Global Virtual Teams and Their Dramas – Six Tough Steps to Start Working Together

It’s that time of the year again when we arbitrarily change our clocks by an hour because of reasons that nobody seems to understand anymore, in a planet-wide April Fool’s joke. Perhaps it’s just scientists’ way of reminding us that time is relative? Luckily, the EU is about to get rid of that nasty habit but until then I still cringe because now I literally have to get up at 4 am. I am a morning person but there are limits and I feel sorry for my global, virtual team because now they have to handle my bad mood all day long.

They know me well, so they probably just think “Oh, another one of her dramas”…

We have become accustomed to drama everywhere and we are used to arguing in meetings for the sake of positioning ourselves. Sometimes you just want to win over the other person’s view. It’s about who is better than the other. On the surface.

What is this argument really about?

Have you ever considered that you jump into an argument easily not because you want to move forward the team and “think further and outside the box” but just because you like power? Have you considered that you are worried about losing power when you treat your team members with respect and listen to them instead of thinking that you know best of all?

I revisited the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”  by Stephen Covey through this video recently. I was lucky to “win” access to one of Stephen’s talks around 13 years ago in Frankfurt. I was very impressed with him when he made a full concert hall of around 5000 managers stand up, close their eyes, turn around several times and then point towards “North”.

There were around 35 different options to show North.

If you want to become effective as a team you need to invest in the relationship level of the team members. You need to create the framework for a supportive atmosphere in which every team member feels valued and can share her view in a way that is appropriate to them.

You probably now wonder “Ok, I know that but it is easier said than done.” and as so often you are hoping for the quick fix, the recipe or the shortcut to global virtual team productivity.

May I take your delusions from you?

There are no shortcuts in life. Someone will always suffer if you try the quick fixes, the formula or the recipes that might work for others. You will first of all need to work on yourself. Once you are ready to be a “rounded” leader who can set aside ego and nurture a team then you can read the six tough steps to start working more effectively in global, virtual teams.

1) Confront your fears and find a place of self-awareness within you

That is the hardest part of self-development. Often our ego is strong and demands that we nurture it daily. It is like the flesh-eating plant in “Little Shop of Horrors”. The ego needs fodder. We have built ways of showing to ourselves that we are worthy. It could be the new certificate that you have to attain, the endorsements on LinkedIn or the positive feedback you expect in your performance reviews and your 360-evaluation. You behavior is driven by optimizing your evaluation, turnover and other Key Performance Indicators. Learn to be self-sufficient without depending on numbers that prove you are a superhero!

2) Identify the formal roles and responsibilities of your team members

While every team needs formal roles and responsibilities most conflicts occur at the handover points. In a fully functioning and high performing team everyone also supports the other team member when they sense that the other team member is overloaded or when they feel that they have the capacity. The more dispersed and virtual the team works, the harder it is to see how much capacity everyone has.

It is your job as the leader to identify the gaps and to build a feedback loop where team members can openly communicate when they feel overloaded or when they do not have enough challenging work. You probably understand that every team member needs a healthy mix of challenges and routine tasks in order to be satisfied at work.

3) Unmask the informal roles of your team members

In your team you will find informal roles too. In a flatter hierarchy you might have an opinion leader who does not necessarily agree with you. You might find this team member challenging but this team member could be your greatest ally and supporter if you understood how this person needs to be inspired

Maybe they need more encouragement, maybe they need more brainstorming  or maybe they need more structure. You need to learn to read your team members and the informal roles they play and then adapt your style accordingly.

4) Find out the areas of support for the team members

In my management and coaching experience I learned that every human being  has needs. It sometimes took me up to two years to drive a team to high performance and great collaboration. When you understand the learning steps the team member has to go through to get to the next level you will also understand how you can lead this person to success.

Instead of asking them to work on projects that are way out of their capabilities you can give them small success experiences so they can grow in small steps and keep their self-confidence in tact. I have seen many good team members in other teams who were crushed and did not believe in their competencies anymore because their manager was overconfident or micro-managing them.

5) Ensure every team member has a voice

In any intercultural team but also monocultural team you will have more introverted team members. They will not always speak up in meetings and voice their opinions. Others might just feel it is not worth to discuss further and shut up. You can use various tools and methods to give your quieter team members a voice.

