Last week, I pointed out that leaders should be equipped with both Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Cultural Intelligence (CQ). This is because leaders should model inclusive behaviour in a tactful and mature way. Most people will be familiar with EQ, so this week I want to expand on what CQ is and why it’s important.
I heard Erin Meyer, a professor at INSEAD and author of the Culture Map, tell the story about a man from Beijing, who for the first time was hired to work for a company outside of China. The Chinese man was hired by a company in London. He was very excited at the opportunity because his English was excellent, he was very extroverted. When he was invited to his first meeting in London he prepared during the entire trip from Beijing to London. Arriving at his new employer’s offices everything was going well, he greeted his new co-workers and was able to connect with them right away. However, during the actual meeting, the Chinese man said nothing at all. After the meeting on his way out he accidentally overhead one of his new colleagues say that it didn’t seem like he had anything to say.
If the English colleagues had asked their new Chinese colleague, he would have told them that he actually had a lot he wanted to contribute but they talked over him.
It turns out that in East Asian cultures, like China, there are pauses often up to 8 seconds before the next person speaks. Studies have also shown that in Anglo-Saxon cultures people tend to get uncomfortable with silence after about 2.5 seconds.
Most of us think that we have CQ if we’re culturally sensitive and aware. Cultural intelligence is much more than multi-lingual signage, catering for Halaal or Kosher, or defaulting to English when Sven walks into the room.
CQ actually goes beyond this. It’s about how cultures understand one another.
And, like anything else we want to develop in ourselves, it takes time to figure out how to act on this awareness. It requires us to not only have a sincere interest in developing CQ, but also to develop a strategy. Because otherwise it remains at the level of awareness and never progresses to automatic action – it never really becomes second nature.
CQ is only unimportant, or unnecessary, if everyone looks, sounds and thinks exactly like you.
If this is not the case, then you need to develop your CQ. Otherwise, there will be the inevitable misunderstandings, which creates friction and negatively impact on productivity and effectiveness.
South Africa is a melting pot of cultures. After all, we have 11 national languages! What would happen if we began to explore and understand our cultural differences, leveraging the diversity they bring to build inclusive teams?
Do you want to become a preferred employer and attract diverse talent? Then create a workplace where people work effectively within multicultural teams. This will also improve the engagement of the existing employees.
CQ is also paramount for any business who has, or desires to have, a diverse customer base. The success of your product managers, software developers, customer success representatives, etc., depends on their flexibility and appropriate use of a broad repertoire of behaviours during multicultural situations.
“CQ is the missing link between thinking globally and acting locally.”
Many South African companies want to establish regional offices in new global markets. But, are your leaders equipped to adapt quickly to the local culture and context?
This is one company that understands the value of Cultural Intelligence.
CQ will enable a team that operates globally to:
Cultural sensitivity and awareness is a good first step, but it is not going to get you where you need to go. Equip your teams, especially your leaders, to apply this knowledge.
To help you develop these CQ skills you will likely need to get in a certified CQ practitioner who can debrief assessments and offer strategies on how to improve their CQ. Certified practitioners will also be able to facilitate workshops and help your company develop an overall cultural intelligence strategy.
Otherwise you might be the one biting off more eel than you can stomach…
The Cultural Intelligence Center drives the research behind the CQ framework. Their findings, to date, span 98 countries and over 75,000 individuals and is used by many of the world’s leading organisations, governments and Universities.