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3 Ways Executives with a Masters in Business Administration Lead Cross-Cultural Teams

March 28, 2017

In today's globalized business environment, top leaders often need to lead cross-cultural teams. Here are 3 ways to do this effectively!

Outdoor portrait of multi-cultural business team

As the business world becomes increasingly international, companies frequently operate across borders with a diverse workforce that comes from all corners of the globe. Managing these global teams across changing markets creates unique challenges and opportunities for managers. Business success is dependent on effectively aligning employees toward shared goals, which requires a more nuanced approach when working with people from multiple cultures and backgrounds.

Pursuing internationally-focused Masters in business administration (MBA) studies is ideal preparation for becoming a cross-cultural leader, working in international teams, developing a global network, and participating in residencies in strategically important markets around the world. Connecting with international business leaders, collaborating with colleagues overseas on a virtual team project, and other exclusive opportunities support MBA students in developing critical skills to empower their global careers.

Here are three strategies that executives employ to lead cross-cultural teams.

1. MBA University Prepares Global Leaders for Respecting Cultural Differences

There is great strength to be found in diversity if cultural differences can be appropriately reconciled and even leveraged. Business leaders have a responsibility to recognize these differences, proactively address potential cross-cultural challenges, and stimulate communication that develops mutual trust and commitment. Begin by acknowledging your own cultural identity and how it might influence your work and communication style.

Asian businesswoman leading meeting at boardroom table
Cultural diversity can be leveraged for better business outcomes

Strive to truly understand the cultural backgrounds of your team members, researching and respecting their different business norms and expectations. Don't let this awareness slide into stereotypes but be open-minded to diverse perspectives, gathering further information before taking action so you can avoid misconceptions and biased assumptions.

2. How Leaders with a Masters in Business Administration Can Establish Trust in Cross-Cultural Teams

Establishing trusting relationships is essential for effective teamwork in business school and the workplace. Building mutual respect is a continuous process that starts from encouraging dialogue, empathetic communication, and clear expectations. Take the extra time to explain your communication style and corporate culture in advance, ensuring that everyone understands your messages and their role within the team.

Two designers with laptop meeting in modern office
Cross-cultural leaders must establish trust through effective communication

While cultural backgrounds may be different, business development should be universal with maximum cohesion. Use appropriately neutral language as much as possible, exercising caution with humour and criticism. Particularly when team members are located in different parts of the world, special effort will be necessary to make sure their voices are heard, sending meeting agendas well in advance and actively seeking their opinions. Providing international colleagues with additional flexibility and preparation time can help overcome potential reticence due to language or cultural sensitivity.

3. Supporting Cross-Cultural Communication and Conflict Resolution after Business School

Make the effort to build metaphorical bridges between team members, especially when important projects involve coordination across distant locations. Create opportunities for casual interactions between colleagues, monitoring team dynamics to proactively address communication challenges. Identify the root sources of conflict, intervening only when necessary to empower employees to resolve future challenges independently.

Try to communicate face-to-face as much as possible to strengthen relationships and assess levels of understanding, demonstrating appreciation for their contributions and finding common ground to engage in small talk. Adapt your communications as you get to know them better and show that they can and should come to you first in case of conflict or confusion. In a Masters in Business Administration, managers learn to seek reconciliation rather than compromise, dealing with differences by leveraging unique strengths. Achieving successes greater than the sum of a team's parts is making the best of both worlds.

Are you looking for an MBA university with a uniquely global perspective?

Contact WU Executive Academy for more information about our MBA programs.

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