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Difficult or Different? Increasing productivity by understanding each other better

It can be both challenging and highly rewarding working

with colleagues in the same office in the UK.

Leading highly productive, global teams working in different countries, across different time zones, with a mix of office and home based can be .………?

Personality and behavioural profiles are in abundance and many of us are able to understand our self and our colleagues so much better as a result. When we’re based in the same office, we recognise our similarities and our differences from our accents, from what we wear and how we react. But when it comes to cultural differences, how comfortable are we at exploring our differences to fully understand each other, without fear of offending?

I was recently asked to design and deliver a webinar: Leading Virtual Global Teams. Leadership development in this area lacks attention and investment. Yet the benefits from a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation. So where do you start? Here is a gem that I discovered and it received a hugely positive response from my clients.

The Culture Map© by Erin Meyer

The Culture Map© by Erin Meyer provides an overview of how we differ in our behaviours and our responses. It is based on years of research and experience and provides us with an insight into the extent of our differences.

Take for example some common tensions:

How we communicate (Communicating - 1). In Germany communication is precise, simple and clear. It is taken at face value and repetition is appreciated to aid clarification. In Japan and China messages are both spoken and read between the line, in nuances, implied but not plainly expressed. The differences can be described as a couple first getting to know each other (those on the left of the map) to a couple who have been together for many years and can communicate just by looking at the other person (those on the right)

How we make decisions (Deciding – 5) A colleague in Japan will take time, liaising with and obtaining input from others to achieve a consensus. Whereas a colleague in China will act on a decision from one other, usually the boss.

Building Trust (Trusting – 6) Germans trust business related activities, our expertise and credentials. Chinese develop trust over a period of time in a social, relationship context.

How we plan and achieve deadlines (Scheduling - 8). Consider someone from Germany (on left) working on a project with a colleague from China (on right). The German preference is to schedule the project, focus on and achieve deadlines, one at a time in an organised manner. The Chinese preference is much more flexible, exploring opportunities as they arise, adapting and flexing as they progress.

Developing highly productive, multi-cultural teams

How often do you hear someone referring to a colleague as “difficult”?

How do we change our own reaction from one that considers another person as difficult to a response that encourages us to understand our differences?

As Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says: “To be understood, seek first to understand.” The Culture Map© enables you to achieve this. For a small fee, you can build your own Culture Map©

The Culture Map© provides you with a general picture and we know from our own experiences, how much we differ in the UK. By completing the Self Assessment Questionnaire you can explore how your behaviours and responses compare to the norm in your country. My results indicate that I respond to the left of the UK norm.

The Country Mapping tool allows you to map up to five countries to explore their similarities and differences. Both maps can be used as follows:

Team facilitation: by completing both maps, provide an opportunity where you can collectively share and explore the results face to face to understand your similarities and differences. Asking the questions “help me understand….” is a great starting point. Agree how you individually and collectively need to adapt to increase productivity.

As a leader: use the maps to have in depth one to one conversations with each of your team members. Explore the similarities and differences. Discuss what works week and surface the tensions. Set clear expectations by agreeing specific objectives and a personal development plan as appropriate. Consciously adapt your style for each culture.

Induction: when you introduce a new member into the team, include the maps in their induction and team integration.

Keen to explore further? Then please do contact us:

Further reading:

Erin Meyer: The Culture Map

HBR: Managing Across Cultures

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