Book Review – When Teams Collide

International teams are now a reality in multinational organizations.
In this book, Richard D. Lewis, an internationally known cross-cultural consultant and trainer provides guidelines on how to  successfully assemble, manage and strengthen international teams.
He  discusses the following 11 skills that an international team leader must acquire and apply.

  1. Categorizing cultures
  2. Organizing the team
  3. Speaking the language
  4. Leading the team
  5. Profiling team members
  6. Recognizing speech styles
  7. Communicating in English
  8. Using humor
  9. Making decisions
  10. Behaving ethically
  11. Building trust

Through well illustrated  diagrams  Lewis analyses profiles of hypothetical team members from 24 different nationalities and suggests how they should be led for best results.

He provides advice on various issues like -
How can we get things done with colleagues who have different worldviews?
How can we strike a balance between core values and the necessary diversity -– and is diversity within the team a strength or a hindrance?
What is the role of the team leader in all of this?
How do you establish team trust? How important is team humor?
Who decides the team’s ethics?
What misunderstandings can arise in a virtual team, lacking face-to-face contact?

The discussions in this book are well supported through case studies involving multinational organizations like DaimlerChrysler, KONE, Rolls-Royce, Boots, Pfizer-Upjohn-Pharmacia – drawn from his 30 years of experience in the field.

An useful guidebook for those working on international teams.

Buy the Kindle book version.
(Anybody can read Kindle books—even without a Kindle device—with the FREE Kindle app for smartphones and tablets.)

Key takeaways :

  • Good leadership in an international team depends more on the personality of a leader rather than the country she hails from.
  • There are  three cultural categories (Lewis LMR model proposed by the author) in which different countries are slotted
    • Linear-active : Task-oriented and organized
    • Multi-active: Emotional and impulsive
    • Reactive: Good listeners who rarely initiate actions
  • To promote synergy among the team members, the team leader must be able to distinguish between the various cultural categories her team members  belong to. This means that the team leader should familiarize herself with strengths, weaknesses, insights, blind spots and taboos of the cultures the team members hail from.
  • Right from the beginning the team should be organized in a manner that maximizes the potential offered by its cultural diversity.
  • While interacting with team members , the team leaders must adapt their approach based on the cultural background of an individual.
  • Becoming aware of how  the styles for motivating and issuing directives differs in different languages can make an international team leader’s job easier.
  • Though team members will communicate in an agreed upon common language for e.g. English, it is important to recognize that their respective national communication styles  will be projected into the team language.
  • A sense of humor from the leadership will be a factor in controlling the team. Most international teams that “come of age” will develop their own special brand of humor.
  • The international team needs a clear decision making process and well-defined mechanisms to break deadlocks during discussions.
  • Guidelines are needed for leaders on how to proceed ethically through the maze of established ways of conducting business in various cultures.
  • In multinational team it is essential that the leader creates trust among members quickly.




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