Leading Multicultural Teams

by James Gehrke - Date: 2007-01-22 - Word Count: 343 Share This!

While managing a multicultural workforce while working overseas, I have seen the advantages multiculturalism brings to an organization. However, these advantages do not always happen naturally. Our department was able to find ways to benefit from a multicultural group in order to maximize our performance. I believe that a manager must create a strong sense of team, while respecting the differences of the individual cultures represented in the team.

A multicultural work unit has the potential of bringing people together with a wide range of experiences and ideas. This provides a team with the potential of discovering new ideas and approaches to address business issues. The potential is for the team to find new approaches and ideas, combining the different backgrounds in ways that generate better outcomes than more homogenous groups may be able to find.

However, a manager must take time to develop the environment where these groups can work cohesively together. First the leader (and team) must establish the values of the group. If there is not a value for difference or a reluctance to listen and try new ideas, those from a minority viewpoint or cultural reference may be reluctant to participate.

Energy must also be taken to establish a sense of team. Since the group is not homogenous it may be more difficult for a leader to establish a commonality among the members. I remember a team building activity where we went to a baseball game our international team. While the Americans and Latins loved the opportunity, our French Morrocan partner participated but did not enjoy the event. However, at other times we went to soccer games, French cooking lessons, bowling, and a great variety of other activities to give some members of the team time to share interests with other members. This helps to strengthen the team.

Once the values, ground rules and sharing begins I believe that a multicultural team can generate much improved solutions for a group or a company.

Alder, N.J. (1983). Cross cultural management: Issues to be faced. International Journal of Management and Organization. 13 (1-2), pp. 7-45

Related Tags: leadership, business, management, team, multicultural, workforce, homogenous

James Gehrke is the President of Magnify Leadership and Development.

After various promotions in Sales, Sales Operations, Training & Development, and Sales Management and Training, he headed Pfizer's Learning & Development for all of Europe, Canada, Africa, & the Middle East where he was instrumental in the development of a global management curriculum and other training initiatives to enhance organizational effectiveness for over 30,000 employees. He has worked on many high levels, cross functional teams addressing issues such as Field Force Effectiveness, Change Leadership, Leader Behavior Development, Executive Coaching and many others.

Since starting his own training company, James has developed and trained both public and private leadership, coaching, targeting and territory management sessions for hundreds of participants in various industries. James is bilingual and can teach in both English and Spanish http://www.magnifyleadership.com

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