Global Collaboration, part 1: I am a Ringleader…

Improving the way we collaborate globally is an important theme in the organization I work in. Supply and demand are not well distributed globally, and the better and faster we can match demand and supply, the better we will be able to service our clients. My plan is to spend some blog posts exploring this theme.
Some introspection in Part 1. If you ask me: “Are you a good global collaborator?”, my answer will be (in my own modest words): “Of course! I have worked many years in multinational companies, have worked with different cultures, and global collaboration is my middle name”. If you would go around my organization, many people, as me, will think they are better global collaborators than the average. Unfortunately this is the case with many subjects: most individuals judge themselves generally to be better than the average (drivers, parents, lovers).
Time for a test. On-line I found the test: What type of collaborator are you?“, provided by Central Desktop. The outcome: I am a Ringleader…

Of course I do not totally recognize myself, but I have learned never to question the results of a test. This test unfortunately does not give me an indication if I am a good global collaborator.
Four aspects I have found to be important for me, if I look back at positive experiences I had in collaborating internationally:

  • It helps to have a clear goal. This is obvious, but global collaboration is not a goal in itself. Collaboration, local or internationally, improves when the goals are clear and the need for collaboration is high (“We have to finalize this proposal by Friday, and we really need her input!”).
  • I like to work together with people I know and who I like.  It pays to invest in building international relations. Virtual teams work a lot better if the team members know each other and have worked together before.
  • Language skills are very important. My English is good, my German is ok if I am a tourist and my French is better than my Portuguese and my Chinese. My effectiveness in Brazil would be a lot higher if I could speak Portuguese. We can say: the company language is English, but it will take a long time before we can use English everywhere.
  • Cultural differences should not be underestimated. Although the world is more and more connected, the cultural differences are hardly changing. I have been in several workshops of Fons Trompenaars, so I know the theory, but when the heat is on I am still very much a Dutchmen instead of the global citizen I would like to be. This is very difficult to change, but it helps a little bit to be aware.

Illustration by Haruko Nekoyama

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