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Can we find a global language for teamwork?

During 25 years of international team development we have found that whilst the scenery and language may change, the people really don’t.

The core motivations and behavioural patterns that influence leaders and teams are recognizable human qualities that transcend language, ethnicity, nationality and gender.

Smart people will intuitively identify the prevailing strengths and weaknesses in themselves and others in more or less the same way across different cultures.

Superficial cultural biases may still play havoc to varying degrees when cultures meet, but at depth, people are people. The challenge is to quickly find the common ground and to build the foundations for a team to develop.

Having already worked with many different nationalities across the years, it was our first engagements with the United Nations that illustrated this particularly clearly for us.

For an organization with a mandate to unite humanity on important global issues, seeking unity of purpose within teams made up from literally every possible nationality, culture and language presents some challenges.

Fortunately The United Nations also use the Belbin Team Role Model and its individual and team profiles to accelerate people’s ability to move beyond superficial national, cultural and gender biases. It creates an elegantly simple and non-threatening common language for teamwork.

Belbin’s research identifies 9 major clusters of behavior that are evident across all human teams, and when measured using Belbin profiles and reports provide a truly evidence based approach for team and leadership development.

Looking past biases and job titles alone to actually value what each person really brings to the team is a powerful enabler for team performance.

Like the ‘Babel Fish’ from Douglas Adams’ science fiction tales, that when placed in your ear enables you to understand anything being said to you in any other language, Belbin enables you to quickly see the strengths in others irrespective of their language and nationality.

Now that Belbin profiles and reports are available in 15 different languages, it’s even closer to being able to serve as that elusive ‘Babel Fish’ for global teams seeking a common language for behavioural insight.

A multi-national team can undertake their individual behavioural profiles in their mother tongues, and then explore the implications of those reports in whatever common language has been chosen for the de-brief (or via translation for multiple languages).

Individual and team profiles reveal what strengths each person brings to the team using the culturally and gender neutral ‘Belbin language’, yet in a variety of actual native languages to help powerfully accelerate understanding and relationship development.

In an increasingly global world, we see first hand why clients like the UN gladly use Belbin. It helps to transcend barriers and to build bridges between individuals and teams using evidence and strength based reporting.

Using the common “Team Role Language” enables people to better see past job title, nationality and gender to the strengths each person can bring to the team.

The various languages in which Belbin is now offered make this tool even more potent.

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