A Selection Of 6 Books To Help You Build Great Teams

team building books

Team building can be a tough task for leaders at any level.

Whether you’re starting a business or working to complete a project, getting everyone’s personalities, work habits and mindsets on the same page can be a significant barrier to reaching the ultimate team goal: cohesion as a means to an end.

Many times, the problem lies in the fact that each person approaches the task at hand differently and with varying levels of ego and ambition. Unfortunately, you, as the leader, are the one left asking yourself how to help your team.

  • How can I account for each person’s attitude and motivation?
  • How can I encourage and push the team to work together?
  • How can I foster an environment of support and respect?

All of these are important principles behind team building. The skill pulls in psychology, sociology, anthropology and other practices that study the behavior of individuals and groups.

Luckily, you don’t have to go back to school for an advanced degree to work well with your team. Here is a selection of good books to help build your team.

A Team of Leaders: Empowering Every Member to Take Ownership, Demonstrate Initiative, and Deliver Results, by Paul Gustavson and Stewart Liff

Looking for a book for the entire team?

This is your pick.

It’s written to help team members identify their effectiveness on a scale of one to five.

This book gives them practical steps to achieve greater results.

Debugging Teams: Better Productivity through Collaboration, by Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman

As you know, there’s more to a job than the job description.

The emotional and human side can take much longer to learn.

This book shows you how to work with and around this side, to create a collaborative environment.

Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances, by J. Richard Hackman

A classic in the team-building book category, this tome is grounded in a deeper look at practical results.

Hackman makes this masterpiece funny and witty at the same time.

Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy, by Amy C. Edmondson

While many of Edmondson’s ideas are ones that will come naturally, once you learn and put them in practice you can account for the personality differences among team members.

The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Cris Yeh

With the experience of an entrepreneurial team and a LinkedIn co-founder, this book examines the leader/team member relationship and helps to build that experience into a greater connected-ness.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, by Patrick Lencioni

In an easy-to-read, entertaining story about a new CEO who has to create a team, Lencioni looks at the five main reasons for team failure and organizational politics.

If Not Handled Well, Having Younger Bosses Can Be Harmful

different ages in the workplace boss

There are multiple generations that work together in the workplace today.

Baby boomers are starting to edge toward retirement age and they may even be staying in the workplace longer than before, while millennials are just at the start of their careers, with generation X sandwiched in the middle.

This can cause some discomfort for people, especially in circumstances when the traditional hierarchy of the most senior person being in charge changes.

What happens when you have older workers and younger bosses?

Affects the Whole Company

The Journal of Organizational Psychology recently published a study based on a survey that examined the phenomenon of workers having managers that are younger than they are. In some cases, the younger workers were the same age as the children of the older workers.

Researchers noted some interesting results.

In this survey of 8,000 German employees at 61 different companies, organisations where people had a greater number of younger managers had 12% more negative feelings about the workplace. 

A few employees feeling negative thoughts can have an impact on the company as a whole. The negative feelings may even affect those employees directly a part of a situation with unconventional age differences.

These businesses also did worse when it came to organizational and financial performance.

Status Incongruence

This phenomenon of having younger people promoted over more senior workers is part of what is known as ‘status incongruence’. Status incongruence is not a new phenomenon and was also seen when women began being put into positions of management over men.

In the past, older employees tended to be in executive positions within a company while the younger employees were the rank and file.

Now, the recession of 2007 changed this with more older workers staying in the workplace longer. One survey by Careerbuilder.com found that 69 percent of workers over the age of 55 had bosses younger than them.

The Solution

The differences among the generations in the workplace today can have a positive effect by creating a more diverse workforce.

However, these differences can spark some issues. Among other things, for older employees, a younger manager may make them feel like a failure in their lack of upward movement.

The best solution to deal with this is in manager training. It’s important that managers be trained to understand status incongruence and learn how to deal with those that may feel uncomfortable with the age difference in a supervisory relationship.

