Leading diverse teams: 8 tips for cross-cultural management

By Robert Half 23rd September 2019

Being the leader of a diverse team is a rewarding and challenging experience. There are multiple business benefits to be gained from incorporating ideas, opinions and perspectives from a variety of different cultures and backgrounds. 

The essential list to leading diverse teams

Solve your management of diversity in the workplace with these 8 essential tips to get across your effective leadership skills on an international scale.

1. Address unconscious cultural bias

Before you can truly reach success managing international teams, it’s important to take time to acknowledge and address unconscious cultural bias. This hardwired evolutionary response often happens without your realising it, so make a conscious effort to assess your cross-cultural management decisions with an impartial eye before you action them.

2. Embrace communication style differences

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to communication styles within a diverse team. Different cultures and different languages adhere to different rules and etiquettes around business communication, such as open-ended questions or statements, waiting for a superior to speak first, or a tendency to be more concise and direct. Better cross-cultural management means learning to embrace them all.

3. Offer flexible working

Aside from being a highly requested work benefit, flexible working can also facilitate team diversity in the workplace by giving employees the freedom to work around cultural customs. This can include different ‘standard’ business hours, siestas or time off for religious holidays. 

4. Maximise monthly review meetings

Some countries may view job success as being based on seniority, responsibility, earnings or personal job satisfaction. Progress meetings can help you identify what motivates each employee and will allow you to provide unique opportunities for them as part of your approach to leading diverse teams.

5. Break the language barrier

Within an international team, effective leadership skills include the creation of a common ground for communication, in which it is acceptable to ask someone to repeat themselves, and non-native speakers are nominated as mediators within the team. Establish a firm etiquette which prevents the use of idioms or slang words, so everyone feels included within a discussion.

6. Stay up to date on international affairs

When leading diverse teams, it’s easy to make a misstep if you aren’t up to date on international affairs. Effective and empathetic cross-cultural management should involve making an effort to stay informed regarding political, social and cultural issues in your employees’ home countries.  

7. Keep activities inclusive

Group activities can come with an unexpected set of challenges for employers who are hoping to better their management of diversity in the workplace. Whether you’re planning a simple lunch, a team building exercise or a company event, international teams require more consideration. Different religious or cultural beliefs around diet, alcohol consumption and the propriety of recreational activities should be accounted for. 

8. Create a culture of diversity acceptance

The acceptance of team diversity in the workplace is an ongoing culture which needs to be maintained and perpetuated if it’s going to reach any degree of success. Although cross-cultural management can feel overwhelming regarding the variety of new considerations it entails, many of them can become second nature if you make a conscious effort to integrate them into your daily practices. Leading by example can encourage other team members to fall in line and help to sustain diversity acceptance overall. 

The benefits of diversity in the workplace

Taking time and effort in the management of diversity in the workplace can yield excellent business benefits, such as a more positive company culture, better employee retention rates, and interest from top international talent. 

When you refine your approach to leading diverse teams, you can also enjoy better decision-making capabilities. Studies show that decisions made by diverse teams had better results 87% of the time.

Are you interested in adding more cultural and international diversity to your team? Submit a vacancy or get in touch with the Robert Half team today. 
 

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