How Leaders Develop Cultural intelligence (CQ)

Developing an inclusive virtual workplace for all helps you understand others’ perspectives, and allows you to adapt to how others work.

Learning to work and collaborate with people from other cultures is a vital skill in today’s borderless workplace. And you don’t have to interact with people from other countries to experience cultural differences: diversity within  countries – and within organizations, for example Marketing, HR, Sales, Finance – can be just as exhilarating and challenging.

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‘Difference’, however, can also create barriers to collaboration. Today’s successful organizations are breaking down these barriers around the globe, across business units and divisions, across generations and cultures, and across organizational levels.

A definition of culture:
The learned set of beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviors that distinguish one group of people from another.

Culture is complex. Although it surfaces when interacting with others, the underlying elements to culture are mostly hidden : inside feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and values. The surface level interactions are only the tip of the iceberg. Underneath there is much more.

Much of what we understand to be cultural is beneath the surface in the way that people think. We must never make assumptions about similarity based on surface evidence.

Given our global workplace and the range of backgrounds and cultures we work with, the ability to develop cultural agility and work with difference is a key personal effectiveness and leadership skill.

Culture is broad and we must be able to modify our views based on actual interaction. These interactions can be difficult because our different influences shape how we each understand the world around us; we develop different expectations about how to best relate to others, how to communicate effectively, how to manage time and power , and how to think about problems.

Such differences can challenge our sense of reality. What we have taken-for-granted about how the world does – or should – work can be thrown into turmoil. When our expectations about what is right or wrong or normal  are challenged, we can become frustrated and impatient, even angry. Such dysfunctional behaviors undermine our ability to develop productive cross-cultural relationships.

Cultural Intelligence is the ability to work collaboratively with people from different backgrounds and cultures. Cultural Intelligence comprises three key elements:

  • Mindset: A way of looking at the world that is (1) respectful of different values, beliefs and behaviors, and (2) is open to seeing, thinking, and doing things differently.
  • Knowledge: Of cultural differences along with an understanding of how these differences influence assumptions, interpretations and behaviors.
  • Adaptive Skills: An ability to analyze a cross-cultural interaction,  decide on how to adapt, apply the chosen adaptation(s), process what happens, and tune the adaptation(s) as needed.

Being adaptive is a critical skill for our complex world. Being adaptive doesn’t mean changing your personality or your identity; it means making small and often temporary changes in behavior to increase interpersonal effectiveness.

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