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Why Cultural Intelligence is a Must-Have Power Skill for Global Business

Smart human resources professionals and savvy executive leaders know that if we want to be successful in increasingly diverse and global workplaces we need a set of power skills that too often aren’t taught in colleges, business schools, or as part of workforce development trainings. In an episode of Alchemizing HR — a webinar series hosted by HRCI, the premier credentialing and learning organization for the human resources profession, TCM founder Christian Höferle laid out a framework for understanding — and operating within — diverse cultures. During this session Christian highlighted how organizations can foster cultural intelligence skills by focusing on ICE-Q.

The formula for success in global business contains several variables, as you’ll see in the webinar recording. During this HRCI session you will learn what ICE-Q is, how it affects global business, and how to acquire the tools and strategies that will boost your business, while discovering some of the hidden obstacles for building mutually beneficial relations across different cultures.

The webinar was broadcast live on February 4, 2021 and it is approved for 1 Global Recertification Credit towards HRCI’s 8 credentials, incl. SPHR® & PHR®. More than 14,000 people had registered for it, and you can still watch it on Vimeo.
Here is a synopsis of the session from the HRCI website:

Foster Cultural Self-Awareness

We all carry our culture with us, but we don’t necessarily understand how it affects our behaviors. We see the world through this lens. It’s not uncommon in the U.S., for instance, to work long hours with little to no break. This has been normalized in American culture but might seem strange to employees from other ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

“Normal” is an arbitrary concept. Behaviors that are normal in other cultures may seem unfamiliar to us, but that doesn’t necessarily make them wrong. “Every normal has its validity,” Höferle said. A lack of cultural awareness can lead to friction and inequality in a global market. We must be self-aware enough to recognize how our behaviors differ from other people’s “normal” or other cultural norms.

Find Common Ground

When merging cultures in the workplace, it’s essential to start with positive dialogue. If we start a relationship by pointing out differences — especially negatively — we won’t be able to make any progress. “We need to talk with each other, not about each other,” Höferle said. Have a dialogue with others to learn from them and find common ground.

Be open to learning more about other cultures and their work habits. You or your workforce’s initial response might be that things aren’t “right.” But just because something is unfamiliar or uncomfortable to you doesn’t mean that it isn’t also “right.” At the same time, you don’t have to condone or participate in behaviors that you consider unethical.

Facilitate New Ways of Working

Cultural intelligence skills don’t require you to internalize other ways of working or become an expert in someone else’s culture. We all have a zone of appropriate behaviors, Höferle said. Try to adjust your behavior within this zone, but don’t feel obligated to adjust too far. “Perfection is an illusion,” Höferle continued. “We can only strive to become better.”

Instead of trying to change yourself completely, focus on being successful in the new context. Continue to foster respectful awareness of the differences between your parent culture and a new culture you’re exposed to. Continued self-awareness will help you and your workforce create a new way of working that maintains who you are while functioning in a new culture.

If your goal is to seriously work on your ability to engage and interact with business partners from different cultural backgrounds, to inspire and lead multicultural teams, and to reach your full global potential, we are here to assist you on that path with our training and coaching programs. Take a look:

To paraphrase management consultant Peter Drucker: Once we accept the reality that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast with the changes around us, the next step is to ask ourselves: “Which skills will help me to stay ahead of change or, at least, deal with change with more ease and grace?”


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