Dr. Robin Warren and Dr. Barry Marshall, who won the Nobel Prize in 2005, were convinced that the H. Pylori bacteria was responsible for stomach ulcers when most of their colleagues were convinced that stress was the problem. To prove their point, Marshall drank a dose of of the bacteria that they had collected from several stomach ulcers and proved their point. That is one way to be a leader and change culture. Let me just say I’m glad I study culture and not ulcers!
In this series of posts we have been talking about how to become better leaders of multicultural teams. In my last post, we looked at 5 things that can break trust in multicultural situations and today we are going to look at how we can build trust.
Remember that trust is the foundation of all human relationships and must be cultivated and developed. One of our main jobs as multicultural leaders is to create an atmosphere where trust can develop between ourselves and the team and between team members.
Trust is ultimately an ethical issue. Not only do we have to maintain high ethics to build trust, but we have to be aware of what ethics are involved in the various cultures of our team members and live ethically according to each of the cultures involved. How is this done? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Study- Learn and try to know as much as you can about the cultures of your team members and what their idea of ethical behaviors is in their context and culture. Ask questions and be a student.
2. Dialogue- Take time during team meetings to address these issues where they conflict between cultures of team members. Bring the issue to light and try to help everyone on the team understand each other better.
3. Be Agreeable- Help the team members agree on a common team culture that supersedes each individual team members’ culture and see that everyone commits to live up to the standards of the common team culture.
4. Release- As a leader, we can lead by example and let go of aspects of our culture (which are important to us) that cause problems and pain for other team members. That is true leadership. We also need to release control of how we think others should act according to our cultural framework.
5. Be Vulnerable- In every culture I can think of, trust is built by being vulnerable and “real.” As leaders, we don’t need to hide our faults and and our failures, but we need to be transparent and open to share our defeats as well as our successes. For some reason, most people have the idea that we build respect by never appearing to have problems and failures, but the opposite is actually true. By sharing our defeats, team members are drawn to us in a greater way.
In the next post, I’ll talk about how we can be better leaders in the area of human resource policies as it relates to multicultural contexts.