Intercultural coaching 

What is intercultural coaching?

Intercultural coaching is a specialized form of coaching that helps individuals and organizations navigate and thrive in intercultural environments. It focuses on raising awareness of cultural differences, understanding, and sensitivity so that they can effectively interact and communicate with people from different cultures.

How can intercultural coaching help you?

Intercultural coaches help clients improve their intercultural competence, address intercultural challenges, and leverage cultural diversity to achieve their personal and organizational goals. Coaches may provide guidance in areas such as cross-cultural communication, cultural norms and values, conflict resolution, leadership styles, and adapting to a new cultural environment.

Why is intercultural coaching important?

The constantly evolving technological advancements have opened doors to the whole world. There are more and more international collaborations emerging. Sending employees abroad is no longer the only opportunity to interact with people from other cultures.

I often hear managers argue: “we are all human, we are all the same,” but the opposite is true. There are deep cultural differences that we must understand in order to effectively communicate. While, for example, in Czech culture it is very common, and even polite, to say “NO” if you cannot do something or come somewhere, in Brazilian culture saying “NO” is very rude. If you tell a Brazilian manager “no,” they won’t want to talk to you anymore.

A significant number of managers have been sent abroad to make important changes and have been quickly sent back to their home country. Why? Because they started implementing changes without respecting another culture. This displeased local managers, and the situation escalated. Companies spend a lot of money relocating managers and their families only to move them back after a month.

Ignoring cultural differences is one of the biggest mistakes companies make today. It causes communication errors, creates a hostile environment, prevents new business opportunities, reduces efficiency, etc.

Those who have experienced it will understand

I myself have lived, studied, or worked in 7 different countries and cultures. Every culture is different. I understood that there are smaller and larger differences.

There are cultures that are more based on information, where what you communicate is more important than how you communicate it. Such is our Czech culture; personally, I have also encountered this approach in Germany, Austria, and England. Germans and Austrians are very precise and strict; they will tell you everything straight, without beating around the bush. Sometimes it may even seem exaggerated to us.

Then there are cultures that are more based on emotions, where how you say something matters more than what you say. I encountered such an approach in Brazil, and it’s very difficult for me. Brazilians beat around the bush, and if you want to get along with them, you also have to learn to beat around the bush. You can’t just tell them criticism directly. For example, if you tell the cashier that she is too slow and if she could speed up because you urgently need to get back to work, she will take offense and slow down even more. You can’t just say to a friend, “I don’t feel like going on a trip”; you have to package it as “sure, we’ll talk about it later.”

I know Brazilians who moved to Germany and the German culture didn’t suit them at all. They found Germans to be rude, impolite, and full of rules. And a considerable number of people have told me that Germans living in Brazil are neurotic.

Believe me, it’s not easy to deal with people from different cultures, and it pays off to pay attention to intercultural differences.

Author. Pavla Belostikova, MSc

I offer training in groups and individual coaching for key employees focused on increasing awareness of cultural differences, effective communication in an international environment, and leveraging differences for the benefit of employees and the company. If you are interested, schedule a free, non-binding 30-minute consultation, where we can talk more.