The other day I was talking to a colleague about an experience she was having with her team members over in Europe. She was struggling because while they were all strong professionals in their own right, they didn’t always see eye to eye on the tactical execution. It got me thinking about this amazing global marketplace so many of us are now working in and how often we overlook the cultural differences that can play a part when interacting across borders.
For me, I’ve now worked with several companies headquartered in Europe expanding a presence here in North America. In the early days I too was often frustrated by the constant disagreements in process but when I took a step back I began to see the value of having different opinions driven by our local influences. Culture can have a strong impact on how we do business, how we prioritize and how we interact.
Seems simple? Of course if you think about it, this makes sense, but how do you distinguish when these differences are just that, cultural influences. Personally, I have a few things I practice when working with a global team.
Take a step back from the issue at hand. We are all human and opinions are just that, opinions. But the delivery can be misinterpreted quite easily. When conflict arises, I take a 24-hour break from the issue. Usually I find after the “waiting period”, that the emotions settle down and alignments happen on their own.
Understand the local dynamics. I am just as guilty as the next person of thinking that the way “we do it here” is the right way. But remember, markets are different and best practices vary. I guarantee you will also find some useful practices that work in your own markets.
Have a dialogue. Email can be the biggest barrier to communication.Digital conversations can be misinterpreted so easily. Pick of the phone and have a live dialogue. While the digital workplace is one of the greatest innovations we much too often forget about the person behind the e-mail.
Feed on the energy. If you have the opportunity to work with many different cultures, enjoy the opportunity. You are getting a lesson that no amount of school could ever teach. Embrace it and ask questions. Learn more about your fellow colleagues and how they operate - it can be an exciting learning opportunity.
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