May 25, 2018

How to be a culturally aware manager

“Endless data show that diverse teams make better decisions”, Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

Perhaps you’re new to a management position or are considering taking on a leadership role in the future. Chances are, you already are or will find yourself in a diverse workplace and team.  As a manager, you may know that diverse teams make better decisions, but are you supporting team members fully and leading your team to reach its highest potential? Increasing your Cultural Intelligence (CQ)  will give you, your team, and your organization insights and perspectives you may otherwise be missing.

According to the Cultural Intelligence Center, CQ is the ability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. The benefits of a high CQ are evident. Not only does high CQ foster a more inclusive, happier working environment, but  diverse teams with high CQ outperform in productivity, profitability, cost savings, innovation, speed and efficiency and more.

It’s essential to know that CQ is not an innate skill. It consists of four key areas that can be fostered through coaching, training and conversation:

  1. Drive: having an interest in multicultural interactions
  2. Knowledge: having an awareness and understanding about how cultures are similar and different
  3. Strategy: planning for multicultural interactions
  4. Action: adapting in multicultural contexts.

As you begin developing your CQ, here are two focus areas to get you started:

Be aware of your values and those of others.

Be aware! Remember that we all have core personal and cultural values.  While our own core values are important to us, they are not universal. They vary from individuals and cultures. Consider this: How do my and other people’s cultural and individual values differ?

For example, how do people value the concept of trust differently and how is trust established in relationships at work and on teams? Perhaps in some cultures or to an individual, trust and confidence are built by developing a friendship outside of work first.  Then a strong working relationship can be built based on that initial foundation of friendship and trust. Strong working relationships, even on teams, can take place only after personal friendships are established.

But in other cultures or for other individuals, business relationships are separate from what is considered personal relationships. In fact, what  a person does on a team or how one performs in business would be how trust is initially established for some. Personal relationships formed from business ties would develop after working or the business at hand is established.

Know your communication style and be willing to adapt it at times.

I worked with a business associate from another culture who would ask me about my family before talking about the business at hand. Initially, I felt uncomfortable being asked about my family at the workplace; it was unusual for me and I wasn’t sure how to respond. Overtime, I realized this was a cultural difference about values. I adapted my communication style by asking that same associate about his family before getting into business matters.

Once I made that small change in my communication style, our friendship and business relationship improved tremendously. He opened up, we became more comfortable with one another and had a more meaningful working relationship. As a result, we communicated better, had a deeper trust in one another and performed well together on our team.

Becoming an empathic listener and creating strategies for handling conflict on a diverse team are two more essential CQ skills that can be developed over time.  Working with a mentor and coach regarding your unique work situation will assist you in becoming the CQ manager and team member you wish to be. Communication and CQ coaches at Lingo Live are ready to work one-on-one with you and members of your team so that you can lead with the confidence that high CQ brings you. Contact Lingo Live today about our courses on culture and leadership in the workplace so that you can experience the benefits of high CQ on your team.

-Danielle Conte, Lingo Live Coach & Cultural Expert


Interested in reading more?

Check out Developing emotional intelligence and Cultural competency on a multinational team.




Communication, Company Culture

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