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Why Cross Cultural Coaching Can Build A Stronger Corporate Culture


Cross cultural competence is a becoming increasingly critical for organizations to build a winning culture.

This is true for a large multinational company or for a local manufacturer who has a diverse workforce.

How can cross cultural coaching grow your business?

Elevate the level of empathy and understanding to people who have different values and world views

The foundation to developing cross cultural competence is the recognition that we are not all alike and that you cannot assume that everyone shares the same world view as you. Despite the many similarities that you may see between yourself and another person from a different culture you need to go deeper into really understanding them.

To help our clients develop higher levels of cross cultural awareness we work with a great consulting partner Cultural Detective and use their Value Lens tool. This tool helps our clients understand how their team members see the world in comparison to themselves. For example

  • In the USA we place a high value on speed, control and self- reliance.
  • In Germany however they place high values on order, planning, organization and delivery on commitments.

When you compare the lens on how these two cultures view the world you can see where misunderstanding and conflict can emerge. This is where cross cultural coaching can help. A skilled coach can help everyone begin to understand their differences and identify signs for how they can adjust their communication so that it is received in the manner that it was intended.

Develop a more effective communication process to allow everyone to understand and be understood

Effective communication is the key to building winning teams and organizational culture. This is an ongoing challenge to every organization and can be even more important when they are operating in a diverse/multi-cultural workplace.

Erin Meyer in an interesting HBR Blog “How to Say This is Crap In Different Cultures” discusses how different cultures handle feedback. More direct cultures (like the USA) are called upgraders and tend to use words like absolutely, totally or strongly to amplify their feedback. Other features of direct cultures are:

  1. Get straight to the point
  2. Openly confront issues or difficulties
  3. Engage in conflict when necessary
  4. Express opinions frankly
  5. Say things clearly, not leaving much to interpretation 

Indirect cultures (like Asia) use more downgraders that feature words that soften criticism such as kind of, sort of, a little, maybe and slightly. Some other features if indirect cultures are:

  1. Focus not just on what is said but how it is said
  2. Avoid difficult or contentious issues
  3. Avoid conflict if possible
  4. Express opinions and concerns diplomatically
  5. Count on the listener to interpret the meaning

Erin Meyer goes on to say in the HBR blog that managers in different parts of the world are conditioned to give feedback in drastically different ways.

"The Chinese manager learns never to criticize a colleague openly or in front pf others, while the Dutch manager learns always to be honest and to give the message straight. Americans are trained to wrap positive messages around negative ones, while the French are trained to criticize passionately and provide positive feedback sparingly". 

Build respect and embrace diversity

Cross cultural coaching can help employees learn how to respect and embrace the diversity of their team. This is important whether it is teams working on the shop floor, senior management interacting with the senior leadership headquartered in another country or any other combination.

Diversity brings a wealth of insight, experience, cultural reference and perspective to complex business challenges. A well rounded difference of opinion can lead to better decisions.

Respect for diversity will also help organization’s talent acquisition, onboarding, retention and productivity. All of the key HR metrics will be improved if teams and people can work better together through mutual understanding and respect.

Creating cross cultural competence takes work and outside coaching can help provide the guidance towards building a winning culture.