Tag Archives: Team Building

Teaming in the Global Workplace

By Bob Greene, MS
Leadership and Team Development Coach and Consultant

GFM students developing their “teaming” skills in a workshop during the New York Seminar.

Students in the Graduate Fashion Management (GFM) program are developing as leaders who can innovate successfully in the ever-changing global fashion industry. Today’s and tomorrow’s leaders need to be successful not only when problems are routine or primarily technical, but in uncharted territory, where learning and creativity are essential. Ronald Heifetz and his colleagues talk about the need for leadership that can successfully meet “adaptive challenges” in addition to more “technical problems.”  In The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, they write that “[i]n an increasingly flat, globalized third-millenium world, where innovation occurs so quickly, just having the best product at any moment in time is not a sustainable plan.” (p.21) Companies and leaders are being challenged to shift how they have operated in the past and embrace a new emphasis on relationship-building and engaging with complexity and change.

Amy Edmondson suggests that “teaming” embodies the mindset and skills required for the global marketplace. In contrast to previous perspectives that saw teams as static and long-lasting, Edmondson emphasizes today’s workforce may participate on numerous teams that change their membership over time for different projects. Edmondson talks about teaming as a verb, and that people must learn team skills that they can carry from team to team, project to project. And, of course, many of these projects will be adaptive challenges rather than routine, technical, problems, so it’s vital that learning is a central quality of effective teaming. Edmondson, as well as Heifetz and his colleagues, say that leaders must focus on bringing out the best in others, rather than simply rely on command-and-control.

GFM students have a remarkable opportunity to learn and practice teaming skills as they work on three different case study teams and take on real-world challenges that don’t have easy answers and require creativity. During my workshop early in the New York City seminar, I encourage GFM students to pay attention to how they are teaming and what they are learning from the process. Ideas and tools for effective teaming that I introduce include:

  • The importance of intentionally getting to know who is on the team;
  • Developing clear and shared expectations upfront;
  • Recognizing the challenges of working cross-culturally and how easy it is to act on assumptions that may not be correct;
  • Various approaches to preventing and resolving common team issues; and
  • The essential role of team self-assessment to promote learning that can be carried forward to each new team experience.

Hopefully, GFM students will bring the skills and tools they use with their three case study teams to their workplaces—building on diverse perspectives and powering innovation.

GFM students practice outlining expectations in a workshop during the New York Seminar.

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References:

  • Edmondson, A. C. (2012). Teaming: how organizations learn, innovate, and compete in the knowledge economy (1st ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; and Edmondson, A. C. (2012, April). “Teamwork on the Fly” Harvard Business Review.
  • Heifetz, R. A., Linsky, M., & Grashow, A. (2009). The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (1st ed.). Harvard Business Press.

Learn more about Bob Greene’s coaching and consulting work and follow his blog, “With This in Mind” at www.BGCoach.net.


 

A Global Learning Laboratory

By Bob Greene, MS
Leadership and Team Development Coach and Consultant

Global Fashion Management students from Institut Français de la Mode, Hong Kong Poly U, and FIT during a workshop at the New York Seminar.

I’ve had the pleasure for the past several years of facilitating a workshop on building teams for the Graduate Fashion Management (GFM) program during the New York seminar hosted by Fashion Institute of Technology. Students and faculty from schools based in New York, Paris, and Hong Kong meet with industry experts and work on real-life cases to more fully understand the modern global fashion industry.

GFM students also have the opportunity to participate in cross-cultural teams, a vital part of the program. It’s commonplace to talk about the global nature of modern industry, but it’s rare that students can learn about it by interacting in meaningful ways with counterparts from (at least) three continents.

Much of what GFM students will do in their careers requires being able to cope with complexity and ambiguity, identify creative solutions, and constantly innovate. This is the kind of work that teams of people with different backgrounds, experiences, and skills should be well-suited to take on. Scott Page writes in The Difference that “[s]cholars from a variety of disciplines have studied how people and groups make breakthroughs. The common answer: diverse perspectives.” (p.24) Yet as important as diverse teams may be, in my experience, a great many people have little practice  working in effective, well-run, teams. In fact, many have had poor team experiences and dread each time they are assigned to a team.

I believe part of the problem is how we typically think about teams. It’s not enough to put a group of people together, call them a team, and expect that they will be effective. In this common scenario, team members fall back on the way they have always done things, whether that has worked well or not. And individuals typically make assumptions about other team members, a tendency that can be heightened in diverse, cross-cultural teams. There is research that indicates that diverse teams can be more effective than teams in which everyone is from the same background, yet diverse teams can also run into significant difficulties that hold them back.

GFM students have a chance to experiment with doing teams differently! As part of the year-and-a-half  GFM learning laboratory, students  participate in three different case study teams, each one including colleagues from across the globe. Early in the first session in New York, I have the opportunity to explore with them qualities of effective teams and tools they can put to use immediately in their case study teams. In addition, we consider potential cultural assumptions related to working in teams. Each GFM case study team then becomes an opportunity to experiment with doing teams well—moving past previous team experiences to gain the advantages of working in global teams.

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References:

  • Butcher, M. (2006, March 3). “Intercultural competency a key to global business success.” Retrieved from http://insideasia.typepad.com/ia/2006/03/intercultural_c.html
  • Page, S. E. (2007). The difference: how the power of diversity creates better groups, firms, schools, and societies.
    Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Learn more about Bob Greene’s coaching and consulting work and follow his blog, “With This in Mind” at www.BGCoach.net.