Lead a global team? Eight ways to respect cultural differences


Global workplaces are a melting pot of cultures, work styles and professional backgrounds. Having a global team is an incredible opportunity to learn about other individualized experiences and even strengthen your team’s worldly stances.

However, employees from different cultures may have different opinions about leadership styles or even different ways of approaching problems, which can lead to disagreements in the workplace. To help alleviate any conflict, eight members of Council for Young Entrepreneurs explain how to consider and respect cultural differences when leading a global team.

1. Allow time for changing holidays and traditions

I think it’s important to take into account different holidays, festivals and traditions that may be celebrated by members of your team from other cultures, and to allow people, if necessary, to take paid time off to participate in and feel connected to those parties. In our company, we offer employees multiple PTO days for regional holidays, and they can choose which dates they want to take it on. In this way we can ensure that everyone can participate in and enjoy their cultural celebrations, while also being productive at work. This promotes a sense of inclusion and belonging among our employees. † Syed Balkan WPBeginner

2. Listen more than you speak

In a professional setting, cultural differences often manifest themselves in different ways of communicating. Being a culturally competent leader means becoming an excellent communicator who is able to identify not only what is being said by a person, but also what is left unsaid (the context). In a remote and globally dispersed team, this becomes even more important. A good way to take cultural differences into account is to ensure that there is more listening than speaking. In recurring one-on-one conversations, take the time to understand the feedback, both the individual’s cultural and personal circumstances surrounding that feedback, what the person is most excited about or concerned about, and more. Make an active effort to listen and learn and leave plenty of room to wait and listen as the individual communicates. † Brent Liangfractal

3. Ask questions

Want to better understand your team’s global perspective? Ask questions and listen. Leading with curiosity means you can better understand their lived experiences and not stereotype or completely omit or ignore how people live their lives. This applies to all aspects of running a business with a team — from vacations, paid time off, work hours, family life outside of work, hobbies, and even business acumen itself. You don’t have to have all the answers to tackle problems or manage a global team. Your team members will help you; you just have to give them the space and time to do that. † Nathalie LussierAccessAlly

4. Create an atmosphere of transparency

Global teams can be incredibly rewarding to manage and incredibly difficult to manage. While everything from the volume of your voice to your choice of words can send mixed signals to team members from other cultures, you’ll also be shown points of view, skills, and knowledge bases that you simply wouldn’t be able to interact with otherwise. The trick to eliminating these hiccups is to create an atmosphere of clear communication and transparency. Make sure team members feel comfortable voicing their concerns or opinions about specific actions. Over time, this back and forth will allow you to better understand and accommodate your employees. † Salvador OrdoricaThe Spanish Group LLC

5. Organize monthly introductory meetings

Hold a monthly meeting to learn about everyone’s culture, likes and dislikes. It benefits everyone because it helps you know how to lead everyone on the team, what makes them happy or disappointed, and even what they celebrate in particular. However, culture is not just about occasions or events or what people do; it is more about their practices, behaviors, attitudes or tendencies. That is why a cozy monthly meeting about people and their lifestyle is a must. † Daisy JingBanned

6. Focus on universal values

While leading a global team, I have found that the best way to account for cultural differences is to implement the universal core values ​​of respect and responsibility. It is important to respect the time of your employees who are in different time zones and may celebrate different holidays. All my team members work with flexible schedules that best suit their time zones. This comes with a responsibility to meet expectations and meet deadlines. Values ​​come from the top and as a global team leader it is important to adopt a universal mindset when it comes to choosing them. By setting clear expectations and respecting your team’s time, you can overcome any cultural differences. † Brian David CraneSpread great ideas

7. Lead with humility

Every leader stands to learn from the team he leads. Studies consistently show that diverse and inclusive teams perform better. I think the answer here is to lead humbly so you don’t know all the answers. Let your team teach and inspire you a new way of thinking. Being outstretched from your limited point of view is a good thing! Encourage your global team to promote diverse thinking. † Trivinia HairdresserPriorityVA

8. Make use of personality assessments

Understand your team better by letting the company use personality profiles. These could be tests such as DiSC or Myers-Briggs. DiSC results can show how teams can work together and how management can best communicate with someone based on their personality and desires. † Libby Rothschild Dietitian boss