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Key cultural patterns for global team leaders June 9, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Global communication, Global leadership, Management.
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When dealing with a global team, the Big Dogz know that one needs to take into account cultural differences to be effective.  The Big Dogz have a checklist of key cultural patterns they analyze before trying to interact with global team members. Global team leaders who do not understand these patterns often find themselves confused, frustrated and behind schedule!

 Here are the key patterns to investigate: 

  1. Communication styles — how do people communicate in this culture? Are they more direct, more circumspect or more reliant upon non-verbal or tone cues? How soon can you expect a response to a question? What does silence mean? Is it appropriate to interrupt? What exactly does that English word mean in this culture? Non-verbal signals do not always mean the same thing in different cultures.
  2. Attitudes toward conflict — what is the accept method to deal with conflict? Do people raise issues when they disagree or do they behave in less assertive ways? The Big Dogz learn to recognize the cultural signs that there is a conflict.
  3. Getting things done — what is the pace? How do the people feel about milestones and reporting status? When someone says, “I will do that.” What does it mean? You may be surprised that it doesn’t mean the same thing in all cultures!
  4. Decision-making — how do people expect you to make decisions? Does the leader make all the decisions? Can you expect people to contribute to the decision making process? When there is a decision to be made, will the person make it or wait for you to make the decision?
  5. Information disclosure — how open are people to sharing information, especially information about progress? In their culture, is it appropriate to share new knowledge with someone who is higher in the hierarchy? What if they find out some information that would help you divert a disaster; would they share it with you voluntarily?
  6. View of time — is it appropriate to arrive late for meetings or telephone conference calls? How long is the workday? What parts of the workday are not really for work?
  7. Humor — what is funny in this culture? Why don’t my jokes work? Is my view of something funny offensive to them?

 If this seems like a lot to figure out, do not fear. There is an excellent resource to help you sort through all the cultural differences.

 Try http://www.executiveplanet.com/ for insights on how to do business in many different cultures.

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Instant messaging best practices for the global team leader May 12, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Communication, Global communication, Global leadership, Grow your skills, Leading globally, Management, Networking, Uncategorized.
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When the message is urgent and simple, the Big Dogz use Instant Messaging (IM) to communicate.

 Some of the advantages of using IM are:

  1. It is quick, saving time that can be used for other tasks
  2. Using an IM option, you can save the conversation for later referral. This feature eliminates the need to call someone back and ask the same question again!
  3. It allows people to work on important tasks while waiting for an important asynchronous interrupt from colleagues or clients.
  4. If a person is busy working on that high priority project you want done NOW, others know to leave that person alone.
  5. It allows you to communicate immediately to everyone at once.
  6. Studies have shown that when IM is used, email traffic goes down; sometimes significantly.

 Here are some tips to using IM to help communicate with your global team.

 Define a policy for IM use. You as the leader can establish guidelines on how and when the global team will use IM. However, do not be so inflexible that your people think you are inhibiting their creativity. Periodically review your policy to make sure you are getting maximum advantage of IM. A good starter policy is to use IM for quick information about project status, meeting times or if a person is available.

 IM should never be used to transmit confidential or sensitive information. This type of communication is high on the interpersonal scale and the complexity scale. Face to face communication is the most effective followed by the telephone call.

 Create criteria for people to be added to “buddy” lists. Separate business contacts from personal, clients from team members, etc. to avoid the possible conflict of interest in an IM situation.

 Make you team aware that all IM conversations will be recorded to facilitate archiving of essential information.  IM is not to be used to disparage others or to complain.

 If you decide to use the file attachment feature of IM, make sure you have the appropriate security measures in place. If you do not understand this comment, check with your IT support group before you attempt to allow file attachment. Failure to follow this tip could result in serious damage to your team.

 Depending upon the IM software you use, there is some exposure to non-intended people seeing your IM’s. Include in your policy a prohibition of using IM to send phone numbers, passwords or other sensitive information.

 Keep IM communication short. IM is an effective communication technology for urgent and simple information. If an IM session becomes more complicated, move it to another communication technology up the scale. A conference call would be an effective choice. With the communication technology awareness of today’s global worker, a virtual meeting might be even more effective.

 IM can be an effective way to set up a discussion or a phone call. A global team leader (GTL) in one of my workshops gave this tip about using IM to communicate with a global team member (GTM) about a complex issue. Here is the IM conversation:

GTL: Are you there?

GTM: Yes

GTL: Do you have 10 minutes to discuss “complex issue?”

GTM: Not just now, how about at 1030?

GTL: Great, I will call you at 1030

GTM: OK

It is simple and it is really effective. Using an IM in this manner demonstrates respect for peoples’ time and still communicates the urgency of the situation.

 One of the most effective features of IM is the ability to set your status to “busy” or “not available”. When you send an IM and get one of these responses, leave a short message stating your purpose and when you need a response. When you can not be interrupted, set your presence indicators accordingly. When you do become available, reset your indicator.

 Always check to see if someone has the time to chat with you. If they don’t, respect that judgment and make an appointment.

 When you are engaged in an IM session, give the other person(s) an opportunity to respond. This conversation is just like a face to face conversation; people need time to process your requests.

 Use proper English. IM has spawned a whole new language complete with emoticons, abbreviations and jargon. This is fine when communicating with friends but is not effective in a business environment. Of course, the use of common terms within your global team is appropriate and can facilitate quicker communication.

 I ran across an excellent article on using IM. The article is written by Stowe Boyd and is useful for the novice as well as the expert IM user. It is worth a read:

 http://www.stoweboyd.com/message/files/EIM.pdf

 The Big Dogz know that with the global distribution of team members, global team leaders need to take advantage of fast and effective communication technology like Instant Messaging.

 What are some of your tips for using IM? What things do people do with IM that drive you nuts? Please respond to this post or send me and email at rbronder@gmail.com