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5 Tips For Managing Culturally Diverse Teams

5 Tips for Managing Culturally Diverse Teams

A good manager explains what he expects from his employees.

A good international manager adjusts his expectations to his employees’ values and beliefs, based on the culture each individual comes from.

Every worker, in any place or culture, is more productive in an atmosphere of acknowledgement and encouragement than in a critical environment. That’s one reason why a savvy manager lets his workers know what they did right and praises them for it.

But now that culturally mixed employees are common throughout the world, managers also need to understand the different personal and professional worldviews, assumptions and motivations among their workers in order to create a work environment that leads to business success.

In order to understand how to best manage diverse teams, I conducted a survey over the past few months among dozens of employees from Israel, China, England, Germany and the United States who work in international companies. I asked about their expectations from their management teams around the globe. Although many of those expectations vary due to a wide discrepancy in attitudes from one company to another, here are some general examples of cross-cultural expectations and small nuances that it may be helpful to be aware of when working with employees from different origins.

What do employees expect from their management team?

  • Israeli employees look for empowerment. They require a reasonable amount of freedom and trust from their managers in order to thrive at their jobs.
  • Americans, British and Germans look for clear directions on what is expected. They may have trouble functioning and become stressed without explicit guidelines.
  • All employees seek recognition of their work, but it is highly important to Chinese employees that such recognition include respect, support and mentorship. In China the company hierarchy is strongly significant, so the Chinese employee does not expect his manager to be one of the team, but rather a decision-maker and role model.

Intercultural difficulty arises mainly in cases of criticism, and when basic understanding of expectations between manager and employee is lacking. So here are five tips for effective management in global organizations when you are leading a diverse staff:

  1. Focus on results, not actions or personalities. There’s just a problem or challenge that has to be dealt with; no one is to blame.
  2. Notice what your employees are doing and listen to what they say (even when most of your communication is over the phone or video conferencing).
  3. Listen impartially and let the other person explain their reasons for doing things a certain way. You’ll learn a lot more that way than by automatically critiquing them or imposing your approach without respectfully hearing them out first.
  4. Hold personal discussions with the workers – this will empower the Israeli employee, give the sought-after specific tools to the American, British or German employee, and give you an opportunity to serve as mentor and role model for the Chinese employee.
  5. Don’t criticize an employee of any culture in front of his colleagues. Conduct any such conversation in private and, ideally, in person.

In a diverse team of people from different cultures, it’s of paramount importance to learn about those cultures, keep an open mind and be empathetic. That seems to be the optimal way to forge an inclusive, mutually supportive team that benefits fantastically from all its individual members while meeting their needs and expectations.

For those of you who work in global companies around the world and are willing to share your own expectations of your management team, I would be happy to hear from you in the comments below, in a private message or by email to osnat@olm-consulting.com.

For more information about my Amazon bestselling book, Israeli Business Culture, or other information, please browse my website www.olm-consulting.com.

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