Leading a Global Team: How to Communicate Effectively Across Cultures

August 11, 2017 Lydia Adams

Business meeting in roomIf you’ve ever worked across continents, you’ve likely run into some cultural differences between you and your team. Whether it be communication, work style or business etiquette, many global business people have found themselves unprepared, or in some cases, confused while working with counterparts in other cultures. To help, we’ve compiled a list of top ways to ensure that you get results when working with teams overseas.

Make Expectations Clear Up Front

In the U.S., we often take agreements, appointments, and deadlines for granted assuming that, once stated, they will be fulfilled. However, in some cultures, agreements are more flexible, and deadlines are not as strict, which can lead to possible misunderstandings. Going over expectations in detail up-front can help, as will drawing up concrete responsibilities and timelines. Get buy-in from your full team in a collaborative setting to make sure all information is presented and everyone is on the same page.

Show Respect

Many times, Americans are direct in a business setting, while other cultures put more value on collaboration or even avoiding conflict. The American way of speaking can often come off as rude, without the speaker realizing it. Soften your tone and approach with your team by giving less direct statements, and asking them their opinions. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t understand. And, above all, show the utmost respect for their country, culture, and values.

Ask for Honest Feedback

As a manager, you want to hear the input of your team, but in many cultures, giving honest feedback is considered rude. Because saving face is paramount to a healthy working relationship in several cultures, you may find your team being silent or, worse, agreeing with you when they don’t actually agree. Make sure to let your team know that you value feedback and build trust so they feel comfortable being honest with you, especially while in a public setting like a meeting or on a conference call.

Use Technology

There are many ways that technology can help you communicate effectively and bridge barriers. Skype is a great tool that many global companies use to stay in touch. By video-chatting and screen-sharing, you can ensure that your team fully understands and can execute your direction. It also gives the advantage of reading body language and facial cues if language presents a barrier. And if you’re using traditional email to communicate, set up a call or Skype session regularly so that any confusion can be sorted out.

Learn All You Can

The best way to approach your global team? Learn the way they work best and adapt your skills to fit their style. In fact, you may find that their way of doing things is better than your own and adopt a new approach. Grow culturally and increase your awareness through research. Ask your team questions about what is important to them, and how they define success. Also, find out about their lives outside of work to further build common ground and discover a new perspective on their lives and values.


The global economy is making our work more varied, interesting and successful than ever before. Don’t let communication barriers get in the way of your success. By following this guide, you’ll be prepared to watch your team work like a well-oiled machine. If you have questions about how we approach culture while offshoring, fill out our form, and we’ll contact you right away.

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