I know around three books on “intercultural coaching”. The best one has been written by my former housemate Kirsten Nazarkiewicz. Great minds live in the same building. Kirsten was ten years ago where I wanted to be now. She was an intercultural coach when no one knew what that meant.
While the term “Intercultural Coach” seems to have meaning in Germany it is not commonly known in Switzerland. There are different approaches to “intercultural coaching” and the term “interculturalist” is not used in Switzerland a lot. What we do is coaching professionals through an intercultural transition ideally improving their effectiveness by increasing intercultural competence on different levels.
In our business (Global People Transitions GmbH – the name says is all) it means coaching in an intercultural transition context or coaching of global managers.
We integrate developing intercultural effectiveness into all our programs as we feel it is a key competence for global leaders, in client service and global team performance. For our client selection it means that we value intercultural diversity.
Why it can sometimes be a burden to be an intercultural coach
The Swiss culture in my view tends to value the opposite. It’s based on excluding rather than including. If you look at how “Switzerland” was founded it is very obvious why the people learnt through generation to protect each other from the enemies outside. What started with the Ruetlischwur in 1291 is still in the mindset of the culture. (I call this concept “The Circle of Trust” in my best Robert de Niro-Voice).
The other reason is that in my personal life I spend time with people from different cultural backgrounds. The multitude of experiences and lifestyles sometimes clashes. There are situations in my life where I have to get up and leave a discussion because I cannot handle it emotionally. It often happens when differing religious and political views are at the table.
While I consider myself open and tolerant I have a strong value-based attitude that is biased towards “Germanic” logic and values. My approach can get into my way. I get frustrated when clients or friends have a different approach.
As most people I tend to overestimate my intercultural sensitivity and I am not as great in this topic when I get under pressure. As most of us I fall back into my “cultural default” (citing Sundae Schneider-Bean, another outstanding intercultural coach and trainer) when under stress.
My seven Principles for Intercultural Effectiveness
When I am asked in a coaching or training: “So what do you do about that?” I have to say that I try and fail or in most cases I eventually succeed if I follow those seven principles.
1) I try harder and show more patience.
2) I watch my conclusion from other angles.
3) I am more compassionate.
4) I give people a third and fourth chance.
5) I trust even if I had been hurt before.
6) I listen to my heart.
7) I speak slow and use simple language.
What I have learnt over the years working across cultures that we have a lot more potential to be compassionate without judging. We just need to learn to reevaluate our conclusions and judgements. We need to give people a fourth and fifth chance and we need to accept them how they are. Then we are true humans, we are able to forgive and we’ll have improving performances in our global teams.
If you struggle with the same topics contact me for a Skype session.