Are CEOs Worth It?

ceo salary worth it

CEOs, the leaders of the corporate world, are generally viewed as the purse-holding decision makers who push their businesses forward toward growth and prosperity. They are the face of the company, and, in cultures where individual performance is valued more than the team as a whole, CEOs are the movers and shakers in innovation and development.

As a result, chief executive officers around the world are rewarded with the same image in mind. On average among companies around the world, CEOs are paid between 50 and 100 times more than average workers. In the United States, the divide is even greater with CEOs earning about 350 times as much.

A closer look, though, has many wondering if these individuals really hold as much power as people think. Is the amount that CEOs are paid worth it?

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (Professor at Columbia University and University College London) has some answers.

Good CEOs Shape More Than Culture

An organisation’s culture is often shaped from the top down. Things start with the CEO and trickle down to entry-level workers.

In a study that looked at the CEOs of 32 different technology firms, researchers found that CEOs who are excited and inquisitive are leaders of organizations where employees are take-charge entrepreneurs. CEOs with an intense drive tend to create a corporate culture centered on results, while caring CEOs run a company with an empathetic culture.

These are important factors in a company’s success. However, other aspects can be viewed as even more valuable.

Bad CEOs Play a Role, Too

Some of the most famous corporate disasters have stemmed from the poor judgment and ethical decisions made by the leaders. Just look at Enron, HP, Wells Fargo and Merrill Lynch, which are some of the most well-known situations in contemporary business.

CEOs with volatile, antisocial and unpredictable personalities are often at the helm of companies where employees feel less connected and engaged with their employers. As a result, there is less productivity and more turnover. The corporate culture tends to be more negative overall. These companies often have more financial losses.

Beyond the hits that businesses take because of low productivity and lost work, the CEOs who are more narcissistic tend to make payment decisions that give them a greater salary package than more positive and productive CEOs.

CEOs are More Important Than Ever

Over the past 60 years, a look at more than 18,000 firms shows that a CEO’s effect on the company’s performance is becoming even more important. While there is no dynamic shift that has taken place on the workload of the CEO, some feel that the general public and company investors place an increased importance on the role of the CEO.

As this perception (and resulting salary) continues to grow, so can the resentment from employees making far less than the CEO. To create a culture of growth, CEOs need to take the perceived importance from others and put it to practice in their business, showing their employees why they are deserving of their salary and merit.

Top 10 Signals That An Employee Is Going To Quit

employee quit job

While managers and executives can spend their time hemming, hawing, and trying to guess whether or not an employee is planning on quitting, there has been very little research done on the subject.

Because of that, Timothy Gardner (Professor at Utah State University) and Peter Hom (Professor at Arizona State University) conducted studies into the signs and signals that an employee is likely to quit.

The researchers found some habits that might have appeared to be solid predictors were not true indicators of someone quitting, while other behavioral changes that may have been chalked up to having a bad day were strong signals that an employee is considering voluntarily leaving the position.

After several rounds of surveys, studies and analysis,  the authors found that these are the top 10 signs that someone is about to quit their job:

  1. Decrease in productivity.
  2. Lower tendency to work as a team player.
  3. Doing the minimum amount of work for much longer periods of time.
  4. Less interest in pleasing managers.
  5. Hesitation to commit to long-term deadlines and projects.
  6. More negative attitude.
  7. Putting forth less effort and having less motivation.
  8. Being less focused on the job and other employer-related matters.
  9. Expressing greater and more frequent job dissatisfaction.
  10. Expressing greater and more frequent dissatisfaction with supervisors.

Many of these are more subtle hints than employers usually expect to see. Typically, managers are on the lookout for telltale and widely circulated folkloric signals. However, according to the study, these signal are very infrequent in practice and include things such as:

  • Wearing more casual work apparel.
  • Leaving printed copies of resumes in the open.
  • Arriving late for work or having more doctor’s appointments than in the past.
  • Asking co-workers for contacts at other organizations.
  • Demonstrating bad or poor attitude, or anger.

