As a result of economic and workforce globalization, cross-functional and multicultural teams have become common working groups since the last few years. Working in multicultural teams can be a rewarding experience, providing executives the opportunity to work closely with professionals from diverse backgrounds and offering a chance for personal and professional advancement.
In order for the teams to be able to work effectively, executives have to be comfortable in working in both international and cross cultural environments. And this is why one of the primary talents leaders need today is the ability to bridge cultural differences.
Multicultural v/s cross-functional teams
Multicultural teams work for a common project goal and are made up of people from different social and professional cultures.
While on the contrary, A cross-functional team can be defined as a group of executives from different functions within a company, such as marketing, finance, research and development who are all focusing on a specific goal and have the responsibility to work as a team to achieve desired common targets.
It’s quite difficult to manage cross-functional teams, as it requires a complex skill and process. However, it becomes even more challenging when the multicultural component is also included.
Managing a team with people from different cultural backgrounds also comes with a number of challenges that need to be overcome to build a productive work environment.
Eliminating the cultural barriers
Managers need to be knowledgeable and open minded of different cultures to gain a better understanding of their subordinates, and to figure out ways to help them work together as a team.
Multicultural teams often ignite frustrating management dilemmas. However, the good news is that cultural conflicts and challenges can be managed if leaders and team members work with the right strategy and avoid imposing single-culture based approaches on multicultural situations.
Direct v/s indirect style of communication
Some cultures promote a more direct approach to addressing problems, while others prefer to adopt a relatively subtle approach. Allow people the chance to share their views, and as with any discussion, it is crucial to let the other person know you are listening and value their opinion. Try to be open minded in accepting logical conclusions. This can work in reducing the cultural differences.
Fostering the culturally correct decisions
It is quite often that multicultural teams are composed of employees who would rarely interact with one another otherwise. It is equally important to shape a cohesive and a constructive work environment for everyone involved, as it is to celebrate their individual cultures.
One of the ways through which management can ensure things are working better with multicultural teams is by creating focus groups. These groups can help in learning more about similar problems that are faced by employees. In scenarios if there isn’t an obvious solution to the highlighted issues, it’s more appropriate to ask for input on the best way to handle them, so that everyone can get a chance to share their views and ideas with the entire team.