Managing Across Cultures To all managers

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The purpose of this report is to provide you with an understanding of the techniques that can be used to maximise the performance of a cross-cultural team. There are many more ideas and way available, nevertheless, the ideas here are a start and will enable you to develop your expertise further. With a cross cultural and diverse team you will have a wide pool of skills with those in your team having a very different understanding of what you expect from them. With a proactive management approach you can maximise these benefits, including training, planning for and committing to diversity as a core strength. By preparing yourself and using the strategies in this report you will be able to achieve synergy, where the team is greater than the sum of the individuals.

Many managers - and team members - question their ability to manage diversity. When someone is different in looks, language, or actions, people may initially feel uncomfortable and wonder how to communicate. After all, the influences that make people behave and interrelate the way they do are complex, and someone unfamiliar with diversity may feel intimidated or confused. Incorporating training into the workplace, based on awareness and understanding of the issues will enable you to lay the foundation for the effective management of a diverse team.

Introduction

In today's society with cross-culture and diversity in the workplace, it is certain that your team will be diverse. It is the intention that you be made fully aware of how to manage the various cross-cultural and diverse differences.

This report will be providing you with information to enable you to understand:

the concept of diversity

how to communicate effectively

the consequences of failing to manage a cross culture and diverse team effectively

how to manage a cross culture and diverse team effectively

Your team member's commitment will depend on whether they are in the core inside circle or involved at a peripheral level. (Kao and NG, 1992) page 377

The key is engaging the member, whereby you will be able to maximise their productiveness. Many of the suggestions will originate from the Handbook by Harry etcc and Anastasia Bibikova and Vadim Kotelnikov, founder of the Ten3 Business e-Coach training material.

The concept of diversity

Diversity isn't just about how people look or where they come from, it's about differences, but not just differences in gender, race, or class. Diversity encompasses other differences as well - for example, in abilities or values and beliefs (Bibikova and Kotelnikov, 2010).

Some narrowly-focused definitions only refer to diversity in terms of basic personal characteristics. But a true understanding of diversity includes more subtle differences. After all, two people from completely different geographical locations may differ in terms of gender, race, or language, but may share the same beliefs. Alternatively, two similar people of the same gender and community - and even working in the same organization - can have very different beliefs and values (Bibikova and Kotelnikov, 2010).

Diversity encompasses all the ways in which people differ. Diversity can bring with it new and relevant approaches to work. Only when you move beyond simply thinking of it in terms of someone's cultural background can you reap the rewards diversity can bring.

Think about a great manager who's really motivated you in the past. What comes to mind? Many people describe such managers as fair, respectful, encouraging, objective, clear, and good listeners. The key in a diverse work environment is to be this way with everyone and not only with the team members whom you feel comfortable with. Managing a diverse team requires a commitment to demonstrate these kinds of attitudes and behaviours with everyone on the team.

The more you can really connect with each of your team members, the more you'll be able to create a highly productive environment. Once you've established your initial approach to managing diversity by building cross-cultural awareness in yourself and your team, you need to use different techniques to maintain the approach. One technique for managing a diverse team is to effective communication.

How to communicate effectively

Problems in communication can often be a result of cross-cultural issues. Diaz-guerrero has suggested that when people interact culture dictates the priorities in their conversation. Pg 341. There is a requirement to grasp cultural singularities in order for effective communication to be achieved (Bibikova and Kotelnikov, 2010).

Communicating inclusively is being careful that your language doesn't make anyone feel marginalised. All team members should feel comfortable and know their contributions matter. Listening is one of the most important communication skills. You must listen actively to what your team members have to say to be sure you understand what they're trying to communicate. You also have to be clear when you communicate. Especially in diverse environments, you need to check to make sure all team members understand you (Bibikova and Kotelnikov, 2010).

The example below illustrates how a simple hand gesture can be misinterpreted (Bibikova and Kotelnikov, 2010).