If you’re a manager, it’s important to start making sure your employees (especially top performers) don’t quit unexpectedly and too soon. Communicate with your staff to see what they like and don’t like about their jobs. Then look for ways to motivate them and increase the chances of them staying.

If you’re an employee who is unsatisfied, remember that you might have been exhibiting these behaviors, even subconsciously, for months. To avoid any hints that you are looking to quit, keep giving your best and showing enthusiasm for the organization. Don’t drop your productivity, continue to work as a team player, and take note of any of the other 10 indicators you might be showing.

Quick Checklist To Know If You’re A Super Leader

how to be a good leader

Getting honest feedback isn’t always easy when you’re the boss.

Your employees might not feel comfortable being forthright. You may not even realize what you’re doing is counterproductive to the team effort.

Here are a few ways that you can tell whether or not you’re doing a good job as a leader, thanks to expert opinions and research.

Are you:


Being Positive and Happy

One study found that people that are happy tend to make effective leaders, and these leaders typically demonstrate a transformational management style.

This isn’t so much about being the type of person that’s always smiling or laughing at work, but one that’s hopeful, positive, inspiring and motivational.


Being an Agent of Change

Researchers found that many younger managers are seen as more effective leaders compared to older managers in the workplace.

That’s often because younger people are more willing to embrace change. Not only does this involve trying a new approach, but it also entails leaders who show a willingness to improve themselves.


Being Respectful

Employees that feel respected by their leaders are more engaged.

Engagement can equal more employee satisfaction, which might equate to less turnover and better performance. All of these statistics are marks of a good leader.


Being a Visionary

One key to being a leader is actually leading your staff in the direction that you want them to go, and this requires having a clear vision that you can articulate.

Leaders that struggle are those that lack vision, are unable to guide their staff towards this vision, or get everyone working towards that vision together.


Being Boring and Predictable

Ever had that boss where you never knew exactly which personality type would show up at work everyday? You probably disliked him because he wasn’t predictable.

This boss wasn’t emotionally mature and lacked the desired traits of being agreeable, diligent and emotionally stable. It may be funny for a minute to see a person in power show up to work as an evil twin, but over time, this can get old and it makes for a stressful work environment.

According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (Professor at Columbia University and University College London):

The best managers in the world tend to be stable rather than excitable, consistent rather than erratic, as well as polite and considerate.


Being a Hard Worker

That hard work you put in to become a leader, shows by the role you play in the company.

Conscientiousness – i.e. being hardworking, careful, vigilant and wanting to do a good job – plays an important role in becoming and being a successful leader.


Being Well Rested

Many leaders are sleep-deprived most of the time. Furthermore, they might cause their team to be low on sleep as well, by expecting them to engage in work at odd hours.

If you want to be a better and more charismatic leader, make an extra effort to ensure you and your team are well rested.


Being A Praise Giver

82 percent of people do not feel like they receive enough recognition from management for their contributions.

And 40 percent of people said they would apply more effort into their work if they were recognized more.


Being Empathetic

Unfortunately, many leaders lack one basic quality that holds them back in their business practices: Empathy.

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand or share other people’s experiences and emotions. To master this important ability, you have to constantly practice it.

Hopefully, you’re starting to feel a little more confident in your standing as a great leader. If you’re not, these are perfect guidelines to serve as model behavior.

Poor Writing Dilutes Productivity And Leadership

poor bad writing

Bad writing is more than just an annoyance.

Sure, a typo or two makes you stumble over words, pause in your reading and then shake your head at such a silly thing. However, bad writing and a lack of clear written communication can have an impact on productivity and leadership potential in the workplace.


Research

A survey by Josh Bernoff (author of Groundswell and Writing Without Bullshit) revealed that 81 percent of business professionals cite bad writing as a time-waster at the office.

During a 40-hour work week, the typical person spends 25.5 hours reading. These could be emails, reports or other material. Over the course of a year, imprecise communication and typos could cost someone several hours of work.

