Friday 11 April 2014

International and Cross Cultural Coaching

I have been asked to deliver a session at a Business School on International and Cross Cultural Coaching, as an invited expert had to withdraw.

I do not consider myself an expert in the field, though I have coached people from many countries and cultures in my time (indeed I once did a team coaching session in Holland with a team from a Dutch sausage factory, of whom only one spoke English -but that's a story for another day).

I am also not sure how big an issue it is to coach across cultures and national divisions.  Sure, there are things to pay attention to: language and understanding, body language cues, cultural assumptions and so on.  But I think these are things a good coach attends to in any relationship, and making assumptions about them based on perceived national or cultural norms is most unhelpful.  It may be true, for example, that many people from a particular culture have a particular attitude, but it is most unwise to expect any one individual to conform to the stereotype. 

I have asked some colleagues' views, and read some literature on the subject, and have come up with some interesting stuff.

However, it was only well into this process that the light came on.  I suddenly realised that if I was asked to coach somebody about this (or indeed about anything) my expertise isn't really the issue.  The expertise that is most valuable in the coaching relationship is the expertise of the person being coached.

And the group at the Business School is a group of International Students, studying coaching.  So my approach became clear: I will coach them to explore the issue, to draw on their experience of being students in a foreign land, working with students from many other countries and cultures.

I will also invite them to consider the degree to which difference is a help in the coaching process, rather than a hindrance.  

I will invite them to draw their own tentative conclusions; or at least to identify the issues which they are interested in exploring further.  And then to go out and pay attention, and learn from their experience in reality.

They are a large group, so this will be done in workshop format, with small group discussions feeding into a plenary conversation periodically.

It should be fun, and I am sure I will learn lots, and equally confident that they will.

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