Building an Effective Cross-cultural Team

The challenges to effective working in a multinational, cross-cultural team can be enormous.  “Do you really know what the other person means?” “Why did that offend them?” “Why does my supervisor seem not to understand me?”

Such a team in a missionary agency in Europe comprised individuals from several countries in three continents. As a team they did not function particularly well and as a result their planning, organisation and output was below par. This directly affected the organisations effectiveness in spreading the gospel to individual people in many countries.

An intervention in the form of a development programme comprising four main threads was undertaken to focus on: understanding cross-cultural dynamics; effective and responsible communications; Emotional Intelligence, which is about understanding and developing effective interpersonal interactions and behaviour; and finally developing the characteristics of a high performance team. To embed the training, and aid in working through issues, the programme was supported by face to face and email/phone based coaching.

The outcome was the transformation of the team as evidenced through radical improvements in time management, communications, the quality of their output and productivity. Perhaps the pinnacle of the transformation has been the change in their levels of innovation. This has enabled the agency to fulfil its mandate in new and more effective ways across the world, taking the gospel to individual people and fostering the growth of spiritual maturity in Christians.