November 15, 2018

What to do When Cultures Collide!

As human beings, we understand that we are individual and different from one another.  Some people we automatically click with, finish each other's sentences, know what they need and what they are likely to do.

Others, we find, frankly a puzzle.  We can’t understand why they struggle with problems we see as straightforward, or why they need to talk about everything.  Or maybe, we think they are rushing things, being demanding or simply keep referring to previous experiences as if they will predict the future.

When working with teams from other countries or even other teams and businesses, even when using a common language, we misunderstand each-other or find ourselves breaking unwritten rules of behaviour.

So, as we become more connected we understand less and misunderstand more.

The results are:

  • Friction and discomfort across and within teams as misunderstandings multiply
  • Delays to projects and initiatives due to false starts, lack of clarity and nervousness to move forwards
  • In cases where businesses or teams need to work together, a growing murmur about US and THEM starts to permeate the environment
  • What you expect to happen just…doesn’t
  • This costs businesses millions of dollars as projects fail or fail to deliver their benefits

Whether it is a team culture, a business culture or a national culture, we all create our ‘norms’ based on the cultures we work or grow in.

Some teams have egalitarian cultures where everyone needs to have their say before a decision is made.  Other teams have Top Down cultures where what the boss says, gets done.  You may have values about how emails are sent or how often, working from home, punctuality …all of which are understood as your norm.  However, when you need to work with a team where the opposite is true, frustrations and frictions occur as the teams struggle to communicate with each other and work together.

To accelerate the process of building new teams from those of different backgrounds you need to take the following actions

  • Understand the cultures, the values and the norms
  • Create new shared values together where team members all understand the rules,
  • Take a Coaching approach to empower team members
  • Walk the Talk by demonstrating the new behaviours you expect to see

And together you’ll move towards a high-performance culture for your organization.

Louise Seabrook is a Leadership coach helping leaders and businesses develop leaders who are in tune with employees and deliver outstanding performance.  Find out more at, or book a no-obligation call at


The Subtle Difference is all about enabling heart-centred leaders to step into senior positions where they can inspire others by creating an environment where people matter, the work they do is relevant and meaningful and that they are making progress for themselves and their organisation.

Happy and engaged employees deliver 20% higher productivity and increase shareholder value for the businesses they work in. (Source: Jackson Organisation Study)

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