept and manage the continued risk and threat of future pandemics, we are now observing the diversity of response to the changes to ways of working being adopted – whether that is ongoing remote or cross-cultural working, hybrid working or a return to the office. As employees weigh up the considerable advantages and disadvantages to various ways of working, many have had to reconcile the potential conflict of business need vs personal preference. Most leaders will have observed in recent months the reality of these times that have tested us with the impact on energy and morale as we all adapt to a future that is shaped by uncertainty and ambiguity.
Balancing ‘survival’ with the greater purpose
We are operating in conflicting times with the need for safeguarding our own business and wellbeing and looking at contributing to wider social goals. In fact, when it comes to climate warming and the groundswell of coverage regarding the radical need for change, the UN are noticing a decline in action and responsiveness to this, possibly because of a return to ‘survival of self’ default as the reality of new ways of working starts to 'bite'. This is as true for hybrid or remote teams as much as matrix or cross-cultural global teams who might be experiencing extreme and complex teamworking situations which are affecting the ability to work effectively together.
Take the time to reset and re-engage
Whatever the teamworking structures, time, and space for reset and acknowledgement is critical, to establish continual improvements and recognise and value the contributions in a genuine way. Time that many might think they don't have time for because of the pressures of work. Yet can your leaders afford not to invest, with looming fatigue/burnout being reported?
working with organisations for over 30 years, we've seen the impact of investment into the human skills needed for successful teamworking both on the team performance and the individuals sense of achievement and personal success. And the even better news? Helping your teams re-set and develop the critical skills they need to be able to work together successfully will have a direct impact on your bottom-line. Many of the organisations we've worked with report this impact and the effect on creativity and innovation thinking.
Do you teams need a re-set?
Peel back the layers of some businesses and you will expose the fragility of how it is surviving, on personal tolerance and goodwill as this fatigue sets in. Uncover how people are really coping and feeling; you might not be surprised that they are feeling bombarded with so many differing needs and perspectives that even those you considered the most resilient might struggle at times.
When it comes to creating the conditions for any kind of successful teamworking, quality attention yields good return.
When designing teamworking workshops and programmes, Primeast applies a range of tools and approaches depending on the team’s requirement and particular challenge. These tools range from helping teams with understanding different work approaches, cultural preferences, communication styles, strengths, and values to providing skills and knowledge which unlocks trust and contribution, ensuring team members are empowered and equipped with the ability to become a high-performing team, wherever and however they work.