Coaching World Issue 7: August 2013 - Page 28

Coaching Across Cultures BY PATRICIA WEILAND, PCC When I began working with Helen, the first thing I noticed was that she was incredibly bright, ambitious and intolerant of those she deemed ”stupid.” She always had a plan. Although she had been with her company for less than a year, she already believed she should be What I didn’t see right away was Helen’s cultural context as a Chinese promoted. Her boss was immigrant working in an American organization. As it turned out, this hands–off, which gave her information was the key to understanding her situation. Early in our license to step in and take a leadership role, especially when she felt frustrated by her colleagues. Outside of work, she taught Chinese (her first language), studied Japanese, sang opera and took violin lessons. 28 Coaching World | August 2013 coaching engagement, I interpreted her tone, word choice and overall conversational style as tough, angry and abrasive—the same things her colleagues and supervisors were hearing. However, as I learned more about her recent immigration to the U.S., I realized that much of the tension between Helen and her peers—and between Helen and me, for that matter—was the result of different cultural norms and conversational styles. When I listened closely, I could hear that her communication style, tone and use of pauses were different from the rhythms of her American coworkers’ conversations. Thinking in terms of cultural difference, we talked about how she was perceived by