How to Resolve the Differences if You are a Team Manager in a Multinational Company

The way teams work is changing. More and more companies are expanding to other countries and creating a multinational community.

However, this globalization of works is creating issues in team cooperation. Some believe that these differences are good – that they create teams without the group thinking. And truly, it’s easier to see our differences than learning how to overcome them and work towards a common goal.

But working with people you can’t see, who think differently, feel differently and have different perceptions of this world can make even the simplest tasks difficult.

The new, globalized market thus requires new skills in project team managers. Of all the values of a good leader are:

  • Vision.
  • Action.
  • Impact.
  • Connection.
  • Drive.

Connection is the most important one when working with multinational teams and managing distributed teams. This means that the leader needs to build a strong and sturdy relationship with his/her team members. As a leader, a project manager can set a good example and show the team how to work together not in spite of but with their differences.

How to resolve differences in a multinational company

Understand the cultural differences

The first thing every leader needs to do is learn about and understand the cultural differences between their team members. As cultures developed isolated from each other for a long time in the past, they developed their own way of thinking and especially doing business.

Even with globalization that has been present in the last decades, each culture still holds their values high and demands that they are respected.

Individual team members may not display this immediately but these values are deeply embedded within each individual.

You need to study these different values, especially in the following.

  • Work etiquette.
  • Hierarchy.
  • Communication.

For instance, an Asian team member will value punctuality, team development and will likely be unassertive and calm. A person from Mexico, Italy or France will likely be late, loud, and casual in communication.

“Asian countries also highly value hierarchy in business but Scandinavians have a flat and casual organizational structure. An American will likely address everyone by their first name but an Asian employee would prefer formal communication”, – says Gordon Moore, an Internal Communicator from OriginWritings and 1Day2write.

These are not the only differences cultures have – they are just scratching the surface. But from them, you can easily see how various issues can come up in multinational teams.

That’s why any good leader has to explore the culture of his/her team members before moving on to the next step.

How to resolve differences in a multinational company

Adjust the communication

After you have successfully learned the nuances in communication of different cultures, it’s time to adjust your communication with them appropriately. Understanding how individuals think and make their decisions is one of the most powerful tools that you as a multinational leader can have. With this knowledge, you can manipulate them into doing exactly what you need them to do.

Even though this sounds like a bad thing, it really isn’t.

For instance, if you approached an Asian executive with a loud voice and assertive demeanor, demanding something – as an American would – you wouldn’t get very far. However, if you approach them calmly, with respect to their status, asking for advice and feedback, he would quickly respond to your wishes. It’s a matter of tact and how much of it is required in different cultures.

Learn how to best approach each team member in order to get the best response from them.

Build trust

When you are a team leader, building trust should be one of your main concerns.

If your team members feel like you don’t care about them, they will likely not trust you. If you think that they don’t care, you will not trust them.

In Asian countries, trust starts with character and personal trust but in Western countries, trust starts with competence and professional trust.

This is another step where you have to implement adjusting to different cultures. But even more importantly, you have to show your team members that you care about them and their input matters to you. Considering and discussing their personal and professional well-being is a good idea.

How to resolve differences in a multinational company

Unify under a corporate culture

Understanding and respecting different cultures is important but the next step in your team strategy should be to unify them under a corporate culture. No matter how different your team members are, your company should unite them under the same goal and mission.

But it also goes beyond that.

For instance, your company could host annual parties where they would reward the best teams, team members, team leaders, and so on. The point is to make them feel like a part of a community, no matter where they are and how they think.

Allow the team to get to know each other

Every team needs to practice in order to work seamlessly. This is where most companies get it wrong. They put the teams together and expect to see optimal results right away. However, this can’t happen unless those individuals are familiar with each other.

Give them time to talk to each other, understand their roles, and establish solid contact before the work starts.

“The team members should have at least some personal relationships with each other, you should entice them to share their honest opinion on various issues, showcase every team member’s skill and expertise, and finally create a separate culture for that specific team.” – says Andrew Davies, an HR manager from Writemyx.

How to resolve differences in a multinational company

Over to you

Leading a team composed of individuals from different countries is a difficult task which requires a lot of planning and diplomacy. To better understand each member of your team, do thorough research of their countries, customs and culture – pay the most attention to business behavior. Adjust your communication to make it suitable but also focus on unifying your team under similar beliefs and goals of your company. You can do this by building trust among your team members and allowing them to feel like a part of the community.

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