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Kitchen D. Lipnack J. Luther K. Secondly it will be important to develop some empathy skills to make sure we are considerate about not rushing into judgment about the possible impatience and irritability of our counterpart across the world.
In my IBM times we had a database that provided critical cultural information including appropriate behaviours, use and customs typical of each country with some suggestions of how to best engage. Still today I use the Cultural GPS app to get some quick and generic understanding of what should I expect working in multicultural environments.
Inclusion is a much more challenging aspect of cultural diversity because it requires us to understand that there are different approaches in thinking and engaging with each other and it is not only a form of mutual respect but also a key resource to look at every problem differently. Diversity, when included, gives us the opportunity to break out of static mental models and group think.
I believe inclusion is a critical must have for virtual teams to be successful and effective. Far too often we are tempted to install a leader from our culture in all regional offices so that we can find a level of comfort in working globally, I believe that raising local leaders and working on team dynamics is a much more effective approach to virtual team work. Team dynamics are part of every team, what is different about virtual teams on this aspect is the distance.
Proximity makes it easier to relate to each other, share rituals and develop mutual understanding. Relationships are the other half of effective team work.
Developing a strong relationship starts by sharing common interests and solidify that relationship by sharing adventures, and experiences together. I know this sounds antithetical to virtual working but on the contrary it does build the foundation to virtual working. I run many in-company training programmes for managers and the one feedback I get every time is about the value of getting to know each other in person and to have the time to share some experiences. Typically, the nature of the relationship changes once they have shared some time working together and usually is the cause for new unexpected collaborations or the clever resolution of critical problems that would never have happened otherwise.
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The more meaningful the experience the stronger the bond. I believe the most effective way to build successful global virtual teams goes beyond technological sophistication. The way our internal social engine is built already has what it needs to be effective while working in teams.