Developing Cultural Intelligence for Your Employees
Several factors are making businesses reexamine how they function in the world. An increasingly diverse workforce means that team members will have different backgrounds and points of view. The expanding global marketplace involves more cooperation between multicultural partners. Leaders and their employees can no longer assume that their way is the only way of conducting business.
The Need for Cultural Intelligence in the Global Economy
In the past, understanding culture involved recognizing the difference between cultural practices. Leaders needed to know when to shake hands, offer a gift, or exchange respectful bows. This information was helpful when meetings with global partners were infrequent. Today, a single remote team might have members in several countries gathering for regular virtual meetings. It is not enough to know a few local customs.
Culture and Perception
Emerging neuroscience shows that cultural upbringing affects the way people perceive the world. Different neural networks light up in brain scans of people presented with the same information. Differences at a neurological level will have practical effects when a multicultural team tries to communicate, problem-solve, or work toward a common goal.
What Contributes to a High CI?
Cultural intelligence is the ease with which a person can navigate a multicultural context. Individuals with a high CI find it stimulating to connect with people different from them. They are comfortable allowing others to lead interactions while they deepen their understanding. Increasing CI requires the development of several soft skills.
The first step in understanding other cultures is acknowledging your own. Understanding how your upbringing affects your view of reality will better equip you to work with others. People with a high CI are aware of their personal biases and blind spots.
Developing this intelligence requires nurturing curiosity. Many people deal with cultural differences by labeling them right or wrong. Intelligence requires acknowledging differences without judgment and learning more about them. A coworker’s way of handling a problem may offer insight into your own process.
Listening is a sign of respect. Historically, leaders in the West learned to put a premium on self-confidence. Developing CI means stepping back and allowing others to lead conversations. Recognizing a colleague’s rhythms and thought patterns provides a stronger foundation for cooperation.
People who succeed in a multicultural context recognize that their traditional way of seeing or handling things is not universal. They can adapt their style to make it more comfortable for the people around them, especially when cultural differences create a friction point.
Leading by Example
As a leader, the best way to develop CI in your workplace is to grow and demonstrate it yourself. Create space for team members to describe their perceptions. Demonstrate curiosity by asking questions when appropriate. Be open about mistakes you make along the way. Evolving humility and empathy will help you and your employees navigate this new territory.
Working with a Transformative Partner
There are great changes happening in the business world, and everyone needs help now and then. If you would like a partner for entrepreneurial growth, Productivity Intelligence Institute would be happy to work with you. Contact us today to learn more.