top of page

The Business Case for Intercultural Coaching

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

North Point Academy and KnowledgeWorkx, want to make a suggestion – the world needs more “human” humans.

As we are well past the dawn of the 21st century and the Fourth Industrial Revolution is in full swing we, at North Point Academy and KnowledgeWorkx, want to make a suggestion – the world needs more “human” humans.

With the ongoing impact of globalization, the growing signs of polarization, the information explosion, the unstoppable rise of artificial intelligence and self-learning technology, there is a massive increase in information, data and knowledge. It is here that we see a risk that our personal and professional lives will become more and more dehumanized. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will require us to ‘rise above the machines’ and increase our level of social, emotional and intercultural competence.

In our global and intercultural world, we believe a display of true humanity and rich interaction can only be achieved through a deeper intercultural awareness and ability to connect interculturally. Unfortunately, this is still a competence that is difficult to find. It is our core belief that Coaching infused with Inter-Cultural Intelligence (ICI), is part of the solution to bring the strength and beauty of humanity to the fore. Our desire is to see coaches equipped so that they can really empathize with and help their clients move forward within interculturally complex situations, whether in the public or private domain.

Understanding how ICI is different from other views of culture

Before we begin to explore how to define this new way of Interculturally Intelligent coaching, we need to make an important distinction - this distinction is the difference between cultural awareness, multicultural, cross-cultural and intercultural.

Cultural awareness can be a first step to deeper human connection, in that it gives knowledge about another culture but does not necessarily require engagement with that culture. Multicultural awareness goes one step further in that it introduces many cultures into the picture and gives a name to the description of people of different nations, ethnic and racial backgrounds. Finally, a cross-cultural perspective inherently includes the option to dive in and out of intercultural situations (A good example would be the ‘world-travelers' who have visited certain countries many times but have never really engaged with the local context in an intercultural manner).

We believe coaches need to embrace an intercultural position.

This requires three changes:

  1. First of all, I need to recognize that every human being is uniquely wired as a cultural human being. As an intercultural coach I should learn to both respect and see beyond nationality, ethnicity and race.

  2. There is a crucial related shift for a coach that goes beyond this initial acknowledgement, I need to understand my own “self-culture”; then in this understanding become mindful of how my “self-culture” affects and interacts with the “self-culture” of other people around me - be it my client or those interacting with my client.

  3. The third shift in perspective focuses on creating the intercultural coaching relationship (the “Third Cultural Space”). Creating the “Third Cultural Space” in the coaching relationship requires me to understand and recognize that both the coach and the coachee bring their unique cultural wiring into the relationship.

In order to conduct “clean” coaching that helps people be more “human”, coaches need to be true to themselves and others, operating within this intercultural mindset.

What’s different about Intercultural (IC) Coaching?

The true value of the coach is that they can empathize, understand, ask compelling questions and help a client drill into the depths of themselves to evaluate the impact they have on others and what’s going on inside. They can partner with their clients to explore the impact of their actions, what the client is thinking and feeling, what values or beliefs are behind the way someone operates and makes decisions.

With the assumption that most of our coaching clients are operating in intercultural environments, the norms, shared understanding, values and beliefs may vary dramatically between the coach and the client, and those around them. Therefore, to miss the intercultural aspect has the potential to create a massive blind spot. A lack of intercultural awareness is like a filter that removes the color of an image, so it remains only in black and white – the image of humanity is somehow reduced and is not the full picture. Intercultural awareness and the confidence to engage in an IC context should therefore be at the core of coaching.

There is, therefore, a key difference between the approach that others advocate and that of North Point Academy and KnowledgeWorkx. An intercultural coach does not start with national identity, ethnicity or race, but assumes that every person is a uniquely wired cultural human being; and this is a radically different place to start the coaching relationship.

The CIC Coaching Definition

For the purpose of pioneering the Certificate in Intercultural Coaching (CIC), North Point Academy and KnowledgeWorkx define an Intercultural (IC) Coach as:

“A coach who can create a Third Cultural Space in the coaching relationship that opens and facilitates transformational change.”


a. encourages stronger trust

b. clarifies perceptions and assumptions

c. produces richer conversation

d. deepens understanding

e. illuminates meaning

f. harvests powerful insight

Elements of the definition

a) encourages stronger trust

Creating and building trust in an IC relationship is very much defined by the interplay of the worldviews and cultural dimensions of the coach, client and those relating to the client. The commonality or difference in worldview and cultural dimensions will determine how trust builders operate. For example: how much openness is appropriate, how to show respect, exemplify reliability and practice honesty.

b) clarifies perceptions and assumptions

The IC coach does not start with national identity, ethnicity or race, rather they assume that every human being is a uniquely wired cultural human being.