Here’s one scenario. Mike can’t make sense of a four-paragraph email from Jerry who could have said the same thing in two sentences. He tries calling Jerry but can’t reach him. Mike then takes the elevator down two floors to talk to Jerry in person. After a 15-minute discussion, Mike understands what Jerry intended to say.

Mike just wasted more than 15 minutes on something that could have been cleared up if Jerry’s email was succinct in the first place. Magnify this difficulty times the number of employees at a firm, and you can see where this is headed. A lack of productivity costs companies in employee time. Lower productivity, lowers profits.

Fixes

Instead of long introductions in emails, get right to the point.

Write in precise terms, and use short sentences.

Think about the main point of the email before composing it. Edit and revise the email at least twice before clicking Send.

Staff training on how to write effectively can save a lot of employee time later. Provide concrete examples and on-the-job feedback to drive the point home quickly.


Leadership and Writing

According to Josh – “Fuzzy writing allows fuzzy thinking.”

Leaders should use active voice to make their points. Otherwise, people may perceive weakness from the person if he/she cannot write in decisive terms.

Here’s a simple example. Consider the difference between “The project should be completed on time and under budget ” versus “We will finish the project in six months.” The first sentence is relatively vague, whereas the second sentence sets a clear, decisive stance.

Leaders who don’t write in direct, active language show a lack of confidence, clarity and direction. This filters down to employees who lose faith in the leader. An executive’s lack of writing ability can hurt morale, reduce productivity and increase employee turnover.


Promotions

Grammarly conducted research using LinkedIn profiles.

The grammar website found that people with proper grammar and spelling in their profiles, earned higher promotions compared to those who didn’t.

Employees who failed to reach the position of director within the first 10 years of a career had 2.5 times as many typos in their LinkedIn profiles.

Therefore, lack of writing skills can cost you career progress and income over your lifetime. So take some time to read your copy before submitting or sending anything – whether it’s an email, social profile, blog post or report.

When An Abusive Leadership Style Works

leadership style

Regardless of the era or industry, society’s exposure to outspoken, abrasive, and sometimes cruel management tactics, has been a constant factor.

Industry leaders such as Steve Jobs, have seen their management styles perceived as abusive, mean, or cruel.

Amazingly, while some view managers like Jobs as abusive, others saw Jobs’ style as an extremely effective factor in the raising of their own performance at Apple.

How is it, then, that the aggressive management styles of some business leaders can be seen by some employees as abusive, while others find it motivating?  Personal perception would seem to be the defining factor of an employee’s reality.

Researchers have found that “social contextual factors” play a major role in determining how aggressive verbal and nonverbal behaviors are perceived as either abusive or motivating.

These are the factors that determine how an abusive leadership style is perceived.


How effective is leadership in the development of those being led?

A leader whose aggressive management style results in positive achievements and successful task completion, will be viewed more favorably.

Even when the leader’s style involves harsh and aggressive criticism, positive results turn the management tactics into a motivating factor, and not abuse.

Perhaps the most obvious, and visible example would be Steve Jobs. Jobs’ leadership style was brought into question when Apple struggled, but seen as a highly effective example of leadership as Apple became hugely successful.


Is the leader seen as trustworthy?

Trust in leadership can go a long way toward determining the amount of “abuse” an employee will put up with.

Trust can turn the perception of abuse (e.g. “he’s just trying to bully me into accomplishing the impossible”), into one of motivation (e.g. “He thinks I am capable of a higher quality of work”).

Employees who trust their supervisor tend to take a positive view of comments which could be viewed as either abusive or motivational.


Do the motives of leadership seem transparent and honest?

When a leader’s actions are explained with genuine reasons, their employees are more inclined to give them the benefit-of-the-doubt.

Even harmful moves, undertaken by leadership, can be viewed by employees as honest mistakes, when leadership has displayed a level of fairness.


How do co-workers feel about leadership?

