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The Inter-Cultural Manager: Developing Your People

Updated: May 18, 2023

The Inter-Cultural Manager, Part 3 of 4

How can I unlock healthy dialogue about personal development on my team?

Creating an environment where people feel encouraged to pursue growth and development is not always straightforward, especially on a team with a high level of cultural diversity...

We use both ‘Psychometric’ and ‘Culturometric’ tools to turn on the two main spotlights that explain human behavior. To do this we utilize tools like the Everything DiSC® Management assessment, which offers valuable perspectives from the standpoint of behavioral styles into four management disciplines:

This is our third article walking through the management disciplines of the Everything DiSC® Management Profile, using the intercultural spotlight of "The Three Colors of Worldview" to highlight ways you can develop and retain talent on your team.

First Questions First

When it comes to helping your team members grow, the first question we need to ask is about how you see your role as manager: “Is your team there to help you get the job done or are you there to help your team get the job done?” The world of today has seen a mega shift into virtual work being here to stay. We used to have only some people working virtual with some sectors leading the way to now a large percentage of the workforce working virtual. This has resulted in managers and leaders having to take a hard look in the mirror. What we see is that managers who mainly believe “The team is there to help me get the job done”, are challenged the most by the rapid shift to virtual! Managers who mainly believe “I am there to help my team get the job done”, have made necessary adjustments faster!

We encourage you as a manager to take a hard look at the beliefs that drive how you lead!? The current climate does require you to become much more of an enabler and less of a police officers at work. This is the season where “The manager as a coach” is becoming a critical way to motivate and develop your people!

Also: if you believe that “The team is there to help me get the job done”, the personal growth of individual team members will probably be a lower priority for you.

But when a manager sees the value of every-member’s growth and how it supports the team’s mission, we can really begin making progress in this area. It is crucial to understand and act on the understanding that if the manager makes it their passion to “spot development opportunities”, it will accelerate the development of all people on the team and will have a positive impact on retention, engagement, productivity and success of the team!

You Set the Tone

Learning and Development in today’s world can take many forms, but what is crucial to recognize is that it does not always have to cost extra money! Creating a culture where managers transfer knowledge early and invest some extra time to model and create ‘On-The-Job’ learning moments are powerful ways to create low-budget learning opportunities.

One crucial element to create a learning culture is nurturing higher levels of trust! Team members on high-trust teams are quicker to admit they do not know how to do something and quicker to ask for help! So, trust is essential in triggering ‘On-The-Job’ learning moments.One of clients had a strong preference for Honor/Shame amongst their staff. They were used to managers who told them what to do and managers believed their teams were there to help them get the job done. This resulted in employees being afraid to ask for help and mistakes were hidden or people tried to resolve issues for which they did not have the competence & experience.

It had a direct negative on everybody resulting in lower productivity, communication breakdown and overall job dissatisfaction. They looked at the intercultural dynamics and realized that many staff associated “I need help” or “I messed up” with a sense of shame. They had to find an Inter-Culturally Intelligent way to overcome that by attaching honor to requesting help or admitting a mess-up. Their creative solution was to add “Oops” as one of their values.

They created signs with the word “oops”. When somebody needed help, they raised the word at their desk and the honor of their colleagues was at stake if they did not rally to assist their colleague in need! It made it safe and fun to ask for help and they used their cultural drivers in a positive way. As a result rallying to assist your colleagues became a sport and it made the person who asked for help feel safe to put up the ‘oops’ sign.

As a result, the team learned faster together, produced a better end-product and became more generous in the way they collaborated.

The Manager as a “Growth Opportunity Spotter”

Some managers use learning opportunities mostly as rewards. In other words, “You’ve done a good job, why don’t you take a few days away from the office at an outside event.” Other leaders are content to give people a list of options and let them choose for themselves, perhaps with some back-and-forth discussion.

A more active manager will seek to spot talent gaps on the team and look for training that addresses these, including helping people create personal growth plans.

The bottom line is that the learning culture of your team is modeled based on your own pursuit of ongoing development as well as your ability to nurture a safe environment for all cultures contributing to your team.

Cultural Keys

On a team where personal development has not been happening well, trying to discover needed areas of growth can be an awkward process. It can even feel threatening.

This is especially true on an intercultural team.


In a Power-Fear environment, a healthy employee-employer relationship means that employees are loyal and faithful and put 100% into the job. A good manager is then expected to have their followers’ backs and be there for them.

In this context, being able to talk about development will depend largely on how you as a manager use your position. Have you been empowering and life-giving as a manager, or did you used your authority to create distance, instill fear and ‘suck the life’ out of your people?

With an empowering manager, employees are more likely to feel okay talking about development needs. Questions from the boss will not necessarily sound like threats or imply they are failing - because the boss has already shown they have their followers’ back and have their commitment to be empowering and life-giving to the team contributors.


Among Honor-Shame oriented colleagues, being singled out for training is also not necessarily a good thing as it could imply you were not up for your role. It is crucial for managers to have one-on-one conversation with team contributors to assess how and what type of learning & development is honoring the employee, the team and even their family or community.

For H/S oriented team contributors it is important to keep in mind that they might be hesitant to take on learning opportunities if it results in ‘rising above your peers’. This would only be perceived as an honorable opportunity if it results in promotion or a shift in responsibility (even if it means they will be required to transfer the new learning to their peers). In that case it is crucial to make it clear to the rest of the team before a commitment is made to the learning opportunity.

The team needs to see manager publically esteem personal development - encouraging staff to voice needs and praising those who are proactively seeking growth opportunities. Managers should also lead by example and take advantage of development opportunities themselves, modeling that both admitting to the need for the development as well as the pursuit of learning are honorable behaviors.


Employees in an Innocence-Guilt oriented environment can also hesitate to pursue development opportunities. They may think, “I got hired because my boss thinks I’m the right person for the job. But I’m not sure I will still look like the right person if I mention areas where I am weak.”

Once again, how leadership talks about and uses development opportunities is key. Team members need to know that personal development is the “right thing” for themselves and the team. Acknowledging the need for development is not only permissible - but a key aspect of team health, growth, and success! Managers need to understand that I/G oriented team members will perceive a learning by asking: “Is this the right thing for me?” “Is this fair in relation to other team members?”

Changing Team Culture

In an environment where all three cultural drivers are present, managers will need to tap into each one. That means modeling that personal growth and development is the right thing, the honorable thing, and the empowering thing for every member of the team.

In your team’s culture, is development something people aspire to? Is it a key part of achieving your mission?

Creating an intercultural safe space where people can take ownership of their mistakes as well as the skills that need strengthening is essential if you want to grow a high-performing intercultural team.

We help diverse teams develop inter-culturally validated team charters©, including processes that help catalyze all team members to seek opportunities for growth and development.

The Everything DiSC Management tool is a powerful tool to assess your managers, but also equip them with a path for development! The four focus areas of the assessment are some of the top development areas managers need, specially in an intercultural environment. ”


This Series: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4



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