01 jun 2017 / Geral

Cultural Intelligence: Is It Really A Big Deal?

4 Minute Read


David is the Head of International Sales in a company that builds bridges all over the world. He frequently travels to Latin America, Europe, and Asia. He claims that his ability to close a deal depends on the level of connection he establishes with his clients.


He’s exceptionally good at reading people’s postures and gestures and he’s able to place them in the context of the culture. He knows he has to get straight to the point with his German clients but he has to take his Brazilian clients out for dinner and first get through the small talk before they get down to business.


New sales associates have to spend the first few weeks just observing him. What they’re learning is Cultural Intelligence. A skill that, in today’s global world, is becoming increasingly relevant.


What is Cultural Intelligence?


Cultural Intelligence is the ability to overcome borders and cultural differences that allows for connections to be established and communication optimized.


Imagine this scenario: you’re working in a company with people from 10 other nationalities. English is not their first language and each of these countries has its values and particular traits that influence the way people work and relate to each other.


You need to work collaboratively to achieve the organization’s goals, yet just getting through the day without offending someone or effectively communicating your idea to the marketer is a monumental task.


It’s likely that misunderstandings and confusion hinder the performance of collaborators and impact the workplace environment, potentially undermining true cooperation and creativity.


Why is it a big deal?


The years of thinking only big organizations are turning towards international clients are long gone. Small and medium businesses are going international too.


A study by USForex shows that 58 percent of small businesses already have international clients and 72 percent plan to expand their international customer base in 2017.


Technology and social media revolutionized not only the way people work but the clients small businesses are able to reach. Going global is not a trend, it’s a strategic imperative.


One of the challenges these businesses face is understanding the cultural practices of clients from different parts of the world.
The organizations that equip themselves with tools and guidance to navigate this global landscape set themselves up for success and a competitive edge.


David Livermore, president of the Cultural Intelligence Center, says understanding other cultures is crucial for effectiveness in the workplace and influences how people deal with conflicts, playing a significant role in the future success of an organization.


Cultural Intelligence goes beyond Emotional Intelligence or basic social skills, it enables people to, not only adapt but thrive in multicultural situations.


How can we develop it?


Are some people naturally gifted with this ability and others left to their genetic misfortune?


According to Livermore, cultural intelligence is not an innate skill, rather one we develop through coaching, training, and dialogues. He claims that with motivation, curiosity, and interest, everyone can get better and harness the benefits of this skill.


It requires 4 capabilities: motivation, drive, strategy and action. A person who doesn’t think this skill is relevant for her professional life won’t put in the necessary work, so motivation is the starting point. The drive to understand what’s behind the differences and the willingness to develop a strategy and implement an action plan to overcome these differences will enable people to use diversity to everyone’s advantage.


Wrapping it up


Whether your organization is dealing with a diverse workforce and or international clients and partners, Cultural Intelligence is the skill that can determine your level of effectiveness and overall performance in this global landscape.


The organizations that underestimate this skill miss a vital opportunity of connecting to their collaborators and clients in a fulfilling way. These organizations miss the immeasurable potential of a reaching and working with customers and partners from all over the world.


The world is waiting, show up prepared. Here’s how we can help.


Sofia Calheiros and Anita Hensler are the only specialists certified by the Cultural Intelligence Center in Portugal and are leading a one-day workshop on June 8th you don’t want to miss. Seats are limited, for more information contact us directly at info@sofiacalheiros.com or go here.


Sofia Calheiros / Leadership & Coaching