No matter how hard we may try to remain grounded in our own perceptions, the perceptions of others still can play a part in how leadership and management are viewed.

Remarks about leadership, from team members and co-workers, can reveal a wide range of treatments and experiences at the hands of leadership.  Depending on how those experiences are relayed (abusive or fair) can go a long way in forming general opinions.


Whether you’re deciding on the appropriateness of your own management style, or evaluating the the style of another person, it is useful to keep these factors in mind. They can help you make a proper evaluation of the situation and  decide on the best approach.

How To Deliver Bad News To Employees, In A Good Way

how to deliver bad news to employee layoff

Regardless of if you are the person receiving or giving bad news, no one likes to be a part of the conversation if bad news is going to be involved.

However, when the situation calls for it, there are ways to make hard conversations go a little smoother.

While the words you use have value to the person you are talking to, the tone of your voice and the way you go about the situation has a bigger impact on the conversation, according to recent studies by Saarland University in Germany.

The researchers behind the study, looked specifically the situation where a manager needed to convey the news of an employee being fired. They conducted a series of experiments which involved role playing, in order to reach their conclusion.

Training was received by one group of managers, on the methods of using language that centered on fairness and the facts of the termination, while another group did not receive any training.

Staff reacted much better and were more accepting to information/news that was given by managers who went through the training.

They were less likely to be confrontational when their manager took the time to explain the underlying causes of the situation, instead of being aggressive and demonstrating their authority through their tone of voice.


Then the researchers looked into the importance of fairness versus fact-giving, when delivering bad news to an employee. One group of managers was given training geared towards fairness and factual correctness, and the second group was trained on being strictly factual.

The supervisors who received training only on delivering facts concerning the bad news, did not fare better with employees, as compared to managers who did not receive any training at all.

Through this, the research was able to demonstrate that characteristic of fairness was most important in the conversation concerning a layoff.

According to Professors Manuela Richter and Cornelius Konig, who led the studies, when it comes to fairness, both respect and transparency are involved. A good example of this is when a manager took the time to discuss with the employee that the layoff wasn’t happening because of his/her behavior or performance, but rather the layoff was taking place due to economic situations and difficulties which resulted in the company cutting back.


To give bad news with fairness and empathy, here are some quick tips:

  1. Tell it like it is: Employees stated that they would rather be told the truth, without any toning down, and simply be given the facts of the matter, over a manager trying to say what they believe the employee wants to hear.
  2. Be considerate and prepared: It is best to prepare and practice what you are going to say in advance. Also think about the best time and place to give the bad news, taking into account the employee’s convenience, privacy, dignity and feelings.
  3. Don’t rush things: Don’t try and make the meeting as short as possible. The employee can sense when you’re just trying to get over with it. Keep sufficient time for the employee to process the information, understand it, discuss it, share concerns and ask questions.

Want to avoid being the worst kind of boss? Then don’t do this…

bad boss unfair

You’d think that a boss who is only unfair sometimes, is preferable to someone who is always unfair; however, you’d be wrong.

A new study has found that employees have more job satisfaction and are less stressed when their boss is consistently, predictably unfair.

According to a researcher at Michigan State University, Fadel Matta, it is better to have supervisors who are consistent jerks, than if they are not fair some of the time and fair other times. This is because people want to know what to expect when they come to work.

The study was divided into two parts.

In one experiment, college students were to estimate the hypothetical stock price of a company using information about its performance, and they were told that their classmates would sit in a different room to act as their supervisors.

During the experiment, the students had their heart rates monitored to test stress levels, while they were divided into three groups.  One group consistently received positive feedback, the second received a constant stream of negative statements, and the last group received a mix of both.

The results showed that those who were praised fared the best according to their heart rate variation—no surprise there—while those who were constantly given negative feedback did better than the group who got mixed messages.

