Regardless of your industry, role or career trajectory, solid leadership skills are essential if you’re aiming for success at work. From emotional intelligence to adapting to new ways of working, ESCP asks a host of business experts for their top tips and takeaways when it comes to expanding your soft skills.
In today’s diverse employment market, with its focus on digital platforms, global social networks and remote working, cultural intelligence has never been more important.
Defined by scholar Andrew DuBrin in his seminal work Human Relationships: Interpersonal Job-Oriented Skills as “an awareness of and willingness to investigate the reasons why individuals of another culture act as they do”, cultural intelligence, or CQ, is fast becoming one of employers’ most highly prized soft skills. But just as intelligence in and of itself covers several key concepts, cultural intelligence includes a palette of different skills, as Professor of Human Resource Management and Intercultural Leadership Marion Festing explains.
When we talk about cross-cultural collaboration at work, we’re not exclusively talking about language or national cultural barriers – although those are certainly important. We’re talking about coping with diversity as a whole, about broadening your perception, about trying your best to avoid bias.
Marion Festing, Academic Director of the Talent Management Institute and of the Excellence Centre of Intercultural Management
What is cultural intelligence?
- Cognitive CQ includes cultural knowledge, which reflects one’s familiarity with different cultures.
- Metacognitive CQ, or cultural mindfulness, deals with our ability to stop seeing our own cultural construct as dominant when interacting with people from other cultures and to be aware of possible differences.
- Motivational CQ covers our willingness to adjust to other cultures, e.g. different social structures and behaviours
- Behavioural CQ reflects your concrete cross-cultural skills.
To understand the foundations of cultural intelligence, Festing adds: “Cultural knowledge and skills can emerge with exposure. For example: are you able to follow social cues in a culture that’s not your own? How good are you at interpreting body language, accommodating specific gestures or verbal tics, or accepting certain cultural specificities to do with things like politeness, lateness, and certain group interactions?”
The benefits of a strong cultural intelligence
Concretely, what are the benefits of managers with strong cultural intelligence? Experts say that investing in employees’ CQ improves productivity, encourages diversity and helps maintain a positive brand image as a company grows. A belief shared by corporate giants PWC, for whom CQ and the wider challenge of diversity are inextricably linked as part of their Global Inclusion Index, and Ikea CEO Mikkel Ohlsson, who has previously spoken at length about CQ’s benefits both from a value and business point of view.
Any business can benefit from making CQ a priority, not just multinational corporations with offices around the globe.
Festing agrees: “If you’re struggling to understand other cultures, it might help to reframe the context.
“When we talk about cross-cultural collaboration at work, we’re not exclusively talking about language or national cultural barriers – although those are certainly important. We’re talking about coping with diversity as a whole, about broadening your perception, about trying your best to avoid bias.”
Broadly speaking, if developing your EQ helps you to relate to your peers, developing your CQ helps you to relate to people who haven’t shared your lived experiences.
How to develop your cultural intelligence
In today’s global society, how can one improve cultural intelligence without necessarily being multilingual? Well, you’re probably more advanced than you think.
Festing notes: “Each of us grew up somewhere, within specific social structures and experiences, so a certain amount of cultural knowledge has been developed in early childhood. CQ is more complex than just this preliminary cultural knowledge and has a lot more to do with how interested you are in interacting with people whose cultural reflexes are unlike your own. A first step, e.g. for developing motivational CQ is to reflect on similarities and differences you perceive. This creates awareness for stereotypes and biases that need to be made aware and managed in intercultural interaction.”
Cultural intelligence is a learnable skill just like any other.
Festing continues: “It’s important to reflect on your priorities. If you’re looking to develop your cognitive intelligence, the internet is an excellent place to start. Even if you’re not able to, say, develop a deep cultural knowledge of the country where an upcoming meeting will take place, visiting local forums and initiating discussions on social media is a great way to pick up cultural tips to help reinforce your CQ. For example, the GLOBE website provides research results on dominating national values for many countries as a first orientation.
“Intercultural group work, as has happened in ESCP’s recent series of intercultural workshops around the serious game ‘Moving Tomorrow’, is a great way to put your newly acquired skills into practice. Sharing your own perspective and receiving feedback in return, from, say, a foreign colleague or client who’s usually based abroad, is also excellent for addressing the motivational aspect of CQ, deeply rooted in the created mutual understanding. At the same time participants make decisions, get feedback on the appropriateness of their actions and learn to act in a humble and appreciative way in intercultural situations. Thus they also develop the behavioural dimension of CQ.”
Rest assured – there’s no need to book a one-way ticket to Tokyo in order to give your CQ a boost! Any business can benefit from making CQ a priority, not just multinational corporations with offices around the globe. For Professor Marion Festing, the answer is clear:
“Cultural intelligence is a learnable skill just like any other. It goes without saying that poor communicators are likely to have a lower CQ, since all of our social interactions, whether with people we’ve known for years or with a complete stranger, are powered by both verbal and non-verbal communication. The message you’re trying to get across doesn’t just need to be clearly expressed – it needs to be couched in an appropriate social context for it to be received effectively. Practice makes perfect!”
License and Republishing
The Choice - Republishing rules
We publish under a Creative Commons license with the following characteristics Attribution/Sharealike.
- You may not make any changes to the articles published on our site, except for dates, locations (according to the news, if necessary), and your editorial policy. The content must be reproduced and represented by the licensee as published by The Choice, without any cuts, additions, insertions, reductions, alterations or any other modifications.If changes are planned in the text, they must be made in agreement with the author before publication.
- Please make sure to cite the authors of the articles, ideally at the beginning of your republication.
- It is mandatory to cite The Choice and include a link to its homepage or the URL of thearticle. Insertion of The Choice’s logo is highly recommended.
- The sale of our articles in a separate way, in their entirety or in extracts, is not allowed , but you can publish them on pages including advertisements.
- Please request permission before republishing any of the images or pictures contained in our articles. Some of them are not available for republishing without authorization and payment. Please check the terms available in the image caption. However, it is possible to remove images or pictures used by The Choice or replace them with your own.
- Systematic and/or complete republication of the articles and content available on The Choice is prohibited.
- Republishing The Choice articles on a site whose access is entirely available by payment or by subscription is prohibited.
- For websites where access to digital content is restricted by a paywall, republication of The Choice articles, in their entirety, must be on the open access portion of those sites.
- The Choice reserves the right to enter into separate written agreements for the republication of its articles, under the non-exclusive Creative Commons licenses and with the permission of the authors. Please contact The Choice if you are interested at email@example.com.
Extracts: It is recommended that after republishing the first few lines or a paragraph of an article, you indicate "The entire article is available on ESCP’s media, The Choice" with a link to the article.
Citations: Citations of articles written by authors from The Choice should include a link to the URL of the authors’ article.
Translations: Translations may be considered modifications under The Choice's Creative Commons license, therefore these are not permitted without the approval of the article's author.
Modifications: Modifications are not permitted under the Creative Commons license of The Choice. However, authors may be contacted for authorization, prior to any publication, where a modification is planned. Without express consent, The Choice is not bound by any changes made to its content when republished.
Authorized connections / copyright assignment forms: Their use is not necessary as long as the republishing rules of this article are respected.
Print: The Choice articles can be republished according to the rules mentioned above, without the need to include the view counter and links in a printed version.
If you choose this option, please send an image of the republished article to The Choice team so that the author can review it.
Podcasts and videos: Videos and podcasts whose copyrights belong to The Choice are also under a Creative Commons license. Therefore, the same republishing rules apply to them.