Get Clear in These Four Areas before Coaching Across Cultures

Collage Diverse Faces Group People ConceptAs I regularly partner with company sponsors, clients, and coaches from various cultures, I’ve realized that people from different country cultures and even organizational cultures can have different expectations of coaching.

A client’s belief system and cultural perspective greatly impacts how they not only interact with their coach but also achieve goals. As a result, I have personally expanded my perspective, identified potential biases, and adjusted my coaching style to incorporate a range of cultural dimensions.

Here are four key points to keep in mind when coaching across cultures.

  1. Definition of coaching. Many clients believe coaching is the same as consulting or mentoring—but there are distinct differences. It is important to begin with a clear mutual understanding of what coaching is and what the client can expect from the partnership.
  1. Country orientation. Recognize that the tendency for a client to think, feel, and act certain ways is innate and based on their cultural background. This includes communication, perception of self and others in roles, problem solving, and control.
  1. Hierarchical vs. egalitarian culture. Clients with hierarchical views may see themselves as subordinate to higher level leaders and therefore believe communication comes from the top and is not to be challenged. Clients with egalitarian perceptions view employees and leaders as equals and are more likely to freely state their opinions and challenge top leaders.
  1. Language. When coaching in a language other than the client’s local language, it is important to be aware of subtleties that can cause misunderstanding. Adjusting the pace of speaking to allow a client to translate and understand will increase the effectiveness of the coaching.

As the coaching profession continues its expansion worldwide, it is more and more imperative for coaches to incorporate intercultural dimensions into their practice to be effective with clients.

Coaches can increase a successful coaching experience by recognizing their existing cultural biases and belief systems and adapting based on the situation. For example, if a client is inclined to value indirect language and harmony in their workplace, the role of the coach is to support the client in identifying when to adapt and lean toward a different, more direct style while maintaining authenticity. It is about not only embracing cultural diversity but also leveraging it.

Coaches and managers: how are you embracing and leveraging diversity?

About the Author
terry-watkins1-e1439867252311Terry Watkins is a coaching solutions partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 150 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

2 thoughts on “Get Clear in These Four Areas before Coaching Across Cultures

  1. How coaching is distinct from other service professions is outlined below among a list of FAQ’s from the International Federation of Coaching. I think it’s a stretch to manufacture the differences as delineated in the third question among the eleven questions posted here. http://coachfederation.org/need/landing.cfm?ItemNumber=978 In most psychotherapy practices the client also initiates the contact so coaching is not distinct in that regard. I don’t believe coaching is nearly as distinctive as most coaches believe it to be although I understand the desire to create a separate and different application.
    With regard to consulting and mentoring I have a similar response. I find the practices of psychotherapy, coaching, counseling, consulting and mentoring more similar than different although there are some minor distinctions among them and one approach doesn’t work for everyone. The good part is that all are intended to help people remove obstacles and enjoy a positive, productive and fulfilling life. When people begin to draw dividing lines within a given discipline the separation is most often personal, political or economic and has little to do with substance.

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