How to boost team confidence when working internationally

Someone who empathised and viewed others from their own perspective, someone who brought true unconditional positive regard to his relationships was Nelson Mandela who said that: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”

Discussing openly about both differences and similarities will help to build trust and bridge the gaps in their knowledge and understanding. This will increase the team’s confidence and create an atmosphere of collaboration.

It is essential to show them how to use respectful language and to ensure they are not making assumptions by frequently checking understanding. Also encouraging them to remain respectful of possible different language interference and world views.

One of the most powerful strategies for working cross culturally is to speak from the heart and to stay truly present and authentic. In the multi-national teams I work with, we focus on the positive energy we bring to our interactions and how deep listening and speaking from the heart is so essential. How putting judgements aside and taking time to prepare ourselves for meetings is crucial to greater understanding. Finding that calm space inside us that holds an open and trusting space where real insights emerge. These elements are even more essential when working with different team cultures and unconscious bias.

I remember when I wanted to start my own business overseas how much red tape I experienced and how much resistance I came across from the people in the village where I had made my home. I was resentful at first but then began to understand that this was born out of fear and lack of understanding. I began to change my own way of doing things so they could accept my ideas and be able to support the work I was doing there. It was never going to be as I had expected but together we came to an agreement and greater understanding.

With the teams I work with we discuss how to be clear, tolerant and flexible yet still be able to meet expectations. We consider how to have a good understanding of the possible stressful elements of working with teams who come from a different cultural background. Also to be mindful of the pitfalls different forms of communication present, such as email and skype. Noticing differences of style and delivery and adapting accordingly. When setting up for international team meetings I often share a coaching technique called Clean Language (See “Coaching Skills for Leaders in the Workplace” Chapter 11) this ensures misunderstandings are kept to a minimum. It is amazing how many assumptions we make on a daily basis and this methodology helps to remove them. (pg 136) it is highly respectful and enables teams to bring greater clarity to their communications.

Although there are only a few developing questions to choose from, when you combine them with a client’s own words, every question is unique. Asking these questions helps to slow a person down and gets them to think about what they really mean by the words they’ve used.

Using Clean Language allows the receiver to stay in their own thoughts and patterns and to use their own language. In this way we stay – “clean”

Clean Language can be very challenging as using the receiver’s own words, there is no escape or misunderstanding. It also provides a very strong connection as rapport building is quick and conversations flow without interference. Once used with fluency it is highly effective.

When boosting teams’ confidence and supporting them in a multicultural environment what tips and strategies do we need to suggest?

  1. Always help them to start the relationship by sharing what unconscious bias they bring to the table – be a role model and share yours
  2. Inquire openly about possible personal baggage, conflict or assumptions
  3. Find out about what may not be culturally obvious or spoken about and share it
  4. When communicating agree timing, boundaries and consider cultural norms that may affect the meetings
  5. Coach them to start from a place of acceptance and tolerance
  6. Ask them: ”What needs to happen for us to trust and work well together?”
  7. Then ask: “Is there anything else?” & “What kind of xxx is that?” & “And when you xxx then what happens?”
  8. Remind them we are all unique and doing the best we can under the circumstances
  9. Get them to consider how their own cultural experiences and ways of being could affect the relationship
  10. Encourage the use of basic Clean Language questions (see Q 7) for greater clarity

All the above strategies will boost the team’s confidence and enable them to provide a trusting and respectful environment.

Coaching Skills for Leaders in the Workplace by Jackie Arnold is out in August 2016, published by Robinson, priced £14.99. For more information see