Innovative leaders manage a team and foster an environment that nurtures creativity. In regards to international teams, the leader should be aware of, understand, and respect the cultural differences that exist.
Cultural factors affect the way that we all live, conduct business and even the level that we are able to innovate in our businesses. When team members come from different countries, they think and behave differently, and you need to understand that their response to business leaders will be different. Even though English may be used during meetings, a forward-thinking leader will realize all members will not be equally proficient and some people may be translating from English to their native language. Body language, facial expressions, communication styles, and dress codes are other factors to consider when meeting with a multicultural group.
In the United States, one will normally see communication styles that are time efficient, informal and direct. Outside the United States, our meeting style can be seen as aggressive. Global team leaders should be sensitive to this cultural nuance.
In France, meetings are more heavily formatted with emphasis on hierarchy. Leaders are rarely contradicted, so the key to success is to build consensus for an idea prior to a meeting. Additionally, French executives value sophisticated language and communication skills.
In Brazil, meetings will typically emphasize relationship-building, using informal communication, body language, direct eye contact, and passionate verbal communication. It is critical that team members know their defined roles and the details of the chain of command, while timing is less of an absolute.
Furthermore, in China, team members may be reluctant to go against the group because the culture is consensus-driven and team-oriented. Decision-making is best done after meetings in a series of discussions as team members are often reluctant to say “no” or go against the group consensus.
Lastly, there is no right or wrong way to conduct business, just different styles working to achieve sustained innovation. As with any group, each individual is unique, however, there are certain commonalities among cultures in regards to how they communicate and react in a meeting environment. In order to be an effective leader, one must understand that those cultural differences exist, and encourage mutual respect among multicultural groups.