Long gone are the days when you might expect to manage a relatively homogeneous team—that is, individuals from one culture, national background, and the like. Now your team will often consist of individuals from very diverse backgrounds, and those individuals could be geographically dispersed to a great extent, as well.
Some of the challenges appear obvious. A widespread team means you have to take into consideration the difference in time zones when arranging both virtual and in-person meetings of the entire team. It’s not uncommon for one or more team members to be starting their day quite early or ending it quite late in the evening in order to participate in a virtual meeting. For an in-person meeting, travel time and costs must also be factored in.
Equally as important, if not more so, is the fact that greatly differing backgrounds can present communication difficulties and sometimes cause disruptions in the collaborative fabric of the team. Assuming you don’t have team members who are overtly prejudiced against other cultures or nationalities, you could still face the challenge of strongly ingrained belief systems and expectations. As the leader, you’re the one expected to overcome these challenges and ensure that the team achieves the stated goals.
If you’re an expatriate—leading an organization in a country to which you are not native—the potential challenges take on a new aspect. You have the advantage of being on the spot, as it were, and able to immerse yourself in the situation in a way someone in another country might not be able to do—or at least, not as effectively. On the other hand, your company’s senior management, based in the home country, could have a hard time comprehending the difficulties you face every day because business simply operates differently where you are.
Regardless of the situation, when you’re managing diverse teams, the fact remains that it’s your job to grasp the differences quickly and devise a strong working plan based on the reality of the situation. That plan needs to maximize your team members’ strengths and value to the organization while offsetting as much as possible the potential hazards such a team can pose to a successful operation. In short, the team’s diversity needs to deliver value, not act as a stumbling-block.

Georgia AdamsonThis article was written by Georgia Adamson, MRW / ACRW, of BlueSteps Executive Career Services (BECS) and A Successful Career (www.asuccessfulcareer.wordpress.com). Georgia has served senior executives globally since 1993. Through intensive one-on-one consultations, Georgia helps executives uncover their strengths and highlight their most meaningful career accomplishments to position them for their next executive opportunity.


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