Research Paper By Mihoko Kobayashi
(Leadership Coach, JAPAN)
The greatest cause of difficulties in global business transactions is not a lack of technical expertise, hard work or good intentions – it is a lack of “people skills” for relating successfully across style differences due to national culture, organizational culture, job function, and personality. – Ernest Gundling, PhD, author of “What is Global Leadership?
In this research paper, I would like to state how coaching will help workers in different cultures to cope with differences to perform and how it will further develop the self-awareness of the clients.
I’ve been exposed to diversity in my professional life. Working as an expatriate outside of own country both in India and Egypt and being a female general manager which is not yet popular in my industry of automotive, my professional life has given me rich experiences how to manage differences. Sometimes, differences are invisible and you may face sudden crashes in your work communication with colleagues or bosses. These cultural differences demand workers to have painful “try & error” to adapt and gain the capability to handle.
I believe providing coaching service with the knowledge to expatriates or employees who are exposed to cultural differences would facilitate and speed up higher performance for the company by maximizing the teamwork.
Having said that, I also have to mention that differences are not only for expatriates. Actually, differences are existing anywhere in the world. Even in a mono-culture looking organization like 100% Japanese men in Japan, yes, there are differences like age, career background, life stage (having kids or having elderly parents who need care), etc. In the end, each one of us has a different background of life and different value of life.
That’s why I’m sure coaching service focusing on differences & helping clients have self-awareness through differences would help any type/profile of client at any background. Through understanding and learning from differences, we will find, accept, respect and love oneself more, and consequently, that will lead us to find, accept, respect and love others more. This is the goal of my coaching service.
Factors of Differences
A) Different Differences
First, let me talk about the variety of differences. When it comes about “Diversity”, gender and culture tend to be highlighted but they are just examples and there are more and more.
Age is one of the key factors which is not so visible in the organization but 50’s middle-aged men and 20’s young generation have lived in a totally different era in terms politics, economy, technology and society. It is risky to assume what 50’s value is the same as what 20’s value. Of course, there should be tremendous differences.
Career background and industry background are also important when we talk about differences in a corporate. The heavy industry like automotive & IT farm has a totally different aspect of the time schedule. Employees are always influenced by their career background and the differences are invisible, not like gender.
Similar to age, life stage also affects people’s behaviour at work. A recent trend in society is that middle-aged workers who are expected to perform in the management are facing serious issues of aged parents caring. They may have to change the working style, however, this is not visible either unless the workers speak out.
Another essential difference is value to life. Everyone has different value to his/her life. Even if two workers seeking the same job and same salary, one may need it for living safely and one may need it for his career growth. This difference is impossible to be identified until having dialogues.
B) Cultural Difference as an Example
Here I would like to pick up cultural differences how they affect corporate performances.
According to the research done by Geert Hofstede, there are identified 6 criteria to compare behavioural tendencies of nationalities (Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind,1991, newest edition 2010, co-authored with Gert Jan Hofstede and Michael Minkov).
- Power distance
- Uncertainty avoidance
- Long term orientation
Also Aperian Global provides “Globesmart” providing individual profile as below criteria to compare with countries’ average. (https://www.aperianglobal.com/modes-of-delivery/globesmart/)
- Independent - interdependent
- Egalitarianism - Status oriented
- Risk-taking - Certainty seeking
- Direct - Indirect
- Task-oriented - Relationship oriented
A boss has a tendency of “Direct Communication” and “Task-oriented” while the subordinate has a tendency of “Indirect Communication” and “Relationship oriented”. The boss would give his subordinates very direct feedback even if it is negative trying to improve to get the expected outcome. This direct negative feedback would be a shock to the subordinates who don’t have direct communication & focusing on the relationship, and highly possible that he or she would perceive it very personal and the trust relationship would be at risk.
A boss has a tendency of “Status oriented” while the subordinates have “Egalitarianism”. The subordinate may feel his/her boss is too bossy and arrogant without understanding his background. If the case is vice-versa, highly possible that the boss is regarded as a weak person who cannot be decisive in front of the team because he is open to any opinion while the subordinate expects boss’s order.
The above small examples are enough to estimate how a misunderstanding of cultural background can negatively affect corporate performance. Besides those misunderstanding leads to emotional feeling in the work environment so it affects employee satisfaction & happiness.
It is quite important not only for employees but also their corporate to find a way to learn how to manage differences.
How to Manage Differences & “RULE” Coaching Model
Ok, it is important to manage differences. But how? I believe the coaching process will help manage it. Below is how coaching will help to serve those who are facing differences and trying to cope with them to perform.
“RULE” coaching model
R: Recognize that differences exist
U: Understand the differences
L: Learn about oneself & others through the differences
E: Engage with behaviour changes
“R”: Recognize that differences exist
Recognizing that differences exist. It sounds simple and easy but it is not in reality. We believe our “common sense” is only one and universe and tend to judge others based on it. Once we judge people in a manner of automated reaction, it became our perception and difficult to correct. It is a tough trap to avoid an unconscious mind.
It is exactly underlying belief and unconscious bias, which is difficult to be aware by oneself. Sometimes there is emotional resistance to accept as well. A coach can help clients recognize the fact that there are differences, by active listening, observation, and providing right feedback with direct communication.
“U”: Understand the differences
Once clients are aware of the existence of differences and ready to explore, the coach invites them to mutually agree on trying to understand the differences. There are multiple tools to support understanding.