It also helps if you ask a neutral facilitator to support your annual kick-off meetings or other team building exercises. You might not see yourself how you hinder certain team members from voicing their opinion.

6) Be aware of your limiting assumptions

When a team member is very engaged but not necessarily of the same view as you are it could be a good point to consider. You might assume that the team member is less qualified or experienced than you are and as a result, you might not take her seriously.

You could also be biased against team members who behave like yourself or have similar preferences in working style. This is what we reveal in coaching sessions. In my experience, this process is easier when you work with me through this transition phase as you might have cultural and other blindspots that hinder you from fast progress.

These are six tough ways to improve your collaboration in global virtual teams.

Let’s have a conversation about your current global leader and team performance goals. You can also discuss your expatriate career topics with me. Pick my brain by claiming your RockMeRetreat*** Goal Setting Session (with Code: RMR19)

Values in Global Virtual Teams

first published on www.sietar.ch.

by @angieweinberger

Values are the foundation of your global virtual team. Values are what clients feel instantly when they work with your team. They feel the connection because true values come from the heart.

If you are a leader of a global virtual team you have probably faced many intercultural challenges until your team was ready to perform. You might have underestimated the challenges of global communication under pressure or you have taken promises at face value.

When you bring your team together for an offsite you have probably already developed the team vision, mission and brand statement but have you considered your values? I am not talking about the value statement you read in the corporate magazine. I am talking about the values you and your team members all share and the ones that your clients feel.

We recently developed ten values in an intercultural team intervention. In intercultural settings values could be expected to go into various directions but when you break them down you will see that there are similarities or universal values that we all share. Research by Schwartz and Bilsky (1990) suggests that we have universal values although they research was mainly conducted in Western cultures (and Hongkong).

achievement, enjoyment, maturity, prosocial, restrictive conformity, security, self-direction

From values you can derive team principles of communication and of working together. Then in case of conflict you have principles to base your decisions on.

When working with my clients in 1:1 career or executive sessions I always build in a session on values at work. What I felt are the seven most commonly cited (this is anecdotal, not academic data) are these:

  1. Quality
  2. Client Service
  3. Collaboration
  4. Integrity
  5. Relationships
  6. Sustainability
  7. Leadership.

Let’s assume these seven values form the basis around the globe for excellence. My clients come from all continents so I am hoping there is no cultural bias here.

If you are now thinking about working on this basis with your global virtual team I’d love this approach. You just have to remember that the meaning behind these words is culturally different so in a team setting you should ask your team how they show these values at work. Ask them for examples and stories. You might get different views on Leadership and Integrity but having the discussion or collecting stories will help the team see those differences.

►Building principles

Before you can formulate team principles ensure that you are all on the same page. Suggest every team member to contribute their wording. Even if it is messy. Create a team page or social media space where you can share your wording for values.

When you develop team principles it is important that you word them in the form of „We do…“ (active and positve). Example „We support each other achieve excellent quality by giving honest feedback.“

►Take photos, videos and allow images

When you see the values at work take photos and allow your team members to create videos or graphics. Put them on your coffee cups or shared file area. Be creative.

►Aligning language of your global virtual team

When you start this exercise you might notice that the language of your team members is not always aligned. They might say similar things with different words. Aligning the language of your global virtual team means that you come up with definitions, quotes and images. I often hear people telling me they work hard but I need to understand what in means in their context. In Switzerland working hard means getting up at 5 AM and being in the office at 7 AM and leaving the office at 5 PM to work in the community fire brigade or study in the evenings or raise four kids. In the US working hard might mean working 80 hours per week no matter when. In India „working hard“ might mean coming to the office even if you are unwell or even if your family needs you at home.

►Drop the assumptions

The more I work with global virtual teams the more I would advise you to drop your assumptions or at least to critically reflect them. You might only have a glimpse of understanding of the values of your team members until you have a personal conversation at a business conference at 2 AM in the morning. Sharing values requires trust and that is only built over time by people who show their values towards their colleagues constantly.

Avoiding Global Talent Acquisition Failure – Six Basics To Add to Your Recruiting Guideline – Part 3
Hiring Talent from the Globe

I’m on a MISSION to bring the HUMAN TOUCH back into Global Mobility. One theme that I see more now is that we Global Mobility Professionals are involved in Global Talent Acquisition. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that we have the knowledge and skills to deal with most of the challenges that hiring people from other countries brings. However, since in most organizations we are not officially responsible we don’t get the resources we need to deal with recruiting professionally. Hence, we can consult but not support. So, dear recruiters, I hope this is helpful.

