Interview with Csaba Toth

An Expert Interview by Sara Micacchioni

Csaba Toth is the author of the book Uncommon Sense in Unusual Times (2020), the founder of ICQ Global and the developer of the multi award-winning Global DISC™. I met him virtually at his place in Brighton that almost incidentally became his new home 16 years ago. Let’s discover together what he does in life and what his approach to interculturality is.

Author's Headshot
Csaba Toth – Author of Uncommon Sense in Unusual Times

If you were to give a pitch of Csaba Toth, how would you best describe him professionally? 

I will be very concise here: I teach uncommon sense. It is a mindset that allows people to see the same situation from different perspectives so they can make better decisions and they can choose to respond instead of just reacting so they can get the best possible outcome. 

In fact, when looking at cultural and personal differences, at the end of the day we’re dealing primarily with clashes of common sense. If you look at it in that way, the whole topic also becomes much more flexible and humane, instead of reducing it to a binary system where one must be right and the other must be wrong. Or where both are fighting in order to have their truth validated although both just hold their tiny version of the truth. 

Let’s move onto what was your journey. In your book you talk quite in detail about how you got to where you are now, but would you mind summarizing your career path for all our readers?

I used to love learning a lot (and I still do). Initially, I didn’t have clarity on where I wanted to get, so I studied Italian and obtained a master’s degree in Italian linguistics – an uncommon and unusual choice for someone who doesn’t know what to do in life (author’s note). As soon as I finished I came to the UK for the summer. That was 16 years ago and I am still here. Three years after arriving, I obtained another Master’s Degree in International Management at the University of Sussex and that was a bit more practical as I specialised in Eastern and Western European joint-ventures. My dissertation was about understanding the differences between Hungarian and Western European managers. Interestingly and against traditional predictions, the data showed that the gap between the old and new generations in Hungary was much bigger than the gap between the same generation in Hungary and Western Europe. This contradicted what we were used to and often are still used to learning in academia, i.e. that culture is country-specific. 

And what happened next?

Then I started my own company. It was about a restaurant listing: someone books a table and you get the money. It grew really really fast. We started with 35 restaurants here in Brighton and one year later we had already 5,500 all over the UK. On paper, everything looked perfect, but in practice I couldn’t stand the other CEO. Not because he was French, but because there was a big clash of common sense between the two of us. That was exactly the topic of my dissertation: I ran the largest and fastest growing restaurant listing business in the UK, I had years of experience, and yet could not make it work. 

But I was really keen on understanding what went wrong and how we could fix it. The final result of all the research I did led to what is now called the Global DISC™.

What was the major learning that you took away from this experience?

Best solutions are born out of frustration and pain. 

And most of us have a choice: do you want to just stay and complain? Or do you want to take responsibility for your growth and work towards finding the best solution? I personally chose the second option. 

In your book “Uncommon Sense in Unusual Times”, which I highly recommend to all our readers, you go deep into the topic and give a lot of details about Cultural Intelligence (ICQ). In your view, what are the difficulties that you encounter most often when you need to convince clients and other stakeholders of the importance of having thoughtful conversations around Cultural Intelligence? 

Book Cover

I think that the biggest obstacle is the perception that people have about ICQ since for the majority culture automatically equals nationality. So basically, if they don’t work in an international environment, they think this is an irrelevant topic. However, if you look at the research published in Management International Review (Kirkman et al., 2016)  where they compare 17 cultural containers, culture, gender and generation were the worst three categories of culture in terms of practicality and range of differences.  It makes sense as even if you don’t choose those specific cultural groups, you learn how to conform to them and you can navigate efficiently in that environment. 

Culture is not who we are, it’s what we’re used to

When you look at the different cultural groups that you choose, like your education, profession, hobby, you’re inclined to opt for the one that matches your personal preferences, because it feels comfortable and the right place where you can put your strengths at use. That’s why, to me, to understand who you are, your profession is a way more powerful clue than your country of origin. This is the biggest obstacle, i.e. that people don’t see that we belong to twenty different cultural groups at the same time and that your national culture is just a tiny container of that.

(If you want to read more about cultural overlaps and the concept of intersectionality, we published a post on the topic). 

Can you also provide us with a more practical and concrete example of these layers of culture, Csaba? 

Sure. Take your family members. Even if you talk with someone in your family, what are the chances that the other person belongs to the same 15-20  cultural groups like you?

Less than zero. That’s why I consider every conversation a cross-cultural dialogue. 

This leads the conversation into another topic of your book that you talk about in detail, cognitive diversity. Can you please tell us more about it? 

Cognitive diversity is about the diverse ways in which people think, behave and process information. The very different values that each of us share give us different perspectives and priorities. Like I write in my book 90 percent of business is interaction between people who think and behave differently. So, even if you have a team constituted 100 percent by Italians you’ll still be able to find cognitive diversity because all these people have different values. 

Just because we learn how to conform to the same norms it doesn’t mean that we are the same. 

