How To Lead Highly Effective Third Culture Teams ?


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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.

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3 thoughts on “How To Lead Highly Effective Third Culture Teams ?

  1. […] Read more about building third culture teams: https://zestnzen.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/how-to-lead-highly-effective-third-culture-teams/ […]

  2. […]  previous post I introduced the concept of “Third Culture Teams” that has been used to describe  how to create  congruence of three […]

  3. […] How To Lead Highly Effective Third Culture Teams  […]

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