My strategy was straightforward to form groups of students who collaborate on cultural and community-based projects. Because my students come from all over the globe, the projects could be highly successful! However, as I found out that not everyone is thinking the same way concerning teambuilding. However, once I had a re-examination of my assumptions about multinational teams, they really were remarkable. Here are some of the methods I’ve discovered while working with international teams from the Language & Culture Center of the University of Houston over the past 30 years.
The fundamental cultural aspect of team building is the difference between working as one group and working in a group. People from individuals-oriented societies like that of the United States find it easier to create teams. In American terms, teams are comprised of people who work towards an end-to-end goal based on their capabilities. Once the common goal is reached, and the team has been formed, it dissolves. The same group of people can join other teams or create an entirely new team with a completely new objective. This means that the aim is to be the principal factor in the team’s formation.
Contrary to this, individuals who are from collectivist societies like those from Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latin American countries form groups by virtue of their affiliation. The groups are usually constant, and members of groups may be able to agree on an objective or not. The tasks in the group are determined by gender, age, or previous accomplishment.
When it comes to team building, in the way it is used throughout The United States, an awareness of this distinction could enhance the efficiency of a group when the following guidelines are followed. These suggestions are based upon the model of five stages of team development, namely Forming, Stormingand Adjourning, Norming, and Performing, originally formulated in the work of Bruce Tuckman. *
In this phase, mixing teams require more time to develop. There is an expectation of time and experience to ensure that relationships can be created. There is a lack of trust among the public in the majority of U.S. established teams. There could be a need for a more detailed description of the requirements.
I had to learn this through experience the first time I instructed learners who were from Algeria, China, and Venezuela to join together and plan an assignment for the following session. After they arrived, I started to create more information (including what constitutes a team, as well as written questions like who the audience is and what’s the objective. In addition, I make sure they have at least one complete class session to form relationships–providing them with forms to gather basic contact information. After their first class, they are required to inform me when, where and when they’ll next meet.
The storm is raging
This is a susceptible stage for mixed-culture teams. The group can break up entirely since the methods of disagreement differ. The facilitator might need to assure some participants that disagreements are acceptable, and some guidance could be required for different people on how to handle the chaos.
On teams with a mix of members who are older and younger or with less education or previous experiences, I might personally coach those who are younger or less experienced members on how they can contribute their thoughts. An assignment that is written by each team member can enable them to be more involved.
At this point, it is important to ensure that duties or standards are not set by teams based solely on roles in the culture. In this stage and in other states, it’s beneficial for all participants to be reminded – through observations by the facilitator, as in a structured and deliberate reflection by participants of the stages and the results that result from this process.
I still vividly remember my mistake regarding this stage. It was the team consisting comprising two females who were young along with a more mature male. One of them came from Lebanon, while the second came from Japan, while the older male was a high school teacher from Qatar. The goal of the team was to impart the students in local schools. The two women stood and waited for the older, more experienced man to instruct them on what to do, and he was willing to lead the team. When their project was complete, but it was not as rich when all three of them were involved in the process of building a team.
This stage is truly incredible when the diversity of cultures is successfully leveraged, a synergistic effect that is rooted in the diverse individuals’ lives and their culture-based backgrounds. It is a rewarding outcome.
When synergy occurs, there’s no way of knowing the results a team will create. However, a variety of pictures from teams that are multinational illustrate the potential of synergy. American pupils who are taught patience by Asians, as well as Middle Easterners who are taught about managing time from Americans, are two instances. The power of a fully functioning team from all over the world is an amazing thing to see.
The second stage, like the first, usually takes longer and requires more care for those relationships which have been established. Sometimes, a formal acknowledgment of the conclusion of teamwork is necessary. It usually involves some type of social connection.
I realized that all of my teams from all over the world truly enjoyed processes to close the day. Additionally, they require a social event to wrap up their experience, like a potluck meal.