In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, businesses constantly look for ways to do jobs better at less cost. One strategy is to use teams to solve problems and develop new products, policies, procedures and strategies. By using virtual technology, international and multicultural teams can form, share ideas and create solutions so simply that this strategy is increasing in practice. Toyota, for example, has successfully taken the concept of a virtual team to a global level by locating engineering, styling and design, innovation, manufacturing, and production facilities throughout the world. Members of Toyota’s multicultural virtual teams coordinate projects and complete assignments across geographic, cultural and linguistic boundaries as they take advantage of the rewards of pooled world-wide knowledge and decision-making. Frequently, these teams consist of certified legal translators who help bridge the linguistic and cultural divides.
Multicultural teams might be formed for short-term tasks or long-term goals. Whatever their purpose and duration, most teams go through an evolutionary process that begins with formation and culminates in accomplishment of a shared objective. During each step of formation, conflicts commonly arise, which isn’t always bad. When used effectively, conflict can stimulate critical thinking, improve decision-making, uncover latent objections, and reduce tensions that cause discontent and low morale. When a team develops the following skills, it will possess the skills to manage team conflict.
1. Active Listening
Instead of interrupting, let team members finish their thoughts. Focus on what each team member says, ask clarifying questions and respond only after careful analysis. Active listening demonstrates respect for others, encourages participation and ensures better results.
2. Relationship Building
Build relationships by concentrating on issues instead of individuals. By targeting the issues, you will develop and strengthen relationships among team members and demonstrate a genuine concern for reaching the best solution.
3. Mutual Interest
Identify your concerns and those of others. Once you have identified common ground, work toward a mutually beneficial solution.
Engage in open dialogue and brainstorming sessions that encourage new solutions.
Develop a model or code for determining fairness that is amenable to all members. Weigh each solution against the model in order to develop acceptable solutions.