Monday, February 17, 2014

Coaching Across Cultures

In a Doctor of Ministry seminar recently, I addressed one particular topic for the first time—coaching across cultures.  With the increasing interest in multi-culturalism, cross-cultural communication, and globalization, professional life coaches are asking if their processes translate well into other cultures.  One reason that I raised the issue was that the majority of the class members were Korean-speaking listening through simultaneous translation!

Our culture molds us in significant but often subtle ways.  As we coach people from another culture or teach coaching principles to individuals from a non-Western cultural background, we must be sensitive to varying concepts such as time, authority, and communication styles. 

In his book Coaching Across Cultures:  New Tools for Leveraging National, Corporate & Professional Differences, Philippe Rosinski identifies a number of cultural orientations that must be considered in a coaching relationship:
  • Sense of Power and Responsibility
  • Time Management Approaches.
  • Definitions of Identity and Purpose
  • Organizational Arrangements
  • Notions of Territory and Boundaries
  • Communication Patterns
  • Modes of Thinking

 Although I continue to wrestle with Rosinski’s work and its implications, I am reminded of a comment from my friend Bryan Pettet that all coaching is really cross-cultural.  If you are African-American from inner city Philadelphia and I am a white male from the rural South, we are coming from different cultures.  We don’t necessarily speak the same language.

We must always listen carefully to the person being coached, ask for clarification when necessary, and deal with what is important to that person.  The work of Rosinski and others can help us in that process.

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