Career Advice

3½ Ways To Increase Your Cultural Intelligence Quotient

Our workplace environment has become increasingly diverse with many corporations now operating on an international scale.  As such, our need to better understand cultural diversity has risen.  Executive level professionals cannot afford to be ignorant of the impact that one’s culture plays on how they interpret instructions and perform their duties.

The traditions of one culture may not always mesh with the traditions of another.  Most people do not fully understand the nuances that exist between different groups of people. In the workplace, we all come together into an environment that requires us to coexist. Indians, Haitians, Americans, Latinos, Pakistanis, Israelis, Asians, Africans, Europeans, Iranians, the list is endless. We are a global business community.

So how do we as business professionals reconcile our differences and gain a greater awareness in order to improve interpersonal communication and enhance our working relationships? The answer lies in improving our cultural intelligence quotient (CQ).

According to authors David C. Thomas and Kerr Inkson, who wrote the book, Cultural Intelligence: People Skills for Global Business, it is not as simple as learning the particular customs of each and every culture. There are too many different cultures and the variations even within similar cultures can be subtle. The better approach is to increase your cultural intelligence quotient.

Here are a few ways to bump up your CQ:

  1. Awareness – While we cannot possibly know everything about every culture, by maintaining a level of general awareness and remembering that we all see things through a different colored lens, we remain open to a better level of understanding our coworkers and our clients.
  2. Training – At the executive and managerial level in particular, becoming educated about the significant impact that cross cultural communication plays in enhancing team function is critical. There are numerous training programs for leaders and their subordinates wishing to enhance their CQ. The Cultural Intelligence Center is a good place to start. They have assessments, certifications, and resources.
  3. Practice – Whether you are going to be in a specific country or you are working with a group of people from a given geographic region, you can practice their cultural norms.  Be prepared to honor their style and mimic it as a sign of respect. This is such a fascinating subject. I think the most important thing when it comes to doing business with those from a cultural background that is different from your own, is to have a good attitude.  It is okay to ask those from other cultures how they prefer to receive information.

When I work with clients from various parts of the globe to write their résumé or CV, I strive to identify their unique style and convey this in their career documents.  They appreciate my efforts to understand their needs. The attitude of acceptance and tolerance goes a long way when it comes to raising your CQ.