A lot of people heard for the first time about “Third Culture Kids” ( TCKs) when President Obama was elected. The TCKs are children raised in one or more countries which are not the native countries of their parents. An article has been written by an expert of TCKs, Ruth E. Van Reken, about “Obama, Third Culture Team”. Read details here http://wp.me/ptOFQ-1W
Global leaders are asked more and more to be able to lead virtual and multicultural teams all around the world dealing not only with cultural differences but also with misunderstanding of work expectations, performance definition or differences in time zones.
The concept of “Third Culture Teams” has been used to describe how to create congruence of three cultures:
1-The Corporate culture: Company explicit and implicit rules and guidelines, leadership style, ethnocentric or diversity-centered, cultural traits of the country where the Headquarters are based
2-The local country culture: Language (verbal and non-verbal), religion, cultural values and norms, communication style
3-Each individual team member’s own culture, values, beliefs, set of norms
The idea of third culture teams is based on the human need for belonging: People like to feel that they can relate to someone and those who share similar interests.
Effective multicultural leaders are able to :
1- Be familiar with cultures: how they work, the cultural dimensions , intercultural relationships, how to identify and solve t potential conflicts, how to create cross-cultural harmony and creativity.
2-Acknowledging that change is a constant and that people have different ways of coping with change which is culture-related. Select team leaders who are highly adaptable, open and flexible.
3-Create a third culture identity that is stronger than the relationship people have individually with each of the three cultures described above. For example belonging to a global business unit(product or service centered) or a regional team.
4- Create a shared mission statement and vision and specific goals for the team
5-Allow people to communicate often and create internal social networks of “friends” and mentors. People share naturally information that is meaningful or important with people they like (Proven concept of Facebook !).
Conclusion: Cultural sensitivity is the most important attribute of a multicultural team leader. Choose your global team leaders for their ability to federate people under one concept of a third culture team with well-developed active listening skills and mentoring capabilities as well as cultural fluency.