Bonvillain then goes on to say that: We learn about people through what they say and how they say it; we learn about ourselves through the ways that other people react to what we say; and how we learn about our relationships with others through the give and take of communicative interactions. (N. Bonvillain, 2003 Language Culture and Communication, p. 1) Jeanne Brett, Kristin Behfar, and Mary C. Kern discuss communications within teams and further analysis the categorisations in a 2006 Harvard Business Journal: People tend to assume that challenges on multicultural teams arise from differing styles of communication.
But this is only one of the four categories that, according to our research, can create barriers to a teams ultimate success. These categories are direct versus indirect communication; trouble with accents and ? uency; differing attitudes toward hierarchy and authority; and con? icting norms for decision making. Both of these statements support that communication can be broken down in to different categories, but the categories differ depending on the context. In my opinion whether the communication is verbal (spoken language) or non-verbal (gesture or body
language) or contextual (shared experience), discovering new cultures through experience rather than theory is not without its difficulties, small signals, that may easily be missed, can be key to the formation of a successful team. For example in southern India the simple act of saying thank you can leave an individual offended, this is because thank you is something a senior would say to a junior employee at work to show a power status, and so an individual thanking a peer would be impolite where as in the UK individuals are taught to say thank you from an early age for all transactions.
An extremely common gesture in India is the head nod or wobble, this gesture does not necessarily relate to a yes or no response, it can mean ok, I hear you speaking or I understand this can be confusing and one individual in the conversation may not understand the route the conversation has taken if they are not aware of this gesture. This is supported in further research: Communication in Western cultures is typically direct and explicit. The meaning is on the surface, and a listener doesnt have to know much about the context or the speaker to interpret it.
This is not true in many other cultures, where meaning is embedded in the way the message is presented. (Jeanne Brett, Kristin Behfar, and Mary C. Kern Harvard Business Journal, 2006) As with the head nod the use of the smile can differ greatly wherever you are. In India I have been invited to a few weddings; it is the tradition here for the reception to be held prior to the ceremony. The reception consists of the Bride and Groom standing on a stage and all the guests joining them to have a photo taken, in these photos, no one smiles.
From my research this is because, for the Bride this can be an unnerving experience, she is about to leave the comfort surroundings of her home, and step in to a new world of her husbands, the bride has been taught to appear shy, and the friends and relatives are respecting that tradition. Depending on the culture a smile can mean different things. In the German culture, according to Nees, a smile is used with far more discretion, generally only with those persons one knows and likes (Nees 2000. P.
93) where as in Korean culture, too much smiling is often perceived as the sign of a shallow person. Dresser notes that this lack of smiling by the Koreans has often been misinterpreted as a sign of hostility. (Dresser, 1996. 21). Challenge: How to manage when in the field In my opinion it is the reaction to these misunderstandings or communication barriers that is the key to the success or failure of the interaction, how the Team Leader reacts and the attitude they exhibit is the difference between learning the greater complexities of an individuals culture and offending them.
This is discussed further on in the paper, in techniques and tools. To ensure the success of a multi-cultural team a single unifying objective needs to be understood by all, Cartmill discusses this point: Language lets us get vast numbers of big, smart fellow primates all working together on a single task building the great wall of China or fighting World War 2 or flying to the moon.
(M. Cartmill, 1998, Gift of Gab p. 56) Putting this in the context of a Raleigh programme the objective remains the same for all, this is to complete a 3 month programme volunteering in remote communities whilst contributing to sustainable development. Although the end goal may be the same, the driving force or the motivation for each individual will be wildly different.
For example one individual entered the Expedition to personally develop his social skills by living with a group of people in close proximity and to be taken out of his comfort zone; another individual wanted to be taken seriously and no longer seen as the group clown. For a Team Leader to be successful it is important that they understand the overall group objectives and individuals motivations, that the team leader has open communication channels with all individuals within the team, and that the individuals have the opportunity to share and express their own culture and identity.
The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language states that: Cheering at a football game, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, or shouting names or slogans at a public meeting can both re-enforce your group identification and reveal a great deal about you in particular your culture, regional origins, social background, education level, occupation, age, gender and personality. (Crystal, the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, 1997. 13) A Team Leader can achieve this by using the structured personal development journals.
