for missions and ministry


Cultural Intelligence in Practice

The Virtue of Flexibility

Today I spent time with 20 talented coaches and coach trainees. We discussed a flexible approach to first sessions with new cross cultural clients. We talked about …

  • adapting the coaching agreement for cultures that value relationship
  • initiating pre-session communication for ‘Status’ culture clients, rather than waiting for them to initiate
  • modifying relational story telling for clients with a value for ‘Concealment’ vs. Vulnerability.

I shared that we can modify our normal first session routines according to culture while still remaining true to coaching principles This kind of flexibility is especially crucial at the beginning of a coaching relationship.

Practice flexibility

What’s the bottom line? Culturally intelligent coaching demands flexibility. There is no way to successfully coach cross culturally without it. Some of us are naturally flexible and can step it up with only a little effort! Others of us will have to work harder and more diligently to develop flexibility. If you, like me, are not naturally flexible, practice can help. But how do you practice something like being flexible in coaching?

Here are some practical capacity building exercises for flexibility:

  • If you usually coach face to face, try a Skype session; or vice versa
  • Change your conversational model:  try the GROW model if you use the Funnel; or vice versa
  • Take a look at your coaching agreement.  What would you be willing to change to accommodate your client's cultural values? 
  • Think about how you usually structure your first session.  What would need to change for a Status client vs. an Equality client?  a Direct value client vs. an Indirect client?
  • Try coaching a pair of leaders or a small group, rather than individuals, as some cultures prefer.

Make at least one of these ideas an action step; or come up with something creative of your own. Then do it!

Ask for help

Whether you struggle with flexibility, or you have a natural gift in this area, we all can become more nimble in practicing the virtue of flexibility in cross cultural coaching. Try some of the suggestions above. And don’t hesitate to ask God for help –  He is eager to help us gain what we need in order to fulfill our callings as mission coaches!

Question: What action step are you willing to take today to become more flexible as a culturally intelligent coach?

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