Understanding the people you work with at a cultural level is essential to being productive. But what does that really mean? Let me rephrase: understanding your teammates’ workplace values and work styles, which stem from being part of a larger culture, are the keys to learning how to effectively work across cultures and inclusively collaborate. And, if you’re dealing with virtual team members that you can’t see, you have even more cause to investigate their work styles.
Gaps in Workstyles Can Make Working Across Cultures Difficult
Since everyone has different workplace values and work styles, productivity and effective teamwork can be a challenge—especially when working across cultures. Our workplace values tend to differ based on the 8 Dimensions of Culture. For example, the Hierarchy dimension can affect a team member’s likelihood to actively provide input at a meeting. Here’s a hypothetical scenario to illustrate how Hierarchy can affect work styles:
You work on a very Egalitarian team, in which all members feel comfortable speaking up during important decision-making meetings. Your new colleague, Marcos, seemed like the perfect fit. But your team has noticed a pattern: Marcos consistently chooses to remain silent in discussions where the boss is vocal, but speaks to you in private to discuss concerns after the meeting. This seemed like a problem until you realized that Marcos is more Hierarchical than the rest of your team. By nature, Hierarchical people tend to feel less comfortable openly disagreeing with managers or leaders during meetings.
You can learn more about how the 8 Dimensions of Culture can affect work styles here.
The Importance of Conducting a Team Gap Analysis
Recognizing and analyzing cultural gaps or differences, as described in the example above, can help diverse teams move towards a high-performing state of affairs and work effectively across cultures. Of course, you can do this with your own eyes and ears, but we’ve developed a tool to create a team profile that makes this job easier and more precise.
Our new Culture Calculator Suite includes a team mode that allows you to compare yourself with your team members across the 8 Dimensions of Culture. Creating your team’s cultural profile is the first step. From there, you can read through the team gap analysis which will bear further tips for how to integrate your team’s cultural differences. It will also provide discussion questions to help you create your own unique guidelines for high performance, based on the diverse styles of your entire team.
Here is an example: You are the manager of a team of software developers. One team member, Priti, is an excellent worker, but many of her colleagues have interpreted her feedback as forceful and curt, sometimes causing tension within the team. The Culture Calculator’s team mode reveals that Priti is clearly an outlier in her team’s cultural profile, showing to be the most Direct on the Communication Dimension of Culture (see screenshot below).
The rest of the team is relatively Indirect, and you now understand why so many team members have interpreted her feedback style as overly aggressive. You now have the opportunity to discuss the cultural gap. Through conversation, you can raise awareness and explain the differences in communication style to the whole team. In addition, you might also be able to provide some coaching to Priti to help her develop a more flexible feedback style, and to be a bit more Indirect with people who may react better to a more diplomatic delivery. Why? This small adjustment will likely keep other team members’ morale high by treating them in the way they would like to be treated.
Summing it Up
We know that the best-performing and worst-performing teams all tend to be multicultural. What sets apart the best teams from the rest is a heightened awareness and appreciation for what makes each member unique, where they have things in common, and how to bridge any differences that would otherwise present a stumbling block.
Tools like the Culture Calculator and its team gap analysis can equip you and your team members with key knowledge of people’s values and styles. Then, you and your team members can create a wide range of guidelines, norms and other standards of interaction that honor the team’s diversity while finding ways to “meet in the middle”—ultimately increasing your ability to work effectively across cultures.
How have you found ways to move the needle for performance on your global, virtual or otherwise diverse teams?