Creating a team identity beyond language.

Audiences and markets have become globalized and teams have grown to an amazing ecosystem of culturally diverse talents, inspiring brands across the globe with unlimited growth opportunity and fresh perspectives. We have offshore teams with copywriters and designers in London, development & QC in Buenos Aires, software engineers in Chennai and marketing teams in NYC. Maybe your campus in Prague has members from different nationalities.

Inspiring and managing teams is a wonderful challenge, and with team members from different countries and different cultural backgrounds and languages, it requires also a fresh and diverse perspective as their teams itself. Wherever your team is in one office or globally dispersed, they are expected to deliver their best performance, creativity, and unique point of view into the game. So, how do we leverage, support and inspire such a diverse workforce?

Language and cultural differences.

One of the key components of every collaborative relationship is trust, and open communication among team members is key. Language proficiency is a challenge and can undermine trust between its members. Colleagues with different levels of proficiency could be perceived as less communicative or reliable, undermining healthy trust-building in each other’s abilities and skills. It is crucial to find ways to transform these differences, into creative energy. It’s important to explore those differences so we know how to interact and grow as a group.

A way to encourage this understanding of diversity is to create unstructured moments, not necessarily ‘a meeting’- where everyone can share their cultural background and expectations about communication and working style. The team gets to learn more about each other by listening, sharing and asking questions and sharing about their backgrounds, even to learn what kind of food they like, or learn a traditional recipe from your home. It’s amazing when teams discover that we are not that different after all.

Teams experience a lot of pressure, and members of multi-language teams frequently relieve stress by switching into their native tongue, inadvertently excluding other teammates from their conversations. We need to reverse language barriers and communication anxiety by encouraging open dialogue in teams as a whole, creating a “team identity” equipped with amazing different strengths and unique backgrounds, united in one vision. Like a team of superheroes.

Reducing language gap

The success and strength of every multi-national team reside in one basic -but rather complex- aspect: communicationHow can you measure the degree of language connection among team members? When people come from similar nationalities, the level of ‘language distance’ is usually low. Even if they come from different backgrounds, people can interact formally and informally, align, and build trust. They arrive at a common understanding of what certain behaviors mean, and they feel close and congenial, which fosters good teamwork.

Coworkers who are geographically separated, or come from different countries and cultures, could experience some kind of language anxiety that could prevent interactions. This originates from the inability to communicate, missing information and/or negative evaluation. This negative dynamics reduce team performance, and especially for creatives, artist, and designers, where creative energy, collaborative expression, and multi-team interaction is vital.

Creating a team identity

In a team, is important that everyone gets enough speaking time, and that everyone knows what they’re working toward. What’s our vision and why we are doing what we do. Bringing everyone around common goals and a unified vision is key. I can not stress this more! as evident it may seem, this is poorly done, and team members spot it quickly when is fake. Is has to be an honest take, not a speech. That’s why you need to know the brand, the clients, the team, the story. You need to be the first one to believe it to be able to inspire it. Highlighting the importance of each diverse skill in your team will level up the group dynamics, and also how much value the team is contributing to the success of the service, product or brand. Be open about the unique appreciation for everyone’s input and encourage meta-communication. Each particular story amounts to create a more solid, trustworthy and collaborative team.

Bringing everyone around a unified vision is key. Its has to be an honest take, not a speech. That’s why you need to know the brand, the clients, the team, the story. You need to be the first one to believe it to be able to inspire it.

Break down your common goal into actionable steps and outline each individual’s role and responsibilities. This reduces the chance of misunderstandings and lets everyone know that their contribution matters. Clarity of each team member’s contribution also makes it easier to address team performance as a whole. It sets expectations for what needs to be done, by who and when.

Building a team identity also entails finding common things between team members. Make space in your working day to promote team interactions, to get to appreciate each other team members. Perhaps there are teammates who share the same taste in movies, music or TV shows. Some may bond over hobbies or share information about their families, etc. Personal connections within the team make it easier to work together, trust and have a solid team identity.

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To be continued…