The second part involved asking employees in a variety of jobs and industries to complete daily questionnaires for three weeks about how they perceive fairness.  The hire-ups were also given surveys at the beginning of the study to gauge their self-control. Once again the results corroborated the findings from the other experiment. Employees who’s bosses behaved unpredictably were more likely to be dissatisfied, stressed and emotionally drained, as compared to employees who were always treated unfairly.

So, as a supervisor, what should you do?

The key, according to Matta, is to prepare your staff for potentially unfair circumstances. He says that being unfair is sometimes a necessity because there is a limited amount of time and resources available in most workplaces.

However, if you prepare your employees beforehand so that the uncertainty is diminished, they will be more understanding and at ease. Don’t keep them guessing because the stress from not knowing what’s to come is ten times worse.

For example, you might say, “Next week XYZ will be happening and ABC decision will be announced.”

Are you rested enough to be an inspiring leader?

sleep deprivation leadership

Sleep deprivation happens to all of us at one time or another.

Many of us will have a night when the work we bring home takes a lot longer than expected, or a little one is up sick, or you just can’t sleep for one reason or another.

The next day was pretty ugly, wasn’t it?

You were constantly yawning, your mind wasn’t able to focus, and you were downright grouchy.  That was because of only one night of less sleep.

Imagine being a person whose work or life constantly leaves them with little time for sleep.  Now imagine trying to do well and enjoy the workday, when you’re always sleep deprived. If all of this sounds familiar and you’re also a team leader, then there are some things to think about.

Recently,  Christopher Barnes, an Associate Professor at the University of Washington, undertook some research to explain the link between sleep-deprived leaders and uninspired teams or followers.  The study showed not only the negative effect sleep-deprived leaders had on their underlings, but also the positive effect of leaders working on regular sleep.


When the leader is working on a full, restful night of sleep, he/she has a more natural, positive mood.  The leader’s positive state makes the management and display of emotions better.

These signals are picked-up and seen as positives by team members, and cause the leader to be seen as more charismatic.

Teams will often pick up on cues provided by the leader, and, as a result, will be happier and have a more positive outlook themselves. A more positive attitude for team members means a higher level of confidence not only regarding the leader, but also for their own performance.

Of course, not all environments are blessed with a rested, charismatic leader.  What effect can a tired, unfocused, and grouchy leader have on his/her team?

Exactly the opposite. If the leader is working on less than an optimal amount of sleep, his/her emotional regulation and display suffer.  This results in them being perceived as less charismatic and inspiring.

If you have subordinates who are sleep deprived as well, then that becomes a double-edged sword. Sleep deprived subordinates are lower in positive emotion and are grumpy. This makes them difficult to inspire and increases the chances of them seeing you as less charismatic. Just like you would need the best machete if you were in the bush, you need the sharpest mind to lead your subordinates out of the woods.


Many leaders are sleep-deprived most of the time. Furthermore, they might cause their team to be low on sleep as well, by expecting them to engage in work at odd hours.

The lesson is simple. If you want to be a better and more charismatic leader, make an extra effort to ensure you and your team are well rested.

One Foolproof Way to Achieve Your Goals

Reminders

The key to achieving any kind of goal is maintaining a focused effort. This might seem like a no-brainer, but if you’ve ever tried to achieve anything, you know that it’s much harder than it seems on paper. It is difficult to sustain that kind of focus in our daily lives. The pace of our lives makes it difficult to remember what we need to do the exact moment it needs to be done in order to achieve our goals, because goals do not have the same concreteness that daily living does.

How do you achieve any goal? Break it down into much smaller goals. How do you meet those smaller goals? Create “reminders through association” to cue the action needed to advance through the steps of a goal. Essentially, these are intentional reminders, kind of like leaving yourself a note. But, don’t just leave yourself a reminder. Put it somewhere you will be able to act upon the reminder.

By associating an object with an action, every time you see that object you will be prompted to perform the action. For example, placing a chin-up bar in a doorway to remind you to work on your upper body strength. Every time you go through that doorway, you will see the bar and be reminded to do a few pull-ups, thus breaking down the goal of increasing upper body strength into manageable sub-goals of, say, 20 pull-ups a day.

