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Why Coaching Leaders for “Cultural Intelligence” (CQ) is critical for global teams & organizations ?

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is the capacity of an individual to function effectively in situations characterized by Cultural Diversity.

CQ is becoming increasingly critical in today’s globally connected world. Globalization, Remote Work & Migration are fast transforming the world into a “Global Village, where interaction, communication & engagement with individuals & teams of different cultures is becoming an essential part of what we do in our work-places. 

Organizations today also have loads of evidence that points to the benefits of having diverse teams. Diverse teams in organizations gives them an edge in the form of higher levels of innovation, improved creativity, faster problem-solving, better decision-making & a strong global image among others. This is incentivizing organizations to create more & more diverse teams. 

However, research has shown that increasing diversity does not automatically enhance the productivity and creativity of teams. Infact, the result can be just the opposite if teams and leaders are not skilled in “Cultural Intelligence”.

Leaders who lack CQ often find it difficult to engage with diverse teams well, which infact can then negate the positives generated by having multi-cultural & diverse teams.

From the standpoint of evolution, we must understand that human beings are not wired to thrive in diversity. Quite the opposite we are hard-wired to feel more comfortable with our own tribes – others who seem to look, think & behave like us. 

Encountering diversity without having the necessary CQ skills can lead to anxiety & discomfort for many individuals which makes them fall back to the safety of their known kin & surroundings. It is common to see expat workers in a foreign country sticking to socializing with their own tribes only & even sticking to their own foods, traditions etc. 

Leaders and workers alike, in diverse environments, must hence be trained in understanding the nuances of cultural intelligence and should be supported with skills to be improved so that they can engage with multi-cultural teams.

A leader or individual having high “Cultural Intelligence” is likely to have the following capacities : 

  • Is skilled & flexible to respect different points of view 
  • Is curious to learn more
  • Is able to reshape her/his own mindsets
  • Is constantly improving his skills

Soon Ang, a psychologist & one of the first experts to study and propagate widely the concept of CQ, demonstrated the importance of CQ for individuals & organizations that need to navigate through the challenges created by cross-cultural teams. 

There are 4 components that Leaders & Teams must be trained in, for developing their CQ :

  1. Motivational CQ :  Describes motivated a leader or team feels to learn about cross-cultural nuances. Individuals with high Motivational CQ are attracted, rather than intimidated by cross-cultural differences they face & indeed thrive in such environments 
  2. Cognitive CQ :  Describes how much inherent knowledge the individual has developed about the new cultural 
  3. Metacognitive CQ : Refers to the individual’s capacity to process the Cultural knowledge that they have internalized in order to make accurate inferences and more appropriate decisions while operating in another culture. This could include :  
  1. Planning in advance what goals they would like to achieve in their interactions with the other culture
  2. Self-awareness on how the cultural differences is shaping one’s owns beliefs, values, feelings & behaviors.
  3. Re-calibrating ones expectations & beliefs based on observations & inferences made during their interactions
  4. Behavioral CQ : Refers to finally putting knowledge into action by adapting ones own behaviors to what is culturally appropriate in the new environment

How can leaders & international workers build their Positive Intelligence  :

There are several techniques that have been tried in helping leaders build Cultural Intelligence skills. One of the widely recognized techniques is to help leaders through a series of Intercultural Situational Judgement Tests (SJTs) that show them video clips of a cross-cultural situation and get the leader to interpret or decipher insights from the same based on their Cognitive & Meta-Cognitive CQ Skills.

In my Leadership Coaching practice, I have seen distinct merits in applying the Positive Intelligence (PQ) Framework to help in building of Cultural Intelligence (CQ). 

The framework helps leaders first with rooting out their intercultural biases & fears. Subsequently, using the power of their Positive Mind, executives are able to mindfully develop capacities like : 

  • Empathy – which  is required to build their Motivational CQ
  • Exploration – that is critical to have the openness and inclination to build their Cognitive knowledge base of the new culture
  • Navigation – helping them get a good view of the bigger picture & of why this is important for them
  • Activation – essential to putting the relevant knowledge & motivation into action, while not giving in their intercultural fears, inhibitions and self-limiting beliefs. 

Coaching leaders & executives on the Positive Intelligence (PQ) Framework with the help of a trained PQ Coach & then applying the framework to building Cultural Intelligence skills can be a powerful resource for them to be able to thrive in a cross-cultural environment. Infact this, in many ways, is a pre-requisite if organizations are serious about leveraging the advantages of Diversity in their businesses.

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