The Rise of Intercultural Coaching

Today cultural training is an integral part of any serious international mobility package in global organisations. It represents the effort to prepare people as they face the unknown inherent in cross-cultural experiences. It contains the keys to understanding the behaviour and meaning-making in a new and different culture.

This training is a huge help to managers and their families as they step out into the world. It is the equivalent of the manual in drivers’ education courses. Like those manuals it brings facts to ponder and eye opening explanations to the differences which lie ahead. This allows for a certain degree of preparation; but like a driver’s training course, the manual is only the foundation of being able to drive a car.

It must be completed with actual practice in a simulated situation, whether it is an empty parking lot or recreated conditions on a computer screen. Learning is integrated through the experience of having hands on the wheel, feet on the pedals, eyes on the road, ears open to the traffic.

In preparing for an international move, for working within the context of a different culture, or for managing multicultural teams, coaching builds on cultural training to develop those cognitive behaviours necessary to succeed.

Coaching creates the space to explore those cultural keys, allowing clients to consider the differences and to project themselves within the confines of a new cultural framework. Coaching doesn’t impose new ways of seeing and doing, but rather opens up for consideration postures and options to choose from.

Intercultural coaching takes a frank look at our own cultures and assumptions. This awareness brings reality to an otherwise nebulous idea of what the future holds in store. It allows the evaluation of the difference between cultures, rejects the notion of judgment while placing the question of identity squarely at the forefront. How does the client see himself within his new cultural context? Where will flexibility open up new worlds and experiences for him? Where will he set his limits, based on his values, his interests, and his objectives?

The coaching process also takes the client into the shady side roads to face the doubts, concerns and fears which often lie unaddressed, pushed under the growing list of “to dos”. By facing these elements within the confines of a confidential space, what seemed like insurmountable obstacles such as a lack of self confidence, anxiety over communicating, or fear of not being able to rally a foreign team to the expected results, can become manageable challenges.

As the client gets a “feel for the road” he can explore the resources inherent in each participating culture deciding how best to use elements of each to further his objectives, be they professional or personal. He learns to place himself within his new multicultural framework.

In preparation for an international move coaching encourages clients to consciously construct a specific personal project within their professional objectives. This brings meaning and purpose to the move, creating strong personal motivation. This personal motivation is the root of the energy and determination necessary to succeed both professionally and personally in a new environment.

An intercultural coaching experience aims to build a mind set for success before departure. It continues during the first months of adaptation, made possible by teleconferencing, to deal with the very real challenges the client must face. The established trust and confidential space provides a release valve for the pressures involved in “making his mark”. Cognitive behaviours are examined and response options are explored. As in any coaching – the client remains responsible for his choices and actions. But coaching provides the “rest stop” on the road to expand the available options and integrate the cultural elements active in the situation.

Together a coach and his client use cultural keys to build a solid foundation of behaviours and attitudes conducive to positive growth and development set within the specific context of this new environment.

Written by Patricia Comolet, CamComCoaching

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