In my last article, I wrote about key success factors for working globally based on a workshop I delivered recently. I focused on a simple exercise to demonstrate using empathy as a better way for team members to find common ground and understanding. I would like to continue with some other factors that play a part in global team dynamics and suggest ways to mitigate them.
After the empathy exercise, I asked the participants to think of some of the many reasons why teams might fail in successfully doing their work or how the environment in which they are doing the work can contribute to failure. I used the whiteboard feature of Zoom and had participants list possible reasons. Imagine 40 people writing their ideas on a whiteboard at the same time—incredible!
As you may imagine, the reasons shared were many and varied. What is important to note is that many of the reasons were not solely focused on nationality or cultural differences between team members, global or not. Research has shown that the top four reasons why most teams fail have to do with lack of trust, overall communication issues (not just specific to language differences), unclear team goals, and team members’ agendas being at odds with overall team goals.
Looking at those four reasons, I had the workshop attendees try to think of ways to solve these problems from the perspective of different roles in a company. I remember that in the past when there were issues on my teams, management always advised team members to try to solve the problems amongst themselves. This could solve only part of the problem. The environment that allowed the issues to exist in the first place was never considered and therefore never changed. The same types of issues would continue to happen.
I asked my workshop participants to think of some ways to create an environment that fostered global team success. One way is, of course, from a fellow team member’s role, but additionally, I asked them to come up with ideas from the standpoint of different roles in a company. What should a CEO, department or team manager, or team lead do to create an atmosphere that is conducive to help teams succeed? What guidelines or policies can a human resources manager or department put into place to eliminate the root causes of the issues that keep occurring within teams?
The issues that a team might experience are abundant. To look at only team members themselves to find solutions to their own problems might work sometimes, but it is less than ideal. To build trust, institute guidelines for behaviors that build trust. Make sure communication is clear and shared among all team members. Set clear goals and share with everyone. Understand the motivations and functions of each team member. By implementing these four actions, companies can create and maintain an environment that lessens avoidable issues and fosters better team interactions, which will ultimately lead to project success.
Yvonne Burton provides services to Japanese firms operating internationally and companies operating in the Japanese market. To learn more, please visit burtonconsulting.biz.