Lifestyle Expats, or Self-Initiated Expats (SIEs), are an important factor in today’s global force and the actual circumstances suggest the phenomenon is on the rise (Habti & Elo, 2019). In fact, thanks to technological changes, such as online recruiting, the labour market has become more international and more fluid and made the process of filling jobs internationally (internally or externally the organization) much simpler. As a consequence, an increasing number of professionals consider working abroad a realistic career option and there are growing opportunities to identify and eventually find a job abroad.

We are in the middle of an unprecedented global crisis, which is bound to create a stronger recession than the 2008 financial crisis, and the war for talent is as heated as ever. 

Specialized Subject Matter Experts are increasingly hard to find and when you turn to places rich in talent such as Singapore and certain areas of the US like Boston and the Silicon Valley, that’s of course where competition is already extremely high. Moreover, there is no real point in stealing from the competition if you aim at bringing in innovation. 

It’s 2020 and the global workforce is as varied as ever, with five generations working side by side and companies striving to fulfill all their D&I goals (gender/religion/ethnicity/sexual orientation). As cited by Forbes, diversity plays an ever more important role in recruitment and is proving to be directly correlated with an increased revenue for the company (Boston Consulting Group, 2018; KPMG, 2018). 

Yet, relocation policies have historically been a one-size-fits-all model and are often still struggling to include points such as religion, ethnicity, age, disability status, working mothers, non-traditional family units, etc. 

Make sure your Global Mobility policies acknowledge and support your employees’ varying needs to make them feel more encouraged to accept International Assignment. The point is to ensure that deserving and promising talent does not experience barriers to success.

Demographic changes will require highly-skilled migrants to fill positions as turnout of university graduates declines in developed countries. Also at the EU level and among the Member States there is consensus on the need to address labour market shortages, worsened by the deepening demographic crisis and skill mismatch (Platonova & Urso, 2012).

Even rich countries like  Liechtenstein, (Beck et al., 2018; Hauri et al., 2016) may have a hard time attracting talent. Other more traditional expat hubs, like Singapore, London, New York City, the UAE, Hong Kong and Switzerland, continue leading the ranking despite the high costs of living. In this case, according to the 2020 Global Talent Competitiveness Index, what really makes the difference are their socio-economic policies in which talent growth and management are central priorities. 

Perhaps even more important to acknowledge is that the world of work as we knew has already changed. With new technology enabling employees to work almost anywhere and anytime, the classic ‘nine to five’ is outdated. In an article published by Sage People even before the pandemic changed companies’ approach, figures speak for themselves:  not only do 50% of the US interviewees say they’d like to be more mobile at work, but a good 54% would change job if it meant more flexibility.

In Global Mobility, Virtual Assignments are an opportunity to give employees the much longed-for flexibility they seek. Despite Virtual Assignments having always been on the rise since the widespread implementation of the internet, it’s easier to see how they’re going to be even more numerous in the aftermath of the Corona-crisis. In fact, never before have so many employees worked remotely in order to guarantee essential business continuity. 

But there is another side of the medal, and this is the portion of talent who seek international experience as part of their decision to join a company.  In particular, overseas assignments are becoming more appealing among Millennials, who often see the opportunity to live and work abroad as more rewarding than a pay rise. They are called Digital Nomads or Telecommuters. According to Smart Gear, 90% of digital nomads plan on working remotely for the rest of their careers, while 94% of them encourage others to try Digital Nomadism themselves.

Whether or not you’re having troubles attracting talent, here are six basics to add to your recruiting suite that you should consider during and after the recruiting process. 

1 – Make Sure They Have a Realistic Picture of What it’s like to live in your Expat Hub

Try to put yourself in the mind of a candidate who is contacted by a company in a foreign location. What’s the first thing that you would like to know? Salary? Job title? The direction of the company? Probably none of these things, but rather: “Why would I want to move there?”

Moving continents, or even “just” countries, isn’t a decision that can be taken on the potential of a great office view only. Instead, candidates need to know what the place looks like, what language is spoken, where they (and maybe their families) would live and whether they would fit in.

