Developing Cultural Intelligence capabilities in global teams

culture cuppa developing cultural intelligence capabilities in global teams 1

The reality today is that global teams often work remotely across borders and in increasingly diverse environments, and rarely have the chance to meet face-to-face, which can create challenges with feeling connected in the team.

Cultural intelligence, or CQ, is an approach to understand, communicate and interact better with people from different backgrounds and cultures.

It is a set of capabilities that can be measured and developed, and it impacts how trust and collaboration are built within the team through deepening empathy, connection and stronger relationships, which ultimately help your people to deliver projects and business on time.

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Handling challenging situations with cultural intelligence

It also helps when things go wrong, when your people need to handle tough conversations, disagreement, difficult feedback or even conflict.

This is because having high levels of cultural intelligence is like pushing the pause button in these challenging situations to override our automatic reactions. Developing these capabilities helps your people to take an extra moment to reflect on what alternative explanations there might be to the situation, behaviour or communication, and to get back to assuming positive intent from the other person.

Developing cultural intelligence capabilities gives your people the choice of how to respond because they broaden their vision and understand that ‘frustrating’ or unexpected comments or behaviours they experience may have a different interpretation in the culture of that person, and they have valid motivations.

This gives distance from the context and helps teams avoid falling into the trap of ‘them’ and ‘us’ thinking, which often creates divisions in projects, teams and even the company, and can delay business delivery.

Feedback on individual and the team’s cultural intelligence capabilities gives insight into their strengths and development areas. It gives your team the strategies to understand when and how to adapt their own behaviours and communication style to engage with others and get a more positive outcome.

Do your teams need support to develop their cultural intelligence?

What are the key capabilities of cultural intelligence?

There are 4 capabilities of cultural intelligence, which can be measured and assessed over time to understand your team’s progress in Cultural Intelligence assessments.

CQ Drive: Your level of interest, persistence and confidence during multicultural interactions. People who work in global teams often have high levels of interest and curiosity about other cultures, however it is more challenging to feel confident and keep going when experiencing challenging situations.

CQ Knowledge: Your understanding of how cultures are similar and different. It is natural to focus on differences, and yet sometimes it can be important to consider what is similar between you. This capability helps people reflect on their current knowledge level and gaps.

CQ Strategy: Your awareness and ability to plan for multicultural interactions. This helps your people to be aware and anticipate reactions, make a strategy of how to approach conversations, and be fully present in meetings to recognise where they may need to adapt further.

CQ Action: Your ability to adapt when relating and working in multicultural contexts. This is the expression of CQ drive, knowledge and strategy. CQ action includes knowing how and what to adapt in your communication style, verbal communication, and non-verbal communication.

Looking for something else? Questions?

Cultural intelligence in action

Cultural intelligence is a set of capabilities which people can develop over time. It is a great way for global teams to become more self-aware about what motivates and drives their own communication approach and behaviours, as well as those of people they work with from different cultures. It can make the difference between success and failure in how you work and grow your people and business globally.

Discover your own Cultural Intelligence scores:

If you want to learn more about your individual or team cultural intelligence capabilities, ask me about Cultural Intelligence.

Victoria Rennoldson, communication coach and Cultural Intelligence trainer, is the CEO and founder of Culture Cuppa. She helps international leaders with elevating their communication skills, and multicultural teams to build trust and collaboration with cultural intelligence. Connect on LinkedIn: Victoria Rennoldson.

Victoria is the podcast host of Cultural Communication Confidence.

This article originally appeared in Expert Profile Magazine, Spring 2024.

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