Patrick Terrien is President and CEO for the Global Fluency Institute, a social enterprise of the Columbus Council on World Affairs, where Terrien also serves as President & CEO. He is a past member of the national board of the World Affairs Councils of America. In addition, he often speaks for organizations such as Harvard University’s Think Tank on Global Education. Visit https://globalfluency.org/.
Scientific innovation is a global pursuit that shares a common goal to solve our world’s most challenging problems, with discoveries made on one continent today catalyzing the next innovation breakthrough on another tomorrow. Nowhere is this reality more clearly embodied than in CAS’s content collection that encompasses published scientific discoveries from nearly every country published in more than 50 languages over the last 150+ years.
Given the cross-culture nature of scientific research, enhancing global awareness, perspective and collaboration within and between innovation-focused organizations around the world offers tremendous opportunity to accelerate the pace of discovery.
The importance of global fluency
As the President and CEO of the Columbus Council on World Affairs (CCWA), an organization committed to increasing global understanding and competency in our region, I am focused on empowering organizations and individuals to build a global perspective and maximize the effectiveness of cross-cultural collaboration. CCWA exists to build understanding of different cultures, and our professional and secondary education programs help current and emerging leaders building the practical skills that help individuals navigate those nuances to achieve their goals.
Here I will share some practical tips for leading global teams that CCWA has put together with help from our friend, Mo Fong, Director, K-12 Education, Catalyst for Equity in Education, Google, Inc., and a member of our National Advisory Council, that can help scientific organizations bridge cultural differences to maximize the productivity and success of global innovation teams.
Build a diverse team
To bring together a high-performing global team, you will want to recruit people who bring unique perspectives and high levels of expertise to ensure diverse engagement. In addition to the core functional skills required, seek individuals who demonstrate empathy, value diverse viewpoints and are open-minded to understand and appreciate how people from other cultures think and feel.
However, selecting the right people is only the beginning. It is relationships that will mold this group of unique individuals into a high-functioning team. To ensure strong relationships, it is important to bring global team members together at least once a year to provide an opportunity for them to interact, build trust and align around their common purpose.
It’s also important to balance these working sessions with opportunities for networking and social activities. At the end of the day, a meal or interactive learning opportunities such as a cooking class, craft or museum tour can help participants unwind, become better acquainted and have a more impactful, positive shared experience
Make communication a priority
Leaders must always approach international communication with a global lens.
As a global team leader, you’re likely to work with people from various cultures who speak different languages. You must stay focused on ensuring that all team members understand what is being communicated whether you are holding a conversation in person, via phone or video conference, or in writing. This can be particularly challenging when content is complex or highly technical and not easily translated.
An interpreter can help facilitate communication in some cases. However, there are other day-to-day communication practices that can also go a long way toward bridging these gaps for international teams. For example, building in pauses in group discussions or including a round-the-table check-in at the end of each section will help encourage all participants to share their thoughts and ideas. If you want to hear from specific individuals, repeating the question helps give the person a heads up so he or she can fully assimilate the request.
Understanding cultural differences in body language, which can be just as important as what someone says, is also critical with a global audience. In Asia, for example, a nod can signify understanding and not necessarily agreement. For this reason, it is particularly valuable to cover complex or highly sensitive topics with your team in person if at all possible to ensure clear understanding and address any concerns that may arise.
Emphasize respect and embrace discomfort
Building the cultural awareness required to effectively manage global teams is an ongoing process. Don’t be afraid to ask honest questions in pursuit of understanding cultural nuances. Getting cross-cultural actions right 100% of the time isn’t the expectation, but showing respect for differences and a desire to get it right is a requirement.
For example, being sensitive to time zones when arranging conference calls improves participation and promotes a sense of team well-being. Also, specific dates, colors and numbers are meaningful to different cultures and religions. Leaders who work with Muslim team members, for example, would not want to schedule a dinner meeting during Ramadan, which is a month of fasting.
Much of your team’s success will hinge on the culture that you create. A culture of acceptance and respect for differences goes a long way toward making everyone feel welcome and valued. Allowing for and acknowledging mistakes when they occur (which is inevitable) facilitates open communication and ensures team members can remain focused on common business goals.
Honoring CAS’s global impact
As a global scientific information solutions provider with more than 100 years’ experience curating the world’s scientific information, CAS has exemplified global fluency from its infancy. CCWA recently recognized CAS with our annual International Company of the Year award. This award honors organizations that embody outstanding contributions to global education and cultural understanding.
CAS is a tremendous example of global fluency in action, with 70% of their customers outside of North America, a diverse global workforce residing across 30 plus countries and more than 50 languages spoken in the headquarters office alone. Because of CAS, the nomenclature of chemistry is a global language that unites scientists in every corner of the world, and we are proud to have them as part of the Columbus community.
If you’d like to learn more, contact CAS.