This is provided by Aperian Global and a tool to profile one’s cultural tendency as described in Chapter 2. The interesting part of this tool is they provide an individual profile on top of national tendency like “Egyptian”, “Japanese”. This tool helps the client where they stand in terms of cultural criteria.
Free self-test to find out the one out of 16 personalities based on the Myers- Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) inspired by Carl Gustav Jung’s theory of psychological types, helping clients understand more about themselves. This test consists of 5 aspects;
- Mind: how we interact with our surroundings (Introvert or Extravert)
- Energy: how we see the world and process information (Observant or Intuitive)
- Nature: how we make decisions and cope with emotions (Thinking or Feeling)
- Tactics: our approach to work, planning and decision-making (Judging or Prospecting
- Identity: how confident we are in our abilities and decisions (Assertive or Turbulent)
3) Strength Finder
This assessment is focusing on TOP5 strengths out of 34 talents for those who take the assessment, which is a similar approach to Appreciative Inquiry in a sense it is focusing on strength & positive aspects. It is focusing on what people can naturally do as their strength and encouragement to utilize in their life & work.
- Strategic thinking: How to absorb, think about and analyze information and situation
- Executing: How do you make things happen?
- Influencing: How do you influence others?
- Relationship building: How do you build and nurture strong relationships?
4) Career Anchoring
As we are primarily talking about managing differences in corporate organization, it is useful to understand the career motivation of the team members. Edgar Schein, one of the founders of modern organizational psychology, suggests that everyone has a particular orientation towards work with a certain set of priority and values. He calls this concept our ‘Career Anchors’. A “Career Anchor” is a combination of perceived areas of competence, motives, and values relating to professional work choices.
- Technical/functional competence
like to be challenged and use their skills to meet the challenge, doing the job properly and better than anyone else
- Managerial competence
like to be managers, problem-solving and dealing with other people, thrive on responsibility
the primary need to work under their own rules and prefer to work alone
seek stability and continuity as a primary factor of their lives, avoiding the risk
- Entrepreneurial creativity
like to invent things, be creative and run their own businesses, finding ownership important
- Service/dedication to a cause
driven more by how they can help other people than by using their talents
- Pure challenge
seek constant stimulation and difficult problems that they can tackle
focused first on lifestyle look at their whole pattern of living
“L”: Learn about oneself & others through differences
After having self-understanding by various tools & dialogue with the coach, it is the time to learn about clients themselves as well as others surrounding them.
Having self-assessment results and hopefully having an understanding of others either guessing or getting their own assessment results, the coach invites clients to explore more about why they are who they are. It requires a deeper journey to the self because, behind any behaviours, there are always hidden beliefs and values to life which clients put importance on.
This is the process when clients required a coach’s support to explore by receiving feedback and acknowledgement with active listening & presence.
“E”: Engage with behaviour change
Once clients have self-awareness about their beliefs and values with a better understanding of authenticity who they are, the coach invites them to the last step which is engaging with behaviour change.
Care point is that clients don’t need to change themselves. They can remain authentic to themselves, otherwise, we all have to pretend to be someone else in different cultures to perform, which is not right.
Imagine you are standing on the ground, keeping one leg as pivot leg which is you as authentic as you are, while the other leg is flexible and moving around freely which is behaviour adjustment in a different culture.
A coach can help clients to build actions on how to make pivot legs in their situations and support them to keep authentic by sharing acknowledgement.
Value of Coaching at managing Differences
Here are my highlights of why coaching is valuable in the process of “RULE” model to manage differences.
1. Differences are invisible at the initial stages.
The client may not be able to notice them. A coach can help them to notice by having observation and feedback.
2. It is not easy to notice an underlying belief and unconscious bias.
Everyone has bias and its impeded in our perception so some help requires which coach can provide
3. Facing own imperfection is tough.
in the process of understanding about oneself, clients may face their imperfection, which is when they need acknowledgement and unconditional support.
4. Journey relates to “WHY” and “value” of life.
By understanding the differences, the journey will lead to clients “WHY” and “Value” of life. The topic of how to cope with differences and perform may go beyond the original purpose and may reach the life purpose. A coach can serve them as a life coach.
5. All the learning will be useless without the action of behaviour change.
Having an understanding of difference only does not serve performance enhancement. Clients need to take actions to adjust their behaviour for better performance in different cultures. A coach can encourage them to build an action plan and be committed to it.
Differences are anywhere. I believe the coaching process will help anyone who is living in the world with various differences;
Value “who I am” as I am
Value “who others are” as they are
Then we work together and enjoy maximum output with joy.
Knowing oneself is the step to knowing others.
Accepting oneself is the step to accepting others.
Respecting oneself is the step to respecting others.
Loving oneself is the step to loving others.
I hope I would serve people as a life coach as well as a business coach to help them know, accept, respect and love oneself.
“Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind”,1991, Gert Jan Hofstede and Michael Minkov
“What is Global Leadership?” , 2011, Ernest Gundling
“The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business”, 2014, Erin Meyer
“Strength Finder 2.0”, 2007, Tom Rath
“Coaching Across Cultures: New Tools for Leveraging National, Corporate and
Professional Differences”, 2003, Philippe Rosinski
“Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”, 2011, Simon Sinek
MBTI 16 personalities https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test
Strength Finder https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/home/en-us/strengthsfinder
Career Anchoring https://www.careeranchorsonline.com/SCA/about.do?open=prod