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Building Teams Across Borders

Global teams are probably one of the toughest games around, with little chance to succeed. And if you’re really honest about it, you’d confess that it’s astounding when intercultural teams have any success at all. Luckily, they do. And the credit, in no small measure, goes to the managers — both HR and line — who realize what a complex task awaits the global team. They improve the odds by providing tools to help team members make their groups work.

Global teams come in various configurations. Generally, they fall into one of two categories: intercultural teams, in which people from different cultures meet face-to-face to work on a project, and virtual global teams, in which individuals remain in their separate locations around the world and conduct meetings via different forms of technology. Obviously, both kinds are fraught with enormous challenges.

Given the communications and cultural obstacles, what do companies gain from these units? Cross cultural team building help global companies, preventing them from needing to reinvent the game with each new project. They enable organizations to realize 24-hour productivity via the latest in technology. They allow cross-pollination between cultures as well as business units, adding depth of knowledge and experience to the endeavor.

But effective global teams are not simple to create or maintain. With myriad challenges — from time and space logistics, to cultural assumptions that no one articulates because each individual believes them to be so universal — teams must continually overcome considerable obstacles. While you may be eager to capitalize on the expertise of individuals from around the world, and even have the technology to do so, it’s important to remember that global teams must master the basics, understand the rules, and learn to harness both cultural and functional group diversity and become adroit at communication and leadership.

Mastering the basics and understanding the rules People need some understanding of what a team are — the variations of the team’s work and the variety of cultures that are on it, ways to communicate effectively, and how to work with distributed leadership so that everyone on the team has leadership roles.”

Covering the basics means ensuring everyone associated with the venture appreciates the difficulties involved with participating in a global team. There should be solid business reasons for forming one. And it’s important that team members and associated managers understand the following considerations:

The team champion should have the mandate to choose the people with the right skills for the job. ??? The team should have measurable goals that participants have had the opportunity to discuss and agree with. ??? Meetings must have clearly established objectives and predetermined agendas. ??? Team members must make time to discuss the lines of communication. What methods will members use to communicate? Does everyone have equal access to the communication? ??? Participants should recognize the role of language difficulties and manner of speaking in cross-border teams. For example, individuals from various English-speaking countries will speak in different dialects that may be troublesome for some members. Allow time for group members to acclimate to each other. ??? Members must realize that people need to understand each other’s differences before they can effectively come together as a group. Teambuilding sessions and cross-cultural training can help with this.

Of course there’s a lot more to creating a team than a simple list of do’s and don’ts. Clear expectations, defined responsibilities and an appreciation of workplace cultural diversity training are among the basics to be accomplished by each team at the outset. Every member must know and comprehend the business objectives, understand the timetables and agree to follow a set of team rules. These are basic elements to success, but they require time and careful consideration if the team is going to consent and abide by them.