Difficulties in managing your team can arise with discrepancies between cultures. People from different cultural backgrounds have different understanding of what makes a good manager. They also will have different understandings of situations and appropriate behaviour (Shaw 1990, 380-381)

Your automatic response may not be seen as correct in the opinion of someone from another culture. (Shaw 1990, 380-381)

It is recommended that you allow yourself to be exposed to other cultures. (Shaw 1990, 380-381)

As a manager of a mature team you will have established a common ground of communication and a basis for mutual understanding. (Anderson, 381)

In such circumstances the cultural diversity will not be a hindrance to maximise the teams performance. (Graen and Wakabayasia, 1984, 381)

The consequences of failing to manage a cross culture and diverse team effectively

In the workplace, there are job demands that require a certain degree of conformity. Does that mean everyone should strive to become more similar, especially when they have to work together? Not at all, people can be very diverse and still find common ground (Bibikova and Kotelnikov, 2010).

Some cultures and particularly those in Asian countries, devalue work and associate physical labour to being in slavery. (Frans Maeh Sali |Desai, 374).

But more and more, people understand that all the various groups have a great deal to contribute, and can still retain and even celebrate their differences. This doesn't mean it's always easy to manage diversity effectively and if it's not managed well, diversity can actually decrease group cohesiveness, making it difficult for teams to benefit from their differences in perspective. A challenge for you is to encourage greater cohesion.

If diversity isn't managed well, differences can result in wide-ranging effects on a team:

social categorisation - in a process known as social categorisation, people may judge team members as "like me" - as part of an ingroup - or as "different from me" - as in an outgroup

poor communication - language differences that arise with diverse teams can result in poor communication that impedes understanding

conflict - team members may feel discomfort with differences, have attitudes based on stereotypes, or be biased against the unfamiliar, which can all lead to conflict (Bibikova and Kotelnikov, 2010).

Social categorisation and poor communication often lead to stereotyping. It's common, especially when a new team meets, for members to form opinions about each other based on what they see. They also form opinions on how they expect people to behave. But stereotypes are closed categories that leave no room for individual differences or exceptions, conflict can occur. When people hold preconceived ideas, they're resistant to ideas or individuals that challenge the stereotype and the person being stereotyped often resents being pigeonholed (Bibikova and Kotelnikov, 2010). This emphasises the need for businesses to manage their teams more effectively.

Managing a diverse team effectively

A team consisting of many cultures is not necessarily a recipe for disaster. (Anderson, 381)

Diversity helps to spark creativity, expand horizons, reveals new ways to approach the world, or grow a business. Without diversity in the workplace, companies run the risk of becoming mono cultural, with only one limited perspective. Effectively managing diversity goes beyond respecting the differences between people. It's about putting those differences to work in the best possible way for both the company and your team members

Managing diversity in the workplace is more than simple compliance with laws and regulations. Effective diversity management can address issues such as social categorisation, poor communication, and conflict, and create stronger, more cohesive teams.

You can reap several benefits from being able to manage diverse teams effectively:

encourage greater creativity - you'll be able to encourage the greater creativity that comes with a diverse team

develop high-quality solutions - you'll be able to harness the potential of diverse teams to make better-quality decisions and develop high-quality solutions

be a more effective leader - you'll be seen as a more effective leader who can direct and guide a cohesive team of diverse individuals

create job satisfaction for your team members - you'll create better job satisfaction for your team members, who will then be more motivated to work for you

A diverse team that's well managed - one that's comfortable communicating all the varying points of view - can be more creative. That same creativity can lead to better team decisions and solutions and resulting in a high performance team.

Conclusion

When you manage a diverse team well, you can inspire them to perform beyond their perceived potential. You'll be seen as a more effective and valued leader as you are able to communicate well with a diverse group of individuals. By showing your team that their needs and interests are important, you'll also create better job satisfaction for all. In turn, your team will be more motivated to achieve the results to enhance your position (Bibikova and Kotelnikov, 2010).

In a global business environment, it can be a challenge to manage a diverse team effectively. You need to be able to harness all your team members' potential to help them improve their performance. Not managing diverse teams effectively can lead to the problems of social categorisation, poor communication, and conflict and the result in loss productivity. There are many benefits to being able to manage a diverse team effectively. You'll be able to encourage greater creativity, come to better team decisions and solutions, be a more effective leader, and have a happier and more motivated team.

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