Where in the World is My Team?: Making a Success of Your Virtual Global Workplace

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Here are five tips for strengthening your cross cultural team. We live in a world with a globalized workforce where many organizations have teams that span different offices, time zones and continents. Even for a company that operates in one country, the movement of labor across borders means that cultural diversity is becoming a normal facet of the workplace. Running a team these days is a different endeavor than it was in the past due to the emergence of cross cultural teams. The usual challenges of team building and fostering teamwork have become even more magnified.

Acceptance of cultural diversity and an inclusive outlook are hallmarks of high-performing companies. So how can you better manage your culturally diverse team for peak performance? The first step is acknowledging the elephant in the room: address the existence of diverse cultural backgrounds within the team and the necessity of navigating those differences in order to optimize team performance. Cultural diversity can manifest itself in different ways: language, culture, behavioral differences due to norms and values, and even different meaning attached to words, ideas or actions.

The model highlights six dimensions of value perspectives between national cultures: Power Distance, Individualism vs. Collectivism, Masculinity vs. Femininity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long Term vs. Short Term Orientation and Indulgence vs. This model provides a great starting point for understanding what drives people from different cultures, and how we can adapt our working and communication styles to work better together in a cross-cultural team.

One way to encourage this understanding of cultural diversity is to discuss cultural differences in a team meeting where everyone can share their cultural background and expectations about communication and working style. You can do this in an informal way through activities such as ice breakers. Select activities where team members get to learn more about each other through asking questions and sharing about their backgrounds.

“Virtual Teams are Worse than I Thought.” A Response to Patrick Lencioni | TMA World

The key is to get everyone to contribute to the formation of the norms. Getting their buy-in makes the norms stronger and ensures that everyone feels committed to living up to them. Each team, depending on its makeup and other factors that affect collaboration, will need its own set of rules and norms. Building norms that are specific to your team improves the ease of collaboration and optimizes team performance. Once team norms have been established, check in with your team regularly to see how effective they are.

It is doubly important in a cross-cultural team. Having a shared goal and a common vision on how to achieve it gives your team an identity that can unite them and promote teamwork. This reduces the chance of misunderstandings and lets everyone know that their contribution matters. It sets expectations for what needs to be done, by who and when. Developing a team identity also entails finding commonalities between team members.

Encourage your team to get to know each other in a social context. Perhaps there are teammates who share the same taste in movies, music or TV shows. Some may bond over hobbies or share information about their families and children. Personal connections within the team make it easier to work together. With a culturally diverse team, over-communicating is a good thing! 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.


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For those of us who are native English speakers, we tend to assume that someone else who also speaks English can understand us perfectly. This may not always be the case! Someone who learned English as a second or third language, even though they are proficient in the language, may not get the same nuances, expressions or subtext. When it comes to electronic communication, the inability to deduce tone or body language can cause misunderstandings.

The solution?

The Right Team

And it's not just about geographic or time-zone differences - in fact - when taken in sum - those factors are the least important. Lojeski identified 10 factors, grouped into three main components, Physical Distance, Operational Distance and Affinity Distance. The most significant factors, Operational and Affinity Distance, have more to do with day-to-day issues in meaningful communications and the barriers that block the deep formation of relationships.

That said, if companies continue to chase the Physical Distance Factors - they are aiming at the wrong target if they want to improve performance. After a decade of collecting Virtual Distance data, including 40, data points from more than 1, global teams in companies that employ over a million people, the statistical relationships and predictive power of Virtual Distance has just gotten stronger.

You are, without a doubt, affected by Virtual Distance. You just may not realize it yet. For more than a decade, we've worked with Fortune companies around the globe and have demonstrated that Virtual Distance upends multi-billion-dollar businesses, impedes product development, causes team dysfunction and cripples corporate cultures. By leveraging the tools in The Virtual Distance Management VDM Cloud software suite, organizations can now take control of Virtual Distance and transform it from a liability into a tool for competitive differentiation. In a world of hard-to-implement and harder-to-measure team engagement solutions, Virtual Distance and the proven science behind it is the game changer managers have been waiting for.

Optimizing virtual teams

What are you waiting for? Get in touch with one of our experts today. This module is extremely valuable because it not only provides a baseline assessment, we can also analyze custom measures for clients. For example in one case, we measured how Virtual Distance was impacting retention rates for summer interns.

Leading and Managing Virtual Teams

In another military situation we measured decision quality. In a financial services company we measured specifics around employee engagement unique to that customer. In addition to the Baseline Assessment, we also have the Follow-up Assessment. After about months, VDI can reassess to see where and how performance has improved and how Virtual Distance dynamics are shifting.

The Virtual Distance Analytics and Reporting module is your analytics gateway into the impact of Virtual Distance within your organization. With this module, you and your teams get precise, scientifically valid measures of Virtual Distance in targeted areas of your business.

And it's not just for discrete teams. VDI analyzes how Virtual Distance is distributed within and between groups, giving you important insights into the extent in which people experience Virtual Distance on a broad spectrum. Once you are able to measure the impact of Virtual Distance, you can immediately begin the process of enhancing performance among groups — whether enterprise-wide, individual teams such as software developers, specific workgroups or specific types of employees, such as remote workers.

With your VDM SaaS solution, you have access to a wide-ranging set of on-demand content that gives you the context and tools to leverage best practices in managing Virtual Distance for workplace transformation. With this content, you can restore meaningful human relationships and improve business outcomes resulting from Virtual Distance dynamics inside and outside your organization.

2. Establish Norms for the Team

Organizations immediately see the results of this new learning in the form of measurable improvements on critical success factors—employee engagement, speed to market, worker productivity, and more—that business leaders depend on for competitive advantage and profitability. Subscribers to VDM SaaS solutions gain exclusive free membership access to the Virtual Distance Institute, which is a peer-to-peer communication environment where unique thought-leadership materials and provocative discussion groups provide additional opportunities for reflection and learning.

The VDI Institute hosts special events and supports member-led forums, blogs and other content to showcase issues, challenges and success stories related to Virtual Distance. Relevant neuroscience research and other inter-disciplinary topics are explored more fully, and members can voice their interests and perspectives on the more subtle — but powerful — forces that impact us as we speed into the future of work.

We also offer a certification program to organizations and individuals beyond our SaaS subscribers. The concept behind this program is to create VDM facilitators, coaches and other types of organizational leaders that specialize in Virtual Distance detection and mitigation strategies.

But that's not all — they also pinpoint the specific impacts Virtual Distance is having on performance, and provide targeted solutions to improve outcomes. Paired with VDI Analytics and Reporting, we provide progressive micro-learning, multimedia modules to impart the knowledge you need to maximize the future workplace. An invite-only membership gives you access to like-minded colleagues and provocative events that dare to share discourse around topics often avoided by mainstream pundits. As a Certified VDI partner, you can help your own set of clients to overcome Virtual Distance challenges in the context of their companies, customers and business ecosystems.

Click the icons above to learn more. I wasn't getting that from any other source. Virtual Distance Analytics allowed me to measurably improve performance across the globe.

After taking steps to reduce Virtual Distance, our innovation effectiveness went up markedly, reducing our time-to-market with new products and increasing our competitive positioning overall.

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