During team formation, your team may grapple with differences in gender, age, experience, and culture. You may also be separated by physical distance spanning different office locations or different time zones. Use these tips to overcome differences when teams are separated, when everyone comes from different backgrounds and when team member’s expertise levels vary widely.
To overcome issues related to location, use technology to conduct meetings. By using web conferencing software with web cameras, team members can see each other and interpret body language cues to detect meaning. Additionally, use instant messaging and social media applications to keep connected when not working side by side. Excellent communication becomes especially important when teams operate in different time zones and have only short opportunities to collaborate during the working day.
When people get together to work on a new challenge, they typically come with expectations about how they will be treated. People with different levels of experience each bring a unique perspective that contributes positively to the overall project outcome. However, the initial period of forming the team may be characterised by confusion if no clear leader emerges. Making it clear that each person has a vote dispels some of the anxiety.
When people have different knowledge levels, you need to establish an atmosphere that makes it easy to share ideas, beliefs, attitudes and opinions. These invisible boundaries can inhibit collaboration if not managed carefully. Avoid making assumptions and challenge people to have an open mind when approaching problems faced by the team.
In summary, to prevent boundaries from crippling your team’s ability to get along, establish clear goals and foster the team’s curiosity about each other through team building activities. Encourage contribution to knowledge repositories and include everyone in the discussion, so a variety of viewpoints get reflected in your team’s processes.