Think about it. What goals do you have that require some seriously focused effort? Are you trying to walk more, drink more water, or even increase your sales network? What steps do you need to take to achieve those goals that can be tied to an intentional physical reminder? Is it as simple as placing your water bottle next to your mouse to remind you to take a drink, or putting a paper note on the door to remind you to take the stairs? It could be. What about increasing your sales network? That requires phone calls, for which the reminder can be as simple as placing the list next to the phone. Every time you see it there, you will be reminded to make the required number of phone calls each day to meet your goal.

Any object that you can mentally associate with an action will increase your chances of achieving a goal. It’s a great way to form new habits and the best way to break down even the loftiest goals into manageable chunks. It’s nearly foolproof and scientifically proven to increase our ability to follow through on good intentions. So, find a reminder for your goals today!

Fixing common challenges with cross cultural commnication

cross cultural communication problems

Working in settings where diversity is prominent, is a great experience to have.

You have a chance to experience new perspectives and insights.

However, to be able to roll in these riches, open communication is a necessity.  Colleagues must be willing to share, for sharing to occur.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen that easily.

Here are a few situations where challenges can arise during cross-cultural exchanges in the workplace, along with ways to overcome them, suggested by Ginka Toegel (Professor or Organisational Behaviour at IMD Lausanne) and Jean-Louis Barsoux (Senior research fellow at IMD).


Getting Ideas

Interaction and participation in the workplace is different for every culture.

Employees from more individualistic and egalitarian countries like the U.S.A, are more open to expressing their ideas, whereas people from hierarchical cultures, like Japan, wait for senior coworkers to voice their opinions. People from other cultures may be wary when it comes to revealing their thoughts because they worry about looking shallow or silly.

Patterns of communication can also prove to be an obstacle.  While some cultures prefer more methodical patterns, others are more comfortable with interruptions and overlapping conversations.

To fix this problem, you can better guarantee everyone’s contribution by having clear communication conventions.  Here are some interesting strategies to facilitate interaction:

  • Go around the table at least once, so that everyone has a chance to voice their opinions.
  • Ask open-ended questions, without providing your own thoughts first, so as not to influence responses beforehand.
  • Adopt a “four-sentence rule” to limit talkative members, giving everyone time to jump in respectfully.

Surfacing Disagreement

Differences during disagreements can be one of the biggest roadblocks in cross-cultural communication.

People from cultures that place importance on public image try to avoid confrontation for fear of social discord. Other cultures believe that having an open argument is a sign of trust.

Furthermore, different cultures contrast in how much emotion they show and expect from others during a debate.  Body language is also different in different areas of the world, so miscommunication can happen.

To remedy the possibility of unhealthy disagreements, here are a few methods to encourage healthy debate:

  • Designate someone to play devil’s advocate to consider and prompt discussion of the trials and tribulations linked to different perspectives. This methodology can show people that debates can be healthy, which can bridge the gap between cultures.
  • Go around and ask each person for a pro and con on a particular matter, so that everyone gets to argue both sides and learn that different perceptions do exist.

Providing Feedback

Constructive criticism is an important part of teamwork. It can help understanding and alignment in areas such as communication style, behavior and punctuality.  However, that can be a tricky minefield to navigate.

Different cultures see criticism and feedback in different ways.

The U.S. and similar countries see it as an opportunity for personal growth, but people from relationship-oriented, collectivist countries may not be used to voicing their critiques in public – preferring to share in private, informal settings instead.

Hierarchical cultures may not believe that it is their job to offer advice to team members, and prefer to leave that task to superiors/leaders.

Language used to give criticism varies as well.

Here are a few ways to bridge the gap when it comes to feedback:

  • Teach people to soften negative feedback by framing it in a positive manner and/or to provide it to the whole team instead of singling anyone out.
  • Lead by example and model any techniques you would like your team to use.