Healthy Leaders


Cultivating Cultural Intelligence

Tina Stoltzfus HorstTina Stoltzfus Horst

What in the world could I teach these folks?

The first time I taught a course on Cross Cultural Coaching was in 2010. My group of 20 trainees was made up mostly of long-term missionaries. I went into the course with fear and trembling. What in the world could I teach these folks? I had never lived in a foreign country myself for more than four months!

Despite my many years of learning and fruitful cross cultural coaching, I was feeling extremely insecure. So, I decided to frame the course so that it would draw from the trainees’ experience. I set up trios of trainees to craft and present demos to the rest of the class. I was sure that these cross culturally savvy missionaries would be able to draw from their own cross cultural experiences to demonstrate great coaching. Halfway through the course, I admitted to myself that…

My strategy was failing … spectacularly! Why?

Just because someone has experience living cross culturally does not mean they understand the concepts of cultural intelligence and cross cultural values. More importantly, it doesn’t mean they can apply their understanding to coaching, and to coaching unfamiliar cultures! It’s a mistake to believe that a great coach can coach cross culturally without effort. It’s also a mistake to think that a coach with cross cultural experience can coach well in a variety of cultures. But the good news is that…

Cultural Intelligence can be developed!

The components of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) that a coach MUST have to coach with excellence across cultures are:

  1. Drive: motivation; a combination of interest, confidence, and perseverance.
  2. Knowledge: awareness of how culture influences behaviors, relationships and worldview: both your own and others’.
  3. Strategy: meta-cognitive awareness of what is happening while it is happening paired with the ability to plan ahead for effective cross cultural functioning.
  4. Action: specific verbal and nonverbal behaviors cultivated in order to coach flexibly in cross cultural settings.

To be a great cross cultural coach, you must intentionally cultivate each of these components. Here’s what a couple of my missionary trainees said at the end of that first cross cultural coaching course:

“I thought I didn’t have anything to learn in this area but I was wrong!” (Drive and Knowledge CQ)

“This [training] has reached a heart and practical level greater than all the other teachings or books I’ve read. By that I mean it has impacted how I function and communicate”. (Strategy and Action CQ).

Are you realizing that you have a lot of growing to do in order to be a great cross cultural coach? If so. . .

Join the crowd! Great coaches never stop learning!

Are you interested in writing for Head on over to our Write for Us page to submit an article!