Blogs for Culture Vultures

3 Simple Steps to Building a Culturally Competent Virtual Team

global-team-on-virtual-meeting

Working in global virtual teams can be tough.

It’s common for teams to face all sorts of challenges, whether different time zones or languages.

In a previous blog we looked at common ways virtual teams - if their cultural differences are left unmanaged – fail.

Whether it’s lack of engagement, poor leadership or just very different expectations around responsibility, there are several factors that can create a very challenging environment for a team.

However, this doesn’t mean teams can’t do anything about it.

So, in this blog we’re going to give you a really simple 3-step process to help you and overcome cultural differences and instead, build the cultural competence of the team.

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Wait, what’s ‘Cultural Competence’?

Good question. There is no strict definition; we define it as having the knowledge, experience and skills to work successfully with people from other cultures.

Here’s 10 other definitions if you want to read more, but they all kind of say the same thing.

Essentially, being culturally competent means you can navigate differences like a pro!

Becoming competent however is a bit of a journey and as a team you’ll have to go back to the same starting point.

The following steps will give you a framework and process to go through with the aim of creating a collaborative team culture.


Step 1: Raise Awareness

If a team is going to get beyond it’s differences, it has to first be AWARE of them.

The team should be brought together in some way to raise awareness of the challenges people are facing and some of the potential reasons why.

By exposing examples of cultural (or even personal) differences and having the team work on finding solutions instantly begins to build bridges.

It’s essential team members understand the foundation to any future success lies in respecting one another’s cultures.

Having the team run through some sort of SWOT analysis also helps members identify gaps that need plugging.

 

Step 2: Assign Clear Roles

Once the team is aware of differences then they should identify their STRENGTHS.

Which cultures or team members are best suited for what roles? Who has the best skill-set to complete different types of tasks? What sorts of projects do people like and dislike?

As a team, roles should be explicitly identified for everyone. Not only roles in terms of job titles and hierarchy, but roles on a cultural level. Who is the person with the energy to bring us together? Who is the detailed one in the team? Who can do the talking and who wants to be behind the scenes?

With clearer roles, lines of accountability and responsibility become easier to identify, helping the team reduce confusion and wasted time.

Confidence and Cultural Competence will grow in the team.

 

Step 3: Create a Third Culture

At this stage, it’s now time to come together and agree some sort of TEAM CHARTER.

This should capture the main agreements from the team-building exercise and establish the way the team wants to do things, i.e. the team culture.

This can be referred to as a ‘Third Culture”, independent of everyone else’s.

Whether it’s how people speak to one another, expectations around email response times or developing channels of communication to encourage engagement, get the team coming up with something they can both easily stick to and something that will make a difference.

Keep it simple – a 50-point team charter is not going to help. It will hinder.

Over time you will see these shared expectations come to define the team’s culture, values, vision and goals.


Learn more about working across cultures

We hope you find these steps useful!

If you want to explore the topic of working with different cultures, then we recommend you let the Culture Vulture show you around our resource pages.

We’ve got free culture guides, information on cross-cultural management, downloads and even free eLearning courses.


Professional training on working in virtual teams

If you are looking for customized training on working in global virtual teams, then this is what we do!

Have a look at our webinars on global virtual teams or if you are in a leadership position, our webinars on managing virtual teams.

One of our experts can design and deliver a course just for you and your team!


eLearning course on Cultural Competence

If you want to learn more about cultural competence, then our eLearning course is a great place to start.

It takes you through an overview of cultural differences, before looking in detail at time, communication and team-work.

Although it’s not specifically about virtual teams, it is still 100% relevant.

 

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