Competent Collaboration – Part 3

In a prior post we covered the topic of Using the Tools of Collaboration as a key factor in being a competent collaborator.

If you recall, the inspiration for this series of posts results from a video of Thomas Friedman (best selling author and 3-time Pulitzer prize winner) called: The World is Flat. In this video he indicates that since we all are so very-well connected (globally) a key factor to our “individual” success depends upon how well we learn to collaborate.

He also referenced an ominous comment made to him, by an industrial leader in India:

The world is changing and you Americans are not ready!

While the prior posts covered human interactions and the tools for doing so, it is now time to cover the importance of…

Acting Globally

This includes considerations you must give, related to:

  • Time Zone
  • Culture
  • Languages

Time Zone

At some level, we have all experienced the time zone factor. For those Americans reading this blog, it may relate to setting up a con-all between personnel on the east and west coasts. Not a hugely complicated matter, so long as we “typically” stay inside the 11-5pm (Eastern) / 8-2pm (Pacific) window.

How about when you need to schedule a video conference with team-members from Boston, Copenhagen and Shanghai?

That, is quite a different matter. Someone is going to be asked to work during their “off hours.” As a competent collaborator you will need to be conscious of this and “spread the pain.” That is, you do NOT want one person / location to be the only one asked to participate in their off hours on a recurring basis.

What I’ve done to handle this is:

  1. Communicate to the team that we have this scheduling / logistical challenge that will require us to shift the timeframes when we hold our con-calls so as not to require any one person or location to consistently participate during their “off hours.”
  2. Make sure I have the clock and weather apps setup in the background on my Mac for each city in which I have team members I’m working with.
  3. Refer to the above when scheduling and starting meetings.

Culture

I have had the opportunity to engage with people from many countries and cultures. Each have their own stereotypical traits (just like we arrogant Americans do). But, I’m not going to get into that here, because…

I have found that if we offer common courtesy to every person we interact with, treat them the way we would like to be treated (ALWAYS as equals), build relationships and do our best to communicate clearly, we can break down many (maybe not all) of the cultural barriers.

The skills for doing so are covered in the post: Competent Collaboration – Part 1.

And, the beginning of this is often the “small talk.”

One easy way to stimulate dialog, in advance of a con-call getting underway, is by being able to comment: “Oh, I see it is raining in Shanghai.

Remember I mentioned above having the time / weather app open for each location I’m working with?

While this may sound simplistic, gestures such as this serve to break down the geographic distances and give people an increased sense of camaraderie (as small a step as this may seem to be).

Language

Fortunately for we Americans, English has become the language of business. Otherwise, quite frankly, we would be screwed.

I witnessed this firsthand, during a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) training session several years ago.

My client was a medical device manufacturing company, with locations in several countries. The Sales and Service personnel who were to receive this training were located in: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the UK and US.

Training for the European team-members took place in Copenhagen, Denmark. An absolutely beautiful city, by the way!

In preparation for training, we had previously engaged with staff members from each country, mostly individually.

But, on day-one of training we had them all in the same room, which was VERY enlightening.

The team members of each country sat together, as you might imagine. Each were speaking amongst their own country team members – in their own language. While there were a few participants who were fairly fluent in multiple European languages, most of us were not.

However, when it came time to meet one-another and kick things off the language used was English.

While English was spoken, there were varying degrees of fluency. So, being aware of this, we (all) needed to constantly check to confirm that what we were “attempting” to communicate was clearly understood by all.

All-in-all, the training was a success!

And, this resulted from our leveraging the skills covered in a prior post (Competent Collaboration – Part 1). Said another way, even if we don’t speak multiple languages, if we are effective at Managing Interpersonal Relationships and Interactions we can effectively collaborate with people from multiple countries and cultures.

In summary, we have covered a number of skills, tools and considerations for being a Competent Collaborator, which is crucially important to our success and how we compete in the global marketplace.

Please, do NOT take this lightly. Regardless of the degrees you have (or don’t have) the key to your success is how effective you are at collaborating with others.

All the best!

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