Summary:

High-tech tools and innovative management practices to ease coordination hassles may have their role in leading cross-cultural teams, but according to one expert on communicating with folks from different backgrounds, the real key to success is simpler and rarer.

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Thanks to online hiring platforms and a range of tech solutions, your team is more likely to be made up of folks from widely geographically dispersed places than ever before. And, of course, that also means your team is more likely to be culturally diverse. What do you need to make it run smoothly?

Your knee jerk answer may be a variety of communication tools and management practices to deal with distance in time and space and coordination issues, but according to David Livermore, president at the Cultural Intelligence Center, the really secret ingredient to leading cross-cultural teams well is simpler and rarer – good, old fashioned patience.

Writing for UK site Management Issues, Livermore notes that our speedy internet connections and lightning fast technology train us to be impatient. But if you want to successfully lead a culturally diverse team, he says, you’re going to need to relearn to go slow:

“Impatience” + “cross-cultural” don’t work well together. Cross-cultural relationships and projects inevitably take more time, more effort, and more patience…. Just about everything takes longer when working and relating cross-culturally. Communication, trust-building, and just getting things done requires more effort and perseverance. Whether it’s dealing with long queues when traveling, merging different technology systems, or trying to get to the bottom of a conflict, understanding and effectiveness come more slowly when different cultures are involved.

Patience needs to be factored in from the very beginning of any cross-cultural project…. In a world of instant information and feedback, it’s counterintuitive to step back and move more slowly. But slow is the new fast when you’re working across cultures.

Do you agree that when it comes to cross-cultural teams the old saying that haste makes waste applies anew? 

Image courtesy of Flickr user meddygarnet

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