How to Work with a Culturally Diverse Team

On a winter night in 1892 Paris, Pierre de Coubertin announced the re-establishment of the Olympic Games. The idea was received with enthusiasm, but no one knew quite what they were getting into. The first step was a massive one: appoint a committee in charge of organizing the first Games and creating an international movement around them. Yet it was accomplished. The International Olympic Committee was established in June of 1894 and became one of the most famous culturally diverse and dispersed teams in the world.

Acting as a catalyst for collaboration between all parties of the Olympic family, from the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and the athletes to the broadcast partners and United Nations agencies, the IOC shepherds success through a new Olympic Games every two years (in normal times). While they are from different worlds, they share a common passion and excitement for the Games.

Your group may face many of the same challenges as the IOC, so here are a few best practices to keep in mind when managing a culturally diverse team.

Understand where they’re coming from

Culturally diverse team members may not share your norms, values, and motivations, and therefore may not behave the same. As the manager, you should conduct personal interviews and third-party research to learn about your employees’ cultures and how you can help them achieve maximum productivity. It is also helpful to infuse your whole team with a strong sense of purpose, making sure that your messages are clear in your team members’ native languages. Follow up often to check that this is the case.

Communicate systematically 

Virtual communication, is, by nature, less frequent and more ambiguous because you cannot read body language. Combat these obstacles by creating a comprehensive communication plan for your dispersed team, including complete contact information, meeting calendars, and protocols for reporting status, handing a project off to the next person and using communication technologies. For instance, spell out for your team when it’s appropriate to use instant messenger and for what.

Pass the “middle of the night” meeting mantle

It’s admittedly difficult to get the whole team on a Zoom or Teams Meeting when everyone is operating in a different time zone. If you have an odd person out (i.e. they are the one who is sleeping while most others are awake), make the occasional sacrifice so that communication with them doesn’t slide. All team members should be encouraged to reach out to the time zone-challenged individual at least once a week so that he feels connected even if he can’t participate in every meeting.


Written by PeopleResults Partner Alexandra Levit. You can find Alex on Twitter @alevit