How Business Coaching Can Help Your Company Cultivate Cultural Intelligence

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For some people, the mere mention of business coaching probably conjures images of name tags, a conference room with free-flowing tepid coffee, and an exceedingly positive motivational speaker with an arsenal of mixed-success jokes. For some executives, business coaching is simply an item they need to put on expense reports.

But for organizational leaders who are wise enough to understand its true value, business coaching is more than what it appears to be on the surface. For visionaries, it could be the grease that keeps things moving, the push that gets things going, the plug that stops resources from hemorrhaging, and the catalyst that makes change happen.

Although this may seem a bit dramatic, it’s still true nonetheless. 

For one, business coaching helps modern organizations better navigate the ever-changing business landscape. Specifically, business coaching can help address issues arising from an increasingly ethnically diverse market and workforce. 

Diversity Is In

Unless you have been living under a rock in the last decade, you should already be aware of how vital diversity has become in the workplace. 

For instance, a Cloverpop study of 600 business decisions made by 200 teams from different companies found that:

  • More diverse teams make better business decisions than non-diverse or less diverse teams;
  • The most diverse teams outperform individual decision-makers by 87%;
  • Diversity leads to faster decision-making; and
  • Diversity improves decision-making results by 60%.

Cultural Diversity

Diversity takes different forms, and one of these involves race and ethnicity. 

Cultural differences is an essential form of diversity, with a McKinsey report showing that companies at the top quartile when it comes to racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to achieve better financial returns. Specifically, they are 35% more likely to have returns above their industry’s national median returns.

Unfortunately, having a culturally diverse team doesn’t automatically translate to better results. Active and effective inclusion must be present for diversity to work in an organization’s favor. In other words, individuals from ethnic minorities must be actively included in decision making and given significant responsibilities.

However, in a workforce of culturally diverse individuals, conflict can occur over the simplest of things. Therefore, there must also be a conscious effort at cultural integration.

What one may perceive as being an off-putting sign of being cold and reserved could actually be that person simply being polite. One person’s “OK” hand gesture could be highly offensive to another.

Such confrontations or rifts could be exceedingly uncomfortable for other members of your team. In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, therefore, cultural intelligence is more and more crucial. 

Cultural Intelligence and Why You Should Want It for Your Organization 

Cultural intelligence or CQ measures a person’s particular interest and ability to understand and interpret culturally driven values, beliefs, behaviors, and body language. A culturally intelligent person uses their understanding strategically to interact with people of different cultures effectively.

 A culturally intelligent individual thrives in a multicultural or a culturally diverse environment. If your organization consists of culturally intelligent individuals, you will have a well-integrated, perfectly inclusive workforce that can take advantage of its cultural diversity for better decision-making and company performance.

Furthermore, if you have a culturally intelligent workforce, you’re better equipped to take advantage of the culturally diverse markets. You will understand your customers’ needs and wants, beliefs and attitudes, and be better able to predict their behaviors. Ultimately, this could help you capture a bigger market share and enjoy better returns. 

Developing Cultural Intelligence Through Business Coaching

Business coaching can help cultivate cultural intelligence in your workforce, from the staff to mid-level managers and business leadership. A certified CQ business coach will help motivate the members of your organization to do the following.

  • Develop an interest in new cultures and become culturally aware.
  • Understand how cultures differ from one another and how a person’s culture shapes their values, beliefs, and actions.
  • Become culturally aware.
  • Be strategic about cultural diversity, using their cultural knowledge in creating more culturally sensitive plans.
  • Challenge assumptions in light of newly acquired cultural knowledge.
  • Act appropriately in a range of cross-cultural contexts and settings. 

Developing CQ for Workplace Harmony

Through business coaching, an organization’s leaders and employees can become more aware and accepting of cultural differences. They will actively embrace and use such differences to work better together and achieve greater returns for the organization.

When the members of your organization have a highly developed CQ, they are much less likely to imagine slights and much less ready to take offense at such imagined insults

They will also be more accepting of other people’s beliefs and values instead of being quick to judge others who have different views and subscribe to different value systems. They will also be more sensitive to other people’s potential reactions to what they say and do in the workplace.

All of these things could foster harmony and better working relations all around. And when an organization doesn’t have to waste its time on conflict resolution, it can be much more efficient and productive. 

Developing CQ for Your Customers

Having a culturally intelligent workforce has a positive spill-over effect on business strategy. The increasing cultural diversity of your markets is an opportunity for those who have high CQ.

The same cultural intelligence that helps you better understand each other in your culturally diverse team will help you better understand your culturally diverse customers. This is especially important in organizations with a highly culturally diverse market; say, a company that deals in second citizenship opportunities.

Culturally intelligent organizations will find it easier to create campaigns that resonate with target market segments. And because of their cultural awareness and sensitivity, they will also be less likely to offend their customers in any way. 

Get Development Coaching for Cultural Intelligence

The world of work is changing. It is becoming more and more culturally diverse, and that’s a good thing. But making cultural diversity work for your business organization will take time and commitment.

Business coaching can help foster cultural intelligence in your organization. This will help your workforce become more efficient and effective. As a bonus, cultural intelligence will also help you better serve your culturally diverse customers.


Salma El-Shurafa is an experienced Executive Coach and founder of The Pathway Project. She is a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a graduate of CTI’s Co-Active Leadership program.