It is useful to include this information on your careers page so as to make it more of a relocation portal and less of a job listing. Workable offers a service to help you in this process. Not only will candidates benefit from this information, but so will your company: showing what candidates want to know during the overseas job hiring process builds your credibility from the beginning.

This type of thinking is beneficial for companies at every level, whether you’re hiring someone 70 or 7,000 miles away.

2 – Help with the Move of Household Goods

Among Expats and Expat Spouses, the phase of moving abroad is often cited as the most stressful one. Moving out doesn’t take one day only: there are farewells, often a party, and especially when small kids are involved, the family needs to stay with friends or in a hotel room. While Expats are still busy handing their work over and finalizing conversations with clients, Expat Spouses are often alone in coordinating all the logistics behind the move. That’s why it is important that they are connected with a moving company. Having someone who takes care of their house goods until they are settled in the new location surely spares the Expat family from a lot of stress. 

If you are looking for a relocation company, consider paying a visit to the Keller Swiss Group. They offer relocation services, household removals, business relocation and household storage services, both in Switzerland and worldwide.

3 – Organize Support with Immigration 

Organizing support with immigration is definitely another helpful and efficient way of helping the expat family during the stressful pre-assignment phase. In recent years, the process of obtaining work permits and visas has become more complex. Letting Expats and Expat Spouses navigate this sea of bureaucracy all alone would put on them an incredible and unnecessary amount of stress. 

When it comes to immigration compliance, each case is different and needs to be examined thoroughly. Some relocation companies, like BecomeLocal in Switzerland, are specialists in this field. They can help you handle the permit process, write applications and submit to the authorities, instruct professionals and executives to obtain visas, sparing your organisation and the expat family a lot of hustle.

4 – Provide Spouse Career Support and A Pre-Hire Assessment for the Spouse

The effects that International Assignments have on the Expat Spouse’s wellbeing and state of mind are often underestimated. For some Expat Spouses, the sudden change from independent career person to stay-at-home parent has a strong psychological impact, even more so if getting a working visa is not possible.

Coaching is a very powerful tool with which companies can support Expat Spouses. With the help of a Career Coach, some Expat Spouses manage to start their own businesses while living abroad, thus finding deeper fulfillment in the experience.. At Global People Transitions we are specialized in this. If you want to know more about what we do to help Expat Spouses find motivation and new perspectives, visit Global People Transitions or send me an email (angela@globalpeopletransitions.com).

It is also very fair to the Expat Spouse to have a realistic idea of whether their profile actually leads to potential employment in the host market or whether their chances of finding work are slim. An Expat Spouse Coach can also help with a pre-hire assessment for the Expat Spouse.

5 – Consult them on Technical Issues such as how to get Health Insurance, what to do about their Taxes 

Once again try to put yourself in the mind of your future employees. They now have a clearer idea of what it means to live in your expat hub and they are positively considering relocating there. Perhaps their spouses and children are coming along. In this preparatory phase, Expats are inevitably very busy with what needs to be handled back at home in their professional and private life. But they also need to be ready for what’s coming next. 

Handling both “back home” and “in host country” can be extremely overwhelming, especially if this means going through important technical issues of a country with a different system and in a language they don’t understand. This is the right time to step in and consult them on important decisions such as which type of health insurance to get and how to do it, but also on how to handle their taxes. If you can’t deliver this in-house we’re happy to help.

6 – Sprinkle Everything With  A Bit More Human Touch

As I said earlier and many times before, HUMAN TOUCH is my MISSION and the key to enhancing the employee experience. Deloitte (2019) proved to be onboard with that when stating that today’s global workforce is attracted and motivated by a more personalised, agile and holistic experience than before. This is why it’s important that you find your way to unlock the HUMAN TOUCH. For example, you can start by welcoming new team members with a hand-written card. You will make their first day a celebration. 

If you wish to review your global hiring policies or your process please contact me for a proposal via angela@globalpeopletransitions.com.

