Managing a project is a task that needs an abundance of time management skills and a host of other soft skills. Most important of those is the skill of the leader to welcome and appreciate cul-tures and ideas stemming from them. It can make for an interesting work dynamic when there are people from different cultures and diversity is a way of work life for that team.
Think of a case where a manager oversees a project that has teams from two different countries as its members. Not only does this mean that he/she should be aware of the different time zones and how best to facilitate communication between the two teams, but also that he/she needs to consider the working cultures of the people. People from one country maybe used to working in a style that makes them analyze all the risks and understand the project before diving into it while the team members from the other country might dive right in, tackling challenges as they go. These are very diverse approaches and how someone approaches their work speaks a lot about where they are from.
Now the manager can facilitate a communication and come up with a plan to make these teams work together, while preserving their contrasting work styles. The idea is to make it a fusion of both the cultures and work styles so that a middle ground is reached for everyone to agree upon.
Often, a fusion model can increase the likelihood of culture clashes which can result in a team not living up to its potential. The manager should be able to encourage the members to talk to each other and come up with a plan on mitigating these clashes and foster a healthy work environ-ment.
Looking at just the cultural aspect of this discussion, culture can be classified into two distinct groups – traits that constitute the surface level aspects like language, dress sense, eating habits and so on and traits that constitute deeper aspects like beliefs, sentiments and values. Both are very important in defining a culture and identifying a person based on them. A manager can work with everyone and come up with a communication strategy that works well for everyone.
Some examples of facilitating communication between culturally diverse work groups:
Respect a different viewpoint. Create an environment where everyone understands the fact that people’s opinions vary a great deal (about themselves and of others). No two individuals have the same worldview. A manager can arrange for an event that focuses on the cultural aspects of the team, like organizing games that bring out the aspects of the different cultures.
Communication Strategy. Foster a strategy to communicate that everyone can follow and un-derstand, if there are language barriers in the work place. For example, if a team is predominantly Chinese, have them conduct an internal status report meeting and ask one of them (who is fluent in English), to report about the meeting to the manager. This way, no one is blindsided about what is going on.
Organizational politics is an ongoing occurrence that professionals deal with or tackle on an eve-ryday basis. How they are perceived can vary vastly based on the emotional intelligence of a per-son. Project managers should be equipped to deal with the challenges that can come from the team members falling prey to politics that can easily get out of hand and hamper the progress of the project. While organizational politics can be perceived in many ways, the most distinct differ-ences to be observed are the politics that hamper the employees (hidden agendas, maneuvers that harm a person or a project, etc.) and the politics that can be construed as positive for the team and the project. Perception of people’s beliefs, being sensitive to their needs and thoughts and opinions and using that to make a good advancement in bringing the team together, needs to be the manager’s primary goal.
A transformational leader leads by example and practicality by way of executing tasks and ac-complishing goals in a practical way. This should be the guiding example for his/her team to fol-low. A transformational leader defines the way a team should work within positive organization-al politics.
Ways a manager can foster a positive work environment in a politically charged workplace:
Identify the cause. Managers should pay close attention to the happenings in the workplace. This includes common occurrences and any deviants that may hamper the progress of the project.
Facilitate communication. Bring everyone in the team together for a conversation about what the ongoing problem is and how to tackle it, for everyone’s benefit. Give the team confidence that he/she is there for them and would defend them no matter what the problem might be. There is never an issue that cannot be solved.
Foster confidence. This again goes back to my previous point about fostering confidence in the team that no matter how high the stakes, their leader is there for them and will hold their hands and guide them towards a successful culmination of the project.
Leaders are the most defining pillars in an organization and they show the path moving forward. Leadership comes with years of managing teams and leading by example, not just by looking to other sources for those examples but from their own experiences. A culturally diverse organiza-tion or a team is a great place to learn from and give and receive priceless knowledge and experi-ences. At the end of the day, working in an environment that encourages anyone to speak up and gives everyone an equal opportunity to excel will give results that can last a long time and prove to be successful to the project.
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