Coaching World Issue 18: May 2016 - Page 16

In this age of instant connectivity, we live in a world seemingly without boundaries. Globalization has changed our executive clientele demographics to international road warriors, transnational navigators and global executives who work with cross-cultural and diverse teams just about everywhere on earth. Others are expatriates working in foreign countries on short-term assignments with families in tow. This phenomenon has helped to internationalize and legitimize coaching as an effective intervention to help global executives adapt and thrive in new and foreign environments. In addition to traditional pre-departure training, global companies are increasingly adding cross-cultural coaching as part of their onboarding programs for global executives to quickly land on their feet and perform effectively in these foreign terrains. When this happens, we get the privilege to connect with clients from different countries and cultures and diverse backgrounds. Our foundational coaching skills, such as empathy, building rapport, listening, questioning and challenging will, of course, continue to form the bedrock of our coaching repertoire; however, by themselves they are simply not enough to deal with this new breed of clients who work and live in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world. To coach in a VUCA wo rld, we need to build up our own cross-cultural competence so that we can coach more effectively across cultures and, frankly, stay relevant. Working with clients who are not of the same national, geographic, ethnic, sociopolitical or even generational backgrounds necessitates that we don our “bifocal” cross-cultural lens to help our clients recognize their own cultural biases and address the stereotypes and perceptions they encounter from locals in their new environments. From Minimizing to Leveraging Cultural Differences We tend to minimize the impact that culture has in coaching relationships and the quality of coaching conversations. In a recent study I conducted, I interviewed 5 experienced Executive Coaches from the USA, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and China to understand how they coach clients of different cultures. None of them used a different approach or model to engage their cross-cultural clients, but all said that they should. However, they also said they believe there is no one reliable model to help them coach crossculturally. A few of them responded that “people are just people underneath all the differences.” I beg to differ. If you take a look at Milton Bennett’s 1998 intercultural sensitivity development model (below), it illustrates that people’s attitude toward cultural differences could span from being ethnocentric (seeing the world through my culture) to ethnorelative (seeing the world through multicultural perspectives). I like how Philippe Rosinski, MCC, takes Bennett’s model further beyond intercultural sensitivity to add a seventh stage of development, leveraging cultural differences, to create positive synergies and unity in the midst of diversity. This, in my opinion, is the sweet spot for coaches whose mandate is to help our global executives reach a stage of adaptation that not just allows them to survive in Coaching World I N T E R C U LT U R A L S E N S I T I V I T Y D E V E L O P M E N T M O D E L 16 Source: Bennett, M. (1998), The Development of Intercultural Sensitivity, p. 25.