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Why Genuinely Successful Team Coaches Still Need Inter-Cultural Intelligence

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

Part 1 of 2

I’m Already A Great Coach! At Least, I Was Yesterday: why developing inter-cultural intelligence is of paramount importance for even the most seasoned and successful team coaches.

Coaching in a globalized world is the new normal.

We live in a globalized world. Teams are outgrowing monoculturalism, so their problems can no longer be fixed with monocultural tools. Out of necessity, increasingly multicultural teams and the issues that they face necessitate leaders with intercultural awareness and deeper, global perspectives and solutions.

As the parameters of your team expand, and as the reach of your team’s productivity grows broader, the higher the stakes when conflict arises. In building high-performance teams to wield more influence globally, potentially devastating ramifications of team conflict ripple out much farther. Even as positive success can reverberate globally in this day and age, repercussions and consequences are exponentially globalized, as well.

Team coaching tactics that sufficed for a monocultural context are quickly fading into foggy memory—following in the wake of spiral-corded car phones and pool-sized backyard satellite dishes.

Developing inter-cultural intelligence is of paramount importance for even the most seasoned and successful team coaches.

Because team performance is so strongly linked to leadership capacities, there is a growing demand for coaches who can help intercultural teams navigate cultural differences in order to work together productively.

We are put in teams and expected to work together, yet we all come from different backgrounds, perspectives, and belief systems. It is normal and natural that we would scrape up against each other, even collide occasionally.

We stumble across each other’s boundaries and in and out of comfort zones. We get in each other’s way, and sometimes in the way of progress on projects. Recurring cross-cultural friction among teammates can start to chafe. It creates misunderstandings and provokes conflict.

Coaches who work in a multi-dimensional intercultural context should be able to identify, understand, and manage issues as cultural issues within an intercultural context, instead of as merely a communication or human-nature issue within a monocultural context. In the rest of this article, we will cover a few things to keep in mind.

Accepted norms that permeate one culture may not translate recognizably into another culture. In fact, norms in a monocultural society probably will not exist at all in a multicultural society.

In a monocultural society, there are so many givens—there are so many societal mores taken for granted, so many assumptions and goals already held in common.

For the majority of a monocultural team, the meanings of an idiom or a facial expression or a tonal inflection need no explanation nor clarification. Even if team members have personality differences or varying skills of articulation, they can still convey intentions and meaning through informed, deliberate communication.

And on a monocultural team, there is still some sense in which the majority rules. The onus falls upon minority teammates to absorb and acclimate and learn how to interpret and communicate “extra,” over the hurdles of worldview differences.

In a multicultural team, however, the bar is raised to a truly globalized level. Every member must learn to accommodate and respect one another as true peers with equally valid worldviews, various strengths, and recognized potential for valuable contribution.

Conflict can spring up so easily, anyway, but especially in an intercultural context—and the effects of conflict have a more significant impact on a global scale.

Conflict occurs naturally when humans gather together and juxtapose their personal idiosyncrasies and egos and agendas, but in an inter-cultural context there are myriad additional facets to consider– any specific language selection, any change of tone, any difference of posture or eye contact has potential to provoke offense unwittingly.

If we are aware only of those triggers and pitfalls that characterize monocultural contexts, conflict will become exponentially more difficult to prevent or solve.

Understanding our own biases and prejudices in terms of our intercultural map is key when delivering training and coaching.

We must grasp how those biases and prejudices impact the relationships we hold, and how they impact the teams to which we belong.

Addressing cultural issues merely at a communication level isn’t good enough. If a coach tries to solve an intercultural issue with a tool from a monocultural toolbox, the fix will be superficial, cosmetic. The root issue remains.

Coaches of globalized teams must value and cultivate the capacities to identify, understand, and manage issues in accordance with objective reality.

They need to see what the issues really are, and see the issues within their actual context.

Ultimately, it is of the utmost importance that coaches to be educated and empowered, since they are the ones responsible for the development of individuals and teams who must learn to work together in an intercultural context, today and for the future.

Identifying, understanding, and managing issues as cultural issues within an intercultural context open up a powerful group of competencies that free a coach to work across multiple dimensions, on higher, constantly changing, intersecting planes.

KnowledgeWorkx educates and empowers coaches to be as well equipped as possible for this monumental task of melding intercultural teams together and, in turn, helping those teams to duplicate themselves, developing interculturally intelligent leaders and entire teams who will repeat the process again and again.

Special thanks to certified Organizational Relationship Systems Coach Linda Berlot for contributing to this article.



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