Resources 

Become Local. Swiss Immigration Adviser. https://www.becomelocal.ch 

Harrison, C. (2019, 19 Sep.). „7 Surprising Statistics about Digital Nomads.” Smart Gear Blog. https://smartgear.travel/7-surprising-statistics-about-digital-nomads/

Hayes, A. (2020, 7 Apr.). „What is a Digital Nomad?”Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/digital-nomad.asp

Keller Swiss Group. Worldwide Moving Relocation. https://www.kellerswissgroup.com/

MBO Partners. (2018). „Rising Nomadism: A Rising Trend.” MBO Partners, Inc. https://s29814.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/StateofIndependence-ResearchBrief-DigitalNomads.pdf 

Montilla, E.  (2020, 17 Jan.). „Achieving workplace diversity through recruitment in tech.” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/01/17/achieving-workplace-diversity-through-recruitment-in-tech/#2214496a1359

References

Beck, P., Eisenhut, P. and Thomas, L. (2018). „Fokus Arbeitsmarkt: Fit für di Zukunft?”. Stiftung Zukunft.li. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from https://www.stiftungzukunft.li/publikationen/fokus-arbeitsmart-fit-fuer-die-zukunft 

Boston Consulting Group. (2018). „How diverse leadership teams boost innovation.”, BCG. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from https://www.bcg.com/publications/2018/how-diverse-leadership-teams-boost-innovation.aspx 

KPMG. (2018). „Inclusion and Diversity: How Global Mobility can help move the Needle”, KPMG. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://assets.kpmg//content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2018/06/global-mobility-inclusion-and-diversity-how-gms-can-help-move-the-needle-FINAL.pdf

Habti, D and Elo, M. (2019). Global Mobility of Highly Skilled People. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. 

Hauri, D., Eisenhut, P., and Lorenz T. (2016). „Knacknuss Wachstum und Zuwanderung: Hintergründe unde Zusammenhange.”Stiftung Zukunft.li. Retrieved 28 May, 2020, from https://www.stiftungzukunft.li/application/files/3215/1635/3318/Knacknuss_Wachstum_und_Zuwanderung_Endfassung_22_11_2016.pdf

Platonova A. and Urso, G. (2012). „Labour Shortages and Migration Policy.” International Organization for Migration. Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://publications.iom.int/system/files/pdf/labour_shortages_and_migration_policy.pdf?language=en

How to Manage Virtual Teams

Traditional Vs Virtual Teams

Unlike traditional teams, virtual teams don’t meet at the same location daily which is becoming more of a feasible option in this century. Globalisation has created this concept which is a common phenomenon in large organizations as well as small businesses. In one recent survey by HBR, 79% of employees said they always or frequently work in dispersed teams. They define virtual teams as “work groups which (1) have some core members who interact primarily through electronic means, and (2) are engaged in interdependent tasks — i.e. are truly teams and not just groups of independent workers)”
Like any other team, these virtual teams also require proper leadership and management for optimum results. Let’s start with why we should opt for virtual teams.
virtual-teams
Advantages of Virtual Teams:

• Companies can bring global talent together when projects start, while employees can enjoy the flexibility of working from where they live according to their schedule.
• Organisations can cut the cost of relocation, traveling, real estate and other business expenditures. Businesses that use virtual teams to build global presence, outsource their operations or/and need less common expertise or skills from people who are reluctant to relocate from their home location.
• Virtual teams add diversity to a project. It is always better to brainstorm ideas to add creativity into work process, these virtual teams are ideal to do that. They also enable organisations to network globally with the fresh perspective of every country.

Challenges of Virtual Teams:

• As compared to traditional teams, virtual teams might be hard to get right and hard to manage. It might not always be easy to bring people from different cultures at one platform and get them to collaborate on a project.
• They can fall short of goals and motivation because of the way they communicate. They rely on modern technology, emails, video conferences, virtual meetings etc., which takes away the full spectrum and dynamics of in office face-to-face-exchange. Thus in order to excel, each member needs to be self-motivated.
• Collaboration within a project might cause delays in the working on the project.

Tips To Manage Virtual Teams:

• Build Trust

The first and foremost requirement is to build and maintain trust between team members. This helps unblock their communication and sustains motivation of each person involved. If they can’t trust each another, they will have issues in working together which is the essence of virtual teams.

• Clear Goals, Standards & Rules

Managers need to pay attention towards setting clear goals of each member, as well as the team combined. Performance standards and communication rules must also be clearly defined to avoid misunderstandings and harmful assumptions. In addition, they should also be clear on tasks and processes.

