First there was IQ (Intelligence Quotient), then came EQ (Emotional Quotient). Your intelligence level or emotional savvy may have put you on the path to career success a decade ago, but it’s not enough in today’s ever-evolving workplace. Experts believe there’s one business imperative that everyone needs to know to survive and thrive in today’s global marketplace: Cultural Intelligence (CQ). But what is CQ? Think of it as the capability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. CQ goes beyond existing notions of cultural sensitivity; it’s about learning to work effectively in unfamiliar surroundings to break barriers that may not be geographical at all. How does CQ help in the workplace? Continued research shows that employees with a high level of cultural intelligence can help bridge divides and knowledge gaps in the organisation. In Cultural Intelligence: The Competitive Edge for Leaders Crossing Borders, Julia Middleton writes that CQ is the “single most important factor for the growth of those who are single-minded about their work”. “It’s an essential ingredient for leaders who recognise that they can no longer be, to quote John Donne, ‘an island, entire of itself’. And it will be crucial to the success of the organisations they lead: companies, communities, cities, countries and continents,” she says. Raising your CQ helps break down biases, prevents wrong assumptions, and motivates individuals to become comfortable in new situations with people from diverse cultural groups. Employees who rank high on CQ can help educate peers about different cultures, encourage knowledge sharing between disparate groups, helping forge interpersonal connections, integrate diverse resources, drive innovation and creativity, and help the business make best use of the multiple perspectives.
CQ comprises three interactive components - cultural knowledge, cross-cultural skills and cultural metacognition (the ability to think about your cultural assumptions) – that work in tandem. Here’s how you can raise your CQ to work better together and become a leader in the global business environment.Begin by making your mind a clean slateMost of us tend to be judgmental when faced with a new person, thought process or culture. Do a thought intervention and try and to challenge your mind by being extra conscious of your inherent biases.
Be open to new ideas and new ways of doing thingsPeople around the world behave differently. Learning about those differences and adapting your individual style and cultural preferences in various cultural settings will help you be a better negotiator and communicator.
Grab opportunities to interact with people from different culturesIt’s a given that most of us are extremely comfortable with “people like us”. But find opportunities to get to know and interact with people from groups not in your friends/colleagues circle. Sign up for cultural events, language classes or work functions. Learn to interpret verbal and non-verbal communication stylesRoger E. Axtell, author of Gestures —The Do’s and Taboos of Body Language Around the World, says: “Gestures and body language communicate as effectively as words—maybe even more effectively.” So use them wisely.
Look for common interests and observe differencesCommon interests will help you bond and let you engage in conversation with diverse people. Observing differences will help develop an awareness of your biases towards other cultures and traditions. Try and practice ways to break away from those biases. Be curious and willing to learn what you don’t know aboutBe interested in people and their cultural norms, and never assume you know everything about people from a particular group based on one experience or one person. The ability to put yourself in another’s shoes and see things from their perspective will help broaden your mind. In his book, Livermore writes that cultural intelligence is “not innate, but a developmental skill that comes with coaching, training, and dialogues”.
With interest and practice, anyone can learn and develop cultural intelligence. Time to get started?
Good leaders all have one thing in common: They know how to seek advice. Find useful tips that will help you prepare for the next-level role in your company here.