Living in Vancouver City, one of the most culturally diverse cities globally, is an enriching experience in itself. Our MBA cohort has students from 19 different countries, and it presents a unique opportunity to learn about their culture, different working styles and modes of communication to inculcate a holistic mindset. Working in a multi-cultural environment can be very challenging, considering the inherent complexity and lack of proper understanding. The negotiation course taken in the Spring semester was an eye-opener, as in every negotiation, we were paired with a student from a different country. It was intriguing to see how different people react while negotiating and how culture can influence a person’s negotiating style & conflicting styles. Since then, I was curious to explore the various dimensions of cross-cultural management and delve deeply into the challenges of working in global virtual teams. In the “Managing Globalized Workforce” course, we had the opportunity to understand different cultural dimensions and how their intrinsic cultural values shape countries, societies, and organizations.
Based on my lessons from the course, I have created a Global Manager’s Guide for all students aspiring to be successful global leaders.
Gain Holistic Understanding & Knowledge
Often, people take the phrase “when in Rome, be like a Roman” too seriously. Instead of replicating what we have learned in textbooks about how certain people behave, it is better to ask questions to seek more clarity. People should have an in-depth understanding of their counterpart’s culture, values, and expectations. This helps to set the right tone and creates a feeling of mutual respect.
Communication is not always equal to understanding. Since cultures differ in their verbal and non-verbal communication styles, one must ensure that the right message is conveyed with the right intention. Managers should establish an open forum to challenge ideas, encourage constructive feedback, and listen to their employees’ concerns.
Master the Art of Listening
Listening is a critical skill that global managers need to have when resolving conflicts. Some cultures are pretty vocal about their concerns, while some are not. Managers should pay attention to these differences and act accordingly.
Keep Your Composure
It is imperative to express our emotions objectively without invoking harmful sentiments. On several occasions, we are misunderstood because of the tone of our voice, especially if someone is not from our cultural background. Critical and sensitive issues should always be conveyed in person rather than sending angry emails or texts.
Stereotyping is one of the main reasons why cross-cultural conflict arises. People should focus on the individual, their ideas, and their point of view. When dealing with parties where English is not the primary language, prepare documents, memos, & other important communication modes in the other party’s preferred language.
Learn from Cross-cultural Encounters
People can learn most about a culture by experiencing things in person. Hence, we should always take guidance from more experienced people who have had similar cross-cultural encounters.
Streamlining Business Operations
Sometimes, there is a problem with a specific business process in organizations, leading to frequent disputes between teams. The assumption that all disputes arise because of the influence of culture is incorrect. Streamlining operations would be the best way to handle such conflicts.
Richard Branson’s global empire, comprising of 400 different companies is an excellent example of the important role cultural competence plays in leadership. To successfully lead a global organization it is integral to adopt effective leadership with cultural competence at its core. This article will be insightful for anyone looking for tips on how to succeed in global virtual teams.
About the Author
Aparajita is a full-time MBA candidate at Simon Fraser University’s Segal Graduate School of Business. Born and raised in India, she has ~7 years of professional experience in Investment Banking, Equity Research and Trading Floor. As a student ambassador at SFU, she is looking forward to writing blogs highlighting her unique experiences and learning throughout the MBA Program. She is a team player, collaborative, friendly, and approachable person. She is enjoying her stay at SFU’s Downtown student accommodation and loves to bike around and explore Vancouver.