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Leading Multinational Project Teams

The category: Global leadership, Multi-cultural teams, Remote Working, Trust, WorldWork Blog

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Leading a multinational project team is not easy!  For many people, the first time they need to work closely with partners from different cultures and backgrounds is when they are assigned to a multicultural project team, either as a member of that team or as it’s leader.  Even if language is not an issue, they may soon discover that miscommunications and misunderstandings will lead to frustration, demotivation and reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of the team and seriously threaten its ability to achieve its goals. Where the team is working ‘virtually’ these problems are often more serious.  Different team members will come with different expectations about how the team will work together, and they will view the work of the team through their different cultural ‘lenses’.  The team leader needs to find ways harmonising these differences at an early stage of the team’s life.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Andy Molinsky and Ernest Gundling Ph.D. – How to Build Trust in your Cross-Cultural Team – highlights some of these difficulties and, based on their experience, suggests some key issues that leaders of such teams need to address.  Key among their recommendations is the need to understand the different cultures, language differences, and “fault lines” within the team, as well as the potential for misconception and miscommunication.

WorldWork has developed an e-learning programme called ‘Managing Multicultural Teams’ (MMT) that provides project team leaders with useful do’s and don’ts when trying to understand and cope with these cultural differences.  Using extracts from the internationally recognised video material – ‘A World of Difference’ – this programme illustrates how different cultural perceptions can lead to serious misunderstandings and how the right approach by the team leader can enable him or her to work through the differences, and indeed use the differences to create an effective and motivated project team.  The e-learning programme maximises learning by the inclusion of extensive instructional materials, trial and error tasks with feedback, quizzes etc.

Large companies are now including this programme in their library of learning resources to supplement and complement other learning materials around project management, leadership and cross-cultural development.  There is also a version of the programme designed to be used by trainers and consultants in a blended learning context. To review ‘Managing Multicultural Teams’ contact WorldWork.