Intercultural challenges are some of the greatest challenges for virtual teams. Without stereotyping team members it can be very important to recognize what team member’s natural working style may be, and how their home office (country of residence) may place emphasis on how things are communicated (direct/indirect), value of hierarchy (hierarchical versus participatory ), as well as how much is done independently versus in a group. What often emerges in virtual teams is creating a team culture which may not necessarily be the synthesis of all of the team members. As part of your team development process, consider who you are as a team and what you value. As you read through the upcoming culture scales, where do you reside along the continuum?
Keeping in mind the work of Geert Hofestede where we have cultural variances across:
Power distance (strength of social hierarchy)
and masculinity-femininity (task orientation versus person-orientation).
He also added Indulgence vs Restraint
View his six areas here. Culture scales also often include Direct and Indirect – consider how direct your communication may be.
Another framework you may want to explore is that of Erin Meyer author of The Culture Map. She distinguishes between 8 different culture scales
- Communicating: explicit vs. implicit
- Evaluating: direct negative feedback vs. indirect negative feedback
- Persuading: deductive vs. inductive
- Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical
- Deciding: consensual vs. top down
- Trusting: task vs. relationship
- Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoid confrontation
As a team it can be very useful to have dialogue and even map yourself along these cultural continua, one at a time, having dialogue around where you naturally fall. This activity could take upwards of one entire team meeting of an hour.
As you look at each of the culture scales (Hofstede, Meyer or other), have discussion around these question:
- What does activity under this culture scale look like?
- Where is your home business context along this scale?
- Where are you as an individual professional along this scale? (Pause to have the team note what’s similar/different/interesting along this continuua)
- Where are we as a team? (Pause to have the team come to consensus or agreement around where you are on this continuum and what that looks like behaviorally).
What are the five or six adjectives we use the describe our team?
As a wrap up ask the team to share what is important about each of those areas.
Helping the team understand who they are as a collective, helps to create clarity around their own culture, “behavioral norms” and how things are done here. This provides consistency and more alignment across the team.
What are the conversations which are important to have in this area for you as a team?
With best wishes
Potentials Realized - Leadership and Team Development, Coaching, Retreats
Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010) and From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching (Jossey-Bass, 2013) and Effective Virtual Conversations (2017)
Email us to find out how we can support you and your team in getting your best results through coaching, training or a retreat program
Looking for more cool things to do with your team? Check out our Potentials Realized store for books, e-manuals, and the Conversation Sparker Cards.