The journal breaks down the expedition in to the 3 phases and askes appropriate questions to help the volunteer to think about and express their motivations and aspirations of the expedition. Once the volunteer fills the appropriate section the Team Leader has 1:1 sessions with all individuals in the team, this gives the individual time with the Team Leader specifically to discuss their development and any support they require from the Team Leader, this is also an opportunity for the Team Leader to provide feedback.
By having this conversation and writing it down it provides a chronological account of the volunteers time on programme thus showing their journey through development and achievements. The Team Leaders and Day Leaders also run group sessions through facilitated reviews, to inform group bonding. E Griffin talks about this in A First look at Communication Theory (1994. p173) It is a very natural inclination when meeting someone to talk about a topic that both parties might enjoy; and should those talks prove interesting, it is equally natural for friendships to form and evolve.
The more points of contact you can establish, the more comfortable you feel. Secondly facilitated sessions with the team over the first few weeks to unite them as one team, simple tasks such as a group contract and discussing house rules provides boundaries and a framework for individuals to work from, by doing this through facilitation the team are setting their own boundaries and gaining an understanding of each other, thus also providing a platform to challenge each other if the boundaries are breached. Techniques: Facilitation, Eric Burnes tools A useful tool or methodology I have found is Eric Burnes Transactional Analysis (TA).
In its most basic form the model teaches that there are 3 ego states, Parent (Taught), Adult (thought) and Child (felt), if you communicate with someone from the Child ego state the response you will receive is one from a Parent ego state and vice versa, and the most beneficial form of communication is Adult to Adult. In my opinion is that if this is taken in the context of communication (verbal or non) within multi-cultural teams, if a team leader can address all individuals as an Adult, an adult will respond, warranting a productive team or successful project.
It is important to note that the different categories of communication are important at this point as only 7% of meaning is in the words spoken, 38% of meaning is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said) and the final 55% is in facial expression or body language. Adding to this the knowledge that cultural differences can be as simple as a smile, an adult response will encourage the individual to participate in the communication and explain rather than be mocked (child) or scolded (Parent).
An example of this would be: The day leader of the group (the day leader is an individual from the team who is chosen by the team to be the temporary leader, and usually is in this position for 3 days) had allocated tasks for the group, on day 3 of their day leader duties there was unrest within the group,(this unrest was fueled by the day leader) a team of 4 had been working on one particular part of the project which was digging cess pits for sanitation units, the day leader had allocated herself to this task for the 3 days and was unhappy at the amount of time standing in a muddy hole.
Due to her frustration and the teams bickering, she approached the Team Leader and started shouting about the situation (raised voice, arms crossed in front of body, emotive language = Child ego), how it was extremely unfair that they had this task and how disgusting standing in a puddle was. The Team Leader responded in a (calm voice of normal range, arms to the sides creating neutral body language = Adult ego state) and asked questions such as: Is there anything you could do differently to resolve the situation? How can we all ensure this does not happen again?
The response from the day leader was instantaneous, the shouting stopped and the day leader re allocated the team to different roles, set up a rotation system with a suitable handover discussion and communicated the change to the entire team. This is an ideal scenario, the change in response was very fast. Sometimes it may take a few interactions from the Adult ego to bring the other individual to reciprocate appropriately. Conclusion This example demonstrates that the reaction of the Team Leader ensured that the issue was resolved.
By doing this through questioning and facilitating a conversation, the day leader felt that they were in control of the group, and were empowered to make decisions, then communicate those decisions, better enabling the day leader to perform their role whilst being supported by the team leader. As it can be the first time they have lead a team, add to this cultural differences and language barriers and It can be a very confusing and intimidating time for a day leader, and the Team Leader should expect confrontations like this, When we talk about culture it is useful
to understanding it can be broken down in to basic topics, such as why and when someone smiles, and accepting that it may differ from what we already know. This helps the individual to have an open mind and appreciate that everything they know about human behavior in their own environment, can, and should, be challenged, and the results are likely to appear different from what they currently know.