Corporate CPR Episode 45: How to Effectively Manage Global Teams

June 22, 2022

On today’s show, we discuss how to effectively manage global teams.

Dr. Rajesh Kumar is a consultant and a retired business academic specializing in global business. He has an undergraduate and a Master’s Degree in Economics from the University of Delhi, an MBA from Rutgers University, and a Ph.D. in International Business from the Stern School of Business at New York University. He is also a Certified Global Dexterity Trainer.

Originally from India, Dr. Kumar has lived and worked in the United States, France, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. He has taught at Penn State, Ohio State, Babson College, and Menlo College in the United States, the University of Nottingham in the U.K., and the University of Aarhus in Denmark, among others.

Dr. Kumar specializes in the art of doing business across cultural boundaries. As companies go global they must deal with suppliers, customers, and even employees coming from different cultural backgrounds. This impacts all facets of business operations ranging from how you negotiate business deals to how you motivate employees and manage them.

Dr. Kumar has led training programs for global companies on Doing Business in India, Negotiating Cross-Culturally, and Managing Strategic Partnerships. Global Strategic Advisory, of which Dr. Kumar is the principal, offers training programs to companies seeking to enhance their global presence. Dr. Kumar is also part of the Partner-Alliances Collective, a group of professionals involved in managing alliances.

Dr. Kumar has a passion for reading, spirituality, and wine tasting. His global experience adds to his vast knowledge, in which he has many fascinating stories to tell.

Key Takeaways:

What kinds of challenges have companies faced with multi-national teams?

  • Communication. Not only is there a language barrier, but often different areas communicate differently. Example: Indirect vs direct communication 
  • Building mutual trust and relationships
  • Getting the best out of different people
  • Stereotyping rather than finding strengths

For people on a global team, what should they be doing to build trust and help team dynamics?

  • Be careful about making judgements based on culture. Trouble with English doesn’t equate to incompetence.
  • Honor everyone for their contribution. Each one has a particular expertise.
  • One nationality might dominate. Avoid sub-groups within the group and encourage contribution from everyone.
  • Be in person rather than remote when possible.

In the US, employees are not as familiar with working globally. How do you help facilitate the proper awareness?

  • Provide cultural training, highlighting differences and potential problems. Give solutions proactively.
  • Plan for teambuilding exercises.

What are some pitfalls companies have when they don’t plan for cultural differences?

  • Can have a complete breakdown between headquarters and subsidiary team, causing projects to miss deadlines and fail to meet expectations. This can cause team members to place blame on each other and degrade rapport.
  • Can have failed negotiations where you don’t get the contract. 
  • Can have a situation where you produce the wrong product for a client because of bad communication.

Tips for managers:

  • Select well. Choose people that have the right skill set and also the right mind set to be able to handle crossing cultures.
  • Engage with the team, both professionally and personally. 

To hire the best people to work on an international team, what skills should a manager look for? 

  • Emotionally attuned 
  • Strong relational orientation
  • Empathy, compassion, patience
  • Positive attitude in challenging circumstances

Tips for managing a team with three or more cultures:

  • Create a NEW culture. 
  • Do not make any one culture dominant. 
  • Allow time to build trust and show respect.

What should a company consider when pairing cultures for a project?

  • Cultural context
  • Historical past between cultures
  • Task complexity

Top 3 Tips:

  • Seek awareness and recognition that there are differences between cultures.
  • All cultures have unique strengths and weaknesses. Celebrate and utilize the strengths.
  • Don’t try to control everything. There are a lot of moving parts. Too much control can destroy trust.

Connect with Dr. Kumar

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