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3 Stunningly Simple Tips to Create Trust in Cross-Cultural Teams


Culturally diverse teams are becoming more and more the norm as international businesses continue to hire in talent from around the globe.

Anyone who has worked in a multicultural team knows that this comes with challenges.

Getting a team to gel can be tricky within one culture; throw in more cultures and more differences and it is not hard to imagine the complexities that arise.

Demand for team-building training has spiked over the past 3-5 years for this very reason; businesses are working out that they can’t just throw people together from around the world and expect ‘professionalism’ to sort it all out.

These teams need managing.

Teams...it's all about trust

Trust is by far one of the biggest challenges facing cross-cultural teams, especially if they are fragmented and working across several locations.

For one, different cultures trust in different ways. So, what can be done to help culturally diverse teams build that necessary trust?

Well, here are some ideas for starters…

1: Understand Cultural Differences

One of the biggest mistakes a team leader or a team itself can make is believing that, ‘culture doesn’t matter’.

This is unhealthy and does not allow teams to dig into root causes of issues around hierarchy, communication or handling conflict. Once you remove ‘culture’ from the mix, you start heading down paths that lead to false conclusions that help nobody.

A team must develop their cultural awareness and understand the cultural differences between them. This helps people understand why the other acts as he/she does and raises awareness of one another’s preferences and cultural quirks.

Cross-cultural teams should be open and frank about how they like to work, their expectations of one another and of deeper motivations that drive them.

2: Create a Team Charter

It is important that right from the start all team members are aware of commonly agreed principles and best practices, sometimes captured in a team charter.

Teams need to set down guidelines covering roles, responsibilities and how they intend to work as a group. This can either come from a manager/leader or be left to the group to work out and agree upon.

This helps create a 3rd culture, i.e. a team culture that all must adapt to and embrace when working as part of the team, helping negate personal, national or cultural preferences.

A charter can cover everything from approach to time, levels of formality, sharing of information, communication and anything else deemed important in bridging gaps.

3: Build Personal Bonds

Although certain TV shows like to reinforce the “this is business, not personal” mantra, in the real-world business is totally personal until robots do our buying and selling anyway.

Especially within cross-cultural teams, where some members may be from much more collectivist cultures, it is vital to encourage team members to know each other as people rather than someone they work with.

This in itself is perhaps the most powerful tool there is in nurturing trust between people. Encouraging and setting-up spaces where people can mingle, talk, explore and express themselves fosters respect and creates awareness. Simple, but very effective.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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