Leading An International Team

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leading an international team

Leading An International Team

Working in a cross-cultural environment can feel intimidating. Perhaps you are working with a group of people who are in a different part of the world you’ve never been to. Or, you’re working with folks speaking a language you just don’t understand. 

As a leader, you need to bring your team together so they can work towards a common goal. According to a recent study, 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as very important.

You can use many universal cross-cultural truths to help you feel more confident.

Below are four things to consider as you lead your international team.

1. We’re All Humans

The first thing to think about is remembering we’re all humans. Just like when you are meeting the CEO of your company, you need to remember everyone is a person, just like you.

Consider the following:

  • Trust Your Gut – You can trust your gut when it comes to interacting with people. And trust you know what to do. For example, let’s say you are in a meeting. During the meeting, you want to express an opinion but aren’t sure if it is the right time to do so. Take a moment to pause and think about it. If you still believe it is the right moment, go ahead and express your opinion. 
  • Mistakes – It is important to remember that mistakes will happen, because everyone is human. For example, if you make a mistake, acknowledge your mistake and find a way to make it right. In the same way, if someone else makes a mistake, give them the same grace you would expect. 

When working with people from different cultures, it is important to do your homework, and put your best foot forward. However, everyone is human, and remembering this will go a long way.



2. Show Appreciation

Showing appreciation regardless of your culture can go a long way. Even if you don’t know every custom or cultural nuance, when you show appreciation, no matter how small, you show the other person you value them and their culture.

Consider the following:

  • Please And Thank You – Saying please and thank you is one of the easiest ways to show appreciation. For example, you can say thank you when someone holds the door for you. Include please with any request you make. This can also be translated when working virtually. In your emails, or on a virtual call, including pleasantries is a great way to show your appreciation. leading an international team
  • Acknowledge Others – When you acknowledge the accomplishments of others, it shows you appreciate them. For example, if your colleague helped you on a project, make sure your boss knows they were a part of it. Or, if you are in a meeting talking about your project, you can thank your colleague in front of everyone. 

Showing appreciation is universal. When you show appreciation, you signal to the other person you care and value them and their time.


3. Speak Slowly

There is so much value in speaking slowly. This is especially true when you are working with people from all over the world. Speaking slowly so everybody can understand will go a long way. 

Consider the following:

  • Pace – Your pace is the speed at which you speak. When working with people from different parts of the world, you may want to listen to yourself talk and decide whether your pace is too fast. For example, if you are someone who increases the speed at which you speak when you are excited, remember to slow down and take a few breaths. This will ensure everyone can understand what you are saying. leading an international team
  • Enunciation – As you speak, you want to think about your enunciation. In other words, how are you pronouncing words, and are they easily understood? For example, the way someone from New York City says the word orange will be different than someone from South Carolina. When speaking with people from all over the world, work at enunciating in a way everyone can understand.

You want to ensure everyone can understand you, and that your message is being received the way you intended. Making sure you have an even pace with strong pronunciation will help you accomplish this.


4. Be Open-Ended

Being open-ended in your questions is a great way to maintain a dialogue with someone. Instead of sticking to yes or no questions and answers, being open-ended will help you foster an environment where conversations flow freely.

Consider the following:

  • Interests – One way to keep questions open-ended is to pay attention to what others are interested in. For example, if you notice someone is a fan of a particular sports team, you can ask about the sports team. Remember, to keep the question open-ended. Don’t say, “Do you like the Yankees?” This question isn’t open-ended. Instead, you can say, “Who is your favorite player for the Yankees?” This question is open-ended and can lead to further conversation.
  • Food – Food can be a universal topic of conversation. And this is especially true if you are creating a dialogue between you and someone from another culture. Most people are happy to talk about food, which isn’t a hot topic. For example, you can ask about their favorite dishes. 
  • Follow up – Ensure you always follow up with a question to keep the conversation going. For example, if you asked your colleague what their favorite dish is, they said Pizza. You can then follow up and ask them what toppings they like, or you can ask what their favorite pizza place is. 

Fostering an environment where conversations flow freely, will help you lead an international team.

Think about these things and how they can help you feel more confident the next time you walk into a global meeting.


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