If you look at research (Management International Review, 2016), having smart people in a team is no guarantee of success. In fact, 79 percent of potential is generally lost due to interaction gap and clashes of common sense. That’s definitely not good for business. To me the biggest obstacle is to raise the awareness that

intercultural equals interpersonal, not just international.

There’s a topic to which you dedicate an entire chapter in your book, debunking the myths of cultural intelligence, So I’d like to dig a bit deeper there. You specifically address eight of these myths, but do you think they’re equally rooted in people and that the same myths keep being reinforced over and over? Or do you see a gradual increase of awareness?

I think that change is slowly happening. What hinders this change is the presence of many established companies that sell international trainings as if they were intercultural ones. In fact, one of the insights of my research was that more than 95 percent of companies buy and sell to people solutions created in the sixties and seventies. You’ll agree with me I guess that there’s nothing wrong with loving our grandparents but we must recognize that we have very different challenges than them. So much has changed since then, just think of the easy access to the internet and international travel. 

Why do we want our doctor to be updated with the latest research but we don’t make sure whether who develops intercultural training has our best interest at heart? To me not being updated in your field should not be allowed and I find it unethical that in some less regulated professions this seems to be optional. 

Thank you Csaba for these insights and for sharing your view with us. Let’s move onto the projects you’re currently working on. Do you want to tell us more about that? 

20 percent of the business we do is training and corporate coaching, while the other 80 percent is certifying coaches and trainers to deliver the Global DISC™ that we created. Because it doesn’t matter how good we are, alone we’re not enough. First of all, we’re smarter together and secondly, our time is limited and so is our potential. That’s why we created a licensing model and that’s why we currently have almost 100 licensed partners in 33 countries. 

We also work with higher education institutions. At the moment, eight universities teach the Global DISC™ and this is amazing to us. It means that in academia too there’s the realization that students need to be prepared with solutions for a world that is constantly changing. 

I actually wish that this topic was taught in high schools though, or starting even earlier, because I believe that it would have a huge impact in people’s life. You could better understand who you are and what you stand for. Imagine if you could even like yourself. You would not need to bully anyone to feel important or hide to feel safe. If you can accept yourself  – and this is where we talk about self-inclusion – it’s much easier to accept others. Instead of depending on external approval, what if you could focus on yourself and who you are? To me this is the super power that I would like to enable others with and it is our final goal.

What would be the benefits for someone who decided to become certified in Global DISC™? 

We want to concretely support the coaches who decide to obtain our license and therefore we offer four gigabytes of training, sales and marketing material, and a portfolio of international accredited solutions. Licensed coaches also become members of a community on an interactive platform where they obtain the support and where they can get inspiration and guidance on how to further expand their businesses. In short, they become part of an environment where they can continuously grow. And it becomes a partnership in which we and our licensed coach give and receive in equal part. 

What about the ICQ Growth Mindset course that you repropose periodically? 

Oh, that’s by far my favourite masterclass. It’s a 4×90 minutes online in-person course through which you understand the underlying root of causes  of why we lose most opportunities, time and energy: friction with people who think and behave differently and friction with ourselves (self-sabotage).   You also gain guidance on how you can achieve more with the same amount of energy and time. The insights and tools that we offer can be immediately applied on an individual and team level. What I especially love about it is the blissfully challenging and psychologically safe environment that we create altogether. This is where the magic happens. And that’s why I’d never miss facilitating this course personally. 

The next one starts on 2 November 2020 and the registration process is already open. 

Is there one last message you would like to leave our readers with? 

Just remember that we all do what we consider right based on what we consider true to get the best outcome we think we can get, but at the end of the day we have no idea what is right and true or what the exact outcome is going to be. That is why we are smarter together. 

Resources

If you want to buy Csaba’s book Uncommon Sense in Uncommon Times, click here

If you want to get more information on how to become a licensed coach of the Global DISC™ get in touch with Csaba directly. You can send him an email (csaba@icq.global) or add him on LinkedIn

If you want to sign up for the next ICQ Growth Mindset course and see what it includes, click here

Last but not least, two books that Csaba would like to recommend:

Goldsmith, M. (2016). Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–becoming the Person You Want to Be. Profile Books.

Chandler, S. (2017). Reinventing Yourself: How to Become the Person You’ve Always Wanted to be. Career.

About Sara Micacchioni

Sara
Sara Micacchioni

Sara Micacchioni is about to complete her internship as an Academic Intern at Global People Transitions, where she is responsible for research and quality assurance projects. She also actively supports the Managing Director and the Social Media Manager. At the beginning of 2020, she graduated from an international English-taught master degree in Intercultural Management at the University of Burgundy, France. In the past, she also carried out several short-term and long-term voluntary work projects in Europe and South America.

Sara lived, studied, and worked in seven European countries and speaks four foreign languages. She considers herself an interculturalist with a real passion for globetrotting. In her mission to travel the world, she has now ticked off 30 countries globally.

Connect with Sara on LinkedIn if you want to talk about Diversity and Inclusion, Intersectionality, Cultural Intelligence (CQ), Bilingualism, Digital Learning, Immigration or Low-Cost Travels.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sara-micacchioni/

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