• Constant Communication

Team members should be able to communicate clearly, constructively and positively, even in the absence of nonverbal cues of face to face communication. Optimum use of technology for this purpose is a requirement.

• Build a Team Rhythm

This is much more crucial for global team to have regular meetings so that they stay on track, ideally the same day and time each week. Create meeting agendas in advance with clear agreement on communication protocol and timings. You will probably have time zone conflicts so don’t put the time zone burden on same members every time, instead follow a strict rotation to practice fairness and avoid biasness.

• Global Leader for Global Teams

Develop into a leader who appreciates the experience of managing global teams. Set up one to one performance management meetings with your team members. Make sure that these are taking place periodically and give feedback based on those. Let your team know how they contribute into the success of your project so that they get a feeling of ownership.

How do you manage your global virtual team? What is your experience?

Giving Feedback Across Cultures

Dr. Jens Schmidt, A German Executive in Shanghai

Dr. Jens Schmidt is an expat. The company’s corporate headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, assigned him  to improve efficiency at the company’s manufacturing plant in Shangai, China. During his first 90 days he came up with a list of quality issues and he shared this list with three of his direct reports (Mr. Zhu, Mr. Cao and Mrs. Ping). 

He asked them for input on how to mitigate the issues within the next 90 days and what the “low hanging fruit” were. He emailed them on Friday evening and asked them to respond by Monday morning, enough time to review over the weekend. While Dr. Jens Schmidt was sorting out his moving goods that finally arrived from Stuttgart and settled into his apartment, Mr. Zhu, Mr. Cao and Mrs. Ping went for lunch. They did not appreciate that they had to leave their families on the weekend but they knew this was important. On Sunday night Mr. Cao, the most senior, eldest and most experienced manager responded to the email.

“Dear Dr. Schmidt, thank you for the trust you are giving to your senior managers by sharing this report with us before sending it to the headquarters. We are fully on board with you and we think you and the quality assurance team in the headquarters will give good guidance on how to mitigate the issues presented in the report. We kindly ask that you inform us of any changes once you have discussed this report with the headquarters. With kind regards, Mr. Cao”.

On Monday, when Dr. Schmidt came back to the office, Mr. Zhu handed in his resignation. Two weeks later Mr. Cao and Mrs. Ping also resigned.

Now, Dr. Schmidt had to lead 50 engineers directly. He was using everything he knew that worked in Germany — especially in terms of performance appraisal, and yet the Chinese employees seemed to be losing efficiency and effectiveness by the week. After 90 days, many engineers had moved to other companies and Dr. Schmidt had a hard time to explain to HR why he needed to hire new engineers and managers in the middle of a global crisis. His 180 days report looked bleak. The quality issues had become worse and Dr. Schmidt had nothing to show for but failure.

It took quite some time and effort on Dr. Schmidt’s part to recognize that what worked in Germany in terms of critical and to-the-point feedback was actually demotivating to the Chinese employees, who were used to more positive reinforcement than pure critique. These positive comments motivated them to increase productivity and put forth that extra, discretionary effort. Once Dr. Schmidt changed his feedback and his communication style in general he noticed that productivity improved again. He was also able to win the managers and some of the employees back once he understood the importance of relationships and the concept of “face” in the Chinese culture.

Three years later he managed to leave the country with a good feeling. 

Feedback is Completely Misconstrued

According to the original mechanistic definition feedback occurs when an environment reacts to an action or behavior. For example, ‘customer feedback’ is the buyer’s reaction to a firm’s products and policies, and ‘operational feedback’ is the internally generated information on a firm’s performance. 

Originally, the idea was that feedback changes behavior. Criticism or praise is considered  feedback only if it brings about a lasting change in the recipient’s behavior. While I am generally critical of this assumption, I would like to explain here three major feedback styles that I have seen over my career. Often they work in a monocultural setting or when they are framed well. For example, critiques work well for writers and bloggers, the sandwich works well in an Anglo-Saxon environment and Hindi-style generally works well in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

One major issue is that feedback often is NOT delivered well. Another issue is that often it is full of projections and that it has to be abused to justify why a good performer was not promoted. That is one of the key issues with feedback. For the next three styles we will assume that the feedback is well delivered, the feedback receiver asked for feedback and the feedback is not used as a justification for non-promotion or a performance rating.

