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5 Things to be aware of when working with a cross-cultural team

Tanichka Achan

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With today’s increasingly global workplace and diversity, knowing how to lead a cross-cultural team should be part of every leader’s skill set. In Malaysia, workplaces and offices are filled with people from different cultures, backgrounds and experiences, which make for a very diverse working environment. Here, the cultural diversity can manifest itself in different ways such as language, culture, behavioral differences due to norms and values, and even have different meanings attached to words, ideas or actions. Therefore, it’s important to be aware and learn what those differences are, because one’s cultural background informs how we interact with others. Here are 5 things to be aware of when doing just that.

With today’s increasingly global workplace and diversity, knowing how to lead a cross-cultural team should be part of every leader’s skill set. In Malaysia, workplaces and offices are filled with people from different cultures, backgrounds and experiences, which make for a very diverse working environment.  Here, the cultural diversity can manifest itself in different ways such as language, culture, behavioral differences due to norms and values, and even have different meanings attached to words, ideas or actions. Therefore, it’s important to be aware and learn what those differences are, because one’s cultural background informs how we interact with others. Here are 5 things to be aware of when doing just that. 

1. Communication and Expression  

In a team, everyone might be speaking the same language or be well-versed in English, but certain forms of slang or colloquialism can be misunderstood and misinterpreted. To counter such misunderstandings at the workplace, every team member should be given the opportunity to voice out their opinions. Most of the time, we take for granted that our colleagues completely understand what we say because they have the same frame of reference or cultural background. An open line of communication is essential for greater productivity and promote a positive work environment. Otherwise, team members may feel under-appreciated, or even worse offended and dominated by others in the team.  

2. Difference in Work Styles 

Everyone has a different work style. Some might prefer constant guidance and detailed feedback, while others need more space and prefer to work independently. As a leader, it is important to be aware of this and manage different work styles to get the best out of everyone and achieve the common goal. Ensure that everyone knows the ultimate goal they are working towards, as having a common vision on how to achieve it gives your team an identity that can unite them. You can break down your common goal into actionable steps and outline each individual’s role and responsibilities. This reduces the chance of misunderstandings and lets everyone know that their contribution matters. 

3. Motivation Factors 

Like regular employees, financial planners can be motivated by a range of tangible benefits - increments, bonuses, being recognized for their contributions, career progression, and others. It is important to recognize what motivates each individual to excel in their role. In the absence of a proper catalyst, the team members may lack enthusiasm and be less engaged with their work. 

4. Celebration of traditional holidays, festivals 

As a melting pot of culture and heritage, Malaysia has many festivals to celebrate and food to enjoy. Celebrating such beautiful diversity can help increase culture literacy, awareness and acceptance among financial planners. This can be done by sending well wishes to colleagues that celebrate a particular festival and include notices in your company email or newsletter. This will show your employees that you are thoughtful and accept their cultures. Additionally, this can be extended to customers or even prospects.  

5. Conflict is inevitable 

Conflict is inevitable in any sort of interaction with people. As it happens, what is key is how you react to the situation. Make sure to address incidents of conflict promptly before it is too late. Understand different cultural perspectives at play and try to resolve the conflict by taking the middle path. A leader should serve as a cultural bridge to connect different members of the team and bring unity.  

Different perspectives are an asset, not a drawback 

Managing cross-cultural teams is going to be an increasingly important skill in the global marketplace. The rise of cross-cultural teams presents its set of challenges, but it can be handled successfully with sensitivity and respect for other cultures. Developing sensitivity to local customs and priorities can help financial planners and team leaders to communicate better and unite their teams no matter their differences in background. Once effectively managed, cross-cultural teams can bring creativity, innovation and unique perspectives to solve new problems, and this can be far more effective than any one team with a homogenous group of people.  

 

Contact: MDRTeditorial@teamlewis.com   

 

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