Collaborating Across Cultures

As I continue my work with teams that span multiple time zones, I stay sensitive to how cultural differences and human commonalities always factor into core dynamics like communication and trust. Let's start with human commonalities. Transcending cultural distinctions, people feel most able to be honest in relationships where trust has been built. People hear others to the extent they feel heard. People make decisions more on intuition of feelings the rationality of facts. People are more creative when they are happier than when miserable.

On the differences side, each culture can differ in the nature of communication, hierarchy, gender assumptions, social courtesies and sense of time and space.

There are several things we can do to optimize cross-cultural collaboration success. Here are a few considerations.

  1. Do not generalize whole cultures. Some cultural differences are regional and ethnic and need to be treated uniquely.
  2. Create time for everyone to share stories and examples of how they relate to things like time, courtesies, trust, respect and communication on a daily basis.
  3. Leverage the universal trust building approaches like personal storytelling and promise making/keeping early and often.
  4. Create safe spaces for people to share their perceptions and discoveries of cultural differences and similarities.