Managing Performance in an International Environment

Nowadays, you can see employees coming from different cultures and backgrounds in almost all of the organizations. Similarly, the latest developments in technology and some other factors such as cheap manpower available in some countries have prompted business owners to launch their offshore offices as well.

Although, this phenomenon has enjoyed a massive success yet there are some problems these business owners have to deal with such as how to effectively manage performance across borders and cultures. Following is the summary of the webinar, “Managing Performance in an International Environment” by Bettina Pickering, a renowned Management Consultant that specifically deals with these issues

Building a Strong Multicultural Team:
It is never easy to build a strong multicultural team because everyone has his own style of working and he interprets things differently from others. Similarly, a thing that is very common for one person might be a taboo for other person back home. Therefore, there always exists a conflict of interest among people who create a multicultural team. For that matter, we need to understand what culture is before we talk about building a strong multicultural team.

What is Culture?
Different people define culture differently. As per Hofsteede, culture is “the software of mind or mental programming” whereas Social Anthropology defines culture as “common patterns of feeling, thinking or acting.”

  • Types of Culture:
    Following are some important types of culture prevailing in the world today.
  • National
  • Religion
  • Regional
  • Company
  • Department
  • Team
  • Project
  • Family
  • Individual

How Does Culture Manifest?
The culture can manifest itself in a number of ways such as how it makes us think who we are and who we are not, what we like and what we don’t, who we trust and who we don’t, what is important and what is not, how to behave and how to not to and so on.

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Characteristics of High Performance Teams:
Before we discuss how to build strong multicultural team, it is also important to mention some characteristics of high performance teams, some of which are as under.

  • Shared, very clear purpose
  • Ambitious, motivating goals
  • Strong social cohesion
  • Mutual accountability
  • Willingness to challenge others
  • Diverse talent
  • Leadership and fellowship

Common Problems in Multicultural Organizations:
Following are some of the important reasons multicultural teams fail to perform as per expectations of the senior executives.

  • Lack of ownership, when nobody is willing to take responsibility and being accountable for his performance
  • Lack of communication that is various factions of the team cannot or do not communicate with each other effectively.
  • Long running conflicts and misunderstandings among team members
  • General dissatisfaction about the company policies or anything else that is discomforting for the team members.
  • Some significant negative events in the near past that are enough to demoralize team members.
  • Uncertainty over various things such as company’s future or job guarantee.
  • Constant changes in the setup that employees are unable to keep up to.
  • Extremely fast past environment that employees cannot keep abreast of.
  • Complexity in how company or team is being operated by senior executives.

Building a Strong Multicultural Team:
If above mentioned factors can create problems for employees in such team, following initiatives on the part of business leaders can improve its performance.

  • Providing clear team visions.
  • Providing clear mission and values.
  • Assigning clear roles and holding individuals accountable for them.
  • Define clear ways of working with each other and ask the employees to follow them.
  • Set clear behavioral expectations
  • Assign tasks to individuals according to their competence levels.

Fostering Cultural Intelligence:
Cultural intelligence is another important aspect of cross culture or cross border teams and business leaders need to promote it in order to prevent conflicts and misunderstandings among team members. the most important thing you need to pay attention to in this regard is the communication. It is important for such teams to have all the characteristics mentioned above but communication is most important of them all without any doubt. it is in fact, effective communication that will encourage team members to exhibit these characteristics. Communication is indeed the most important factor that can make real difference in the performance of a cross cultural team.

Coming to cultural intelligence, it is the “capability to function effectively in intercultural settings” and mostly, it is all about communication. In order to foster cultural intelligence, business leaders need to promote self-awareness among team members, awareness about others and finally, awareness about the general situation of the surroundings known as situational awareness.

Motivating Staff from Different Cultures:
Researches have proved that nothing can prompt employees to work diligently more than motivation and same is true for cross cultural teams. Business leaders need to motivate their subordinates coming from different backgrounds to work collectively and attain a common goal. In this regard, two of the most important motivators are values and behavioral performance patterns.

You need to communicate regularly with them and try to clear many things that are confusing employees and preventing them to cooperate with each other. For example, you need to unequivocally differentiate between objectives and targets, tell them how they are behaving and what your expectations are, create such an environment that is self-motivating for the employees and also provide regular feedback to motivate them.

Similarly, sharing success stories and celebrating any successful project can inspire team members to forget their differences and work for the betterment of the company. Finally, never try to be volatile with the employees but rather evaluate their performance in more friendly and courteous manner.

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Dealing with Poor Performance:
Sometimes it becomes extremely difficult for business leaders to deal with employees within a cross cultural team whose performance is not up to expectation. Following are some reasons that are biggest hurdles in dealing with poor performance effectively.

  • Business leaders have unclear expectations
  • They address the key issues too late.
  • Lack of mutual understanding among team member and with senior staff.
  • Lack of proper feedback about the competency and employee’s performance.

Following points explain how you can overcome these problems and ensure that all of your employees are performing to their full potential.

  • Conduct ‘brief’ daily conversations to manage team’s performance.
  • Adopt various feedback models such as making staff to evaluate its own performance or empower managers to take early action if someone is not performing well.
  • Identify the team member in wrong role and try to detail him in the department where he is most suited.

Cross cultural and cross border teams are becoming more and more common these days. Business leaders have to be extra vigilant to keep all team members on board, to ensure that they are cooperating with each other and are working diligently to attain a common goal. In this regard, this particular webinar can help them a lot in the long run.

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