German-Style: Pure Direct Critique

The German Style
The German Style

Clearly, people in Germany do not generally provide and receive feedback in the same way that people in China are used to doing. In fact, appraisal feedback can be very different across different cultures. Although not many like to do it, we know that critiquing – in a constructive and empowering way – others’ work is a crucial part of a manager’s job. However, critiquing someone often brings unwanted results and ends up hurting others even when this wasn’t the initial goal. This generally happens because criticism embodies two of the things that human beings hate the most, i.e. it calls for submission and it devalues. 

With a focus on what needs to be improved, this method works extremely well for writers, bloggers and co-creators. In many instances, authors actually request it. It’s also often used in educational circumstances, training contexts and examinations. Here it is important to focus on the work, instead of the person. For example, “In this report, capitalization is not applied consistently.” or “This paragraph is hard to understand because it contains a lot of passive constructions.” Germans love “Sachlichkeit” so the focus here is on the object, the piece of art, the work output, rather than the person delivering the work. The intention here is to improve the overall quality of the work output.

US-Style: The Sandwich Feedback

The original sandwich feedback technique entails something positive to warm up the discussion, followed by some criticism which is the real feedback one wants to give, and it wraps up with more praise, i.e. again something positive to soften the actual feedback. In other words, the sandwich feedback method involves discussing corrective feedback that is “sandwiched” between two layers of praise.

There are two ways to put the sandwich feedback technique in practice: 

  1. You start off with a positive comment, add constructive feedback with an explanation of how to improve, and end with another positive comment. 
  2. You begin with a contextual statement (I liked…because…Now/Next time…) and conclude with an interactive statement, e.g. a question based on the work done.
The Sandwich Feedback Model
The Sandwich Feedback Model

This method is particularly helpful to managers when they want to discuss problems with the employee’s behavior. It is especially useful for those managers who find it difficult to deliver corrective feedback. It is important to note that you need to ask for permission to give feedback and also find examples of where you observe what you find worth changing. Here you should focus on behavior, rather than the person and soften it with “tend to” and “I observed” and “what this does with me…”. Speak about how it affects you. This approach takes the name of Non-Violent Communication (NVC) and it was developed by the  American psychologist M. Rosenberg.

Hindi-Style: Focus on the Positive

Thumb Up
The Hindi Style Feedback

In Bangalore, I learned another feedback style which I call “Hindi-Style Feedback”. Basically, here you focus on the positive and remain silent on the negative. In order to save face you don’t confront the person you are addressing directly. If you have negative feedback you would tell this to an intermediary who then decides about how to approach the topic with the person.

This method works well in the Asian context or when you generally already have a high-performing team and nothing major goes wrong. Focussing and reinforcing the strengths and the positive behavior will lift employees up and encourage them to do more of this behavior. Also, I think it is important to build a personal relationship before delivering feedback and better to deliver it 1:1. If you are only correcting errors and you have agreed a more direct style to do that it is acceptable if you have a good relationship with your team members.

In the SIETAR conference in Dublin in a pre-congress workshop my colleague Adrienne Rubatos and I co-created a feedback map with the participants.

The Feedback Map
The Feedback Map (Rubatos, Weinberger, 2017)

We also suggested that feedback usually creates more harm than support and as humanistic coaches we therefore would propose to stop using performance management systems, Management by Objectives and certainly feedback. Where we feel feedback is helpful ONLY would be in learning situations, transitions and when it is explicitly demanded by the feedback-receiver.

I’m aware that this is a complete paradigm shift and that it will change our approaches to promotions, compensation, benefits, hierarchy and basically completely turn around how we work in organizations.

We are demanding a new approach to feedback. We promote an approach that is mindful, supportive and transcultural. 

Delivering Feedback like a Global Virtual Leader

Even if in a new cultural setting it’s useful to learn the cultural rules, perhaps through a cultural mentor, don’t assume that “going native” is always and necessarily successful. Most of the time, you will have to adjust your feedback style and create a blend with which you feel comfortable enough in the given setting and with the person you have in front of you. 

More and more often teams are global virtual teams (GVT) and there are no rules other than the rules the teams co-create.  We have vast experience working within global, virtual teams and you find further blog posts via https://globalpeopletransitions.com/?s=global+virtual+teams.

Alternatively, you can join our RockMe! program or the RockMeRetreat where we discuss these matters based on your leadership challenges.