According to the Harvard Business Review, “diversity unlocks innovation and drives market growth. ” Because of technology allows us to communicate instantly, everyone can access diversity.
The world is becoming a global village, largely because we no longer need to spend hours, weeks, months or more transmitting messages. We can access information and people within seconds, allowing us to build companies, teams, and relationships with those that used to be unreachable. This phenomenon is a game changer for social entrepreneurs and professionals.
If one does not consider the interconnectivity of the world and the need for diverse teams, one will fall behind and miss economic and social opportunities.
For those who recognize this and seek to diversify partners and scale global businesses, it is crucial that we understand our ingrained mindsets surrounding our work habits, our communications skills and our overall view of success that come from the environment we grew up in.
Often, we do not even realize that we are behaving in a way that hinders our success, even when we have the best intentions.
I have done a lot of work promoting mutually beneficial relationships between Africans and Americans. During this time, I saw some of the major challenges that crop up in our intercultural relations stem from different communications habits.
For example, certain cultures rely heavily on writing, whereas others communicate verbally. The frequency of communication can also be affected by the environment, tone, vocabulary or communication methods used.
In certain contexts, different methods of communication are preferred- in an American office, email is the go-to, even when you could walk down the hall and ask a question in person.
However, in the offices I worked at in Senegal, if I needed anything, I took a walk to my colleague’s desk, chatted about family, the weather, the latest wrestling match, and only then asked about my work needs.
In order to succeed in our globalizing world, the most important thing to do is increase your cultural knowledge of your collaborators. Certain aspects are relatively easy to learn- norms surrounding work attire, greetings in the local language, gestures/body language, or religious belief, for example.
Others take more time to truly understand intricacies such as social classes/ethnicities, relationship with authority figures, gender/family roles, work ethic and office behavior.
Before my trip to Ghana last August, I made sure to do some basic research on culture, customs, and linguistics, but also knew I needed to continue to ask questions and joke respectfully with people during my stay to be better prepared to collaborate professionally and personally with Ghanaians.
Increasing cultural knowledge and working on intercultural awareness are actions to take to ensure you are building the most successful, inclusive, financially solid and sustainable programs with the top talent the world can offer.
Furthermore, it is crucial to establish trust in any relationship. A trust model dedicated to intercultural teams is based on ten dimensions; competence, compatibility, goodwill, integrity, predictability, well-being, inclusion, openness with information, accessibility, and reciprocity.Entrepreneurs will see true disruptive innovation by creating inclusive teams Click To Tweet
There are many ways to build this trust, paying special attention to which methods to employ given the nature of the team, be it in person, remote or a hybrid.
As I build Baobab Consulting, where most of our relationships are virtual, I mostly use WhatsApp, social media, Google Drive and email to share information and create team culture, but I take every opportunity to meet face to face to establish that physical connection, which in many cultures, plays a crucial role.
Even with cultural awareness and trust, there still may be some lingering stereotypes or assumptions we carry that we are unaware of. Let us not presume that two North Americans or two Africans on a team understand each other.
A woman from Senegal will have a completely different vantage point than a man from Zimbabwe, just as a woman from New York City’s will be different from a male colleague from Montreal. Even if there are some similarities between them that may help them bond faster, it is still necessary to follow the same procedures of intercultural awareness.
At the end of the day, no matter where you fall on the intercultural awareness spectrum, how many languages you speak, or how many cultural events you have been to, you must remember that personality can also play a role.
Sometimes, we work better with certain personality types and struggle with others, so this should not be discounted as you work together and build team dynamics. Take a free version of the Myers Briggs test to learn more about your personality and that of your teammates.
By creating inclusive teams and encouraging them to fearlessly and meaningfully contribute, entrepreneurs will see true disruptive innovation. To do that, we must make sure the right steps are taken to ensure that everyone feels taken care of, considered, understood and respected.
There will always be some level of tension and even conflict when we work together, but if we assume all parties have good intentions, these snafus can be overlooked. Always remember the true mission of what you are doing. Understand everyone’s goals and work together to achieve them.
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