The International CoachFederation is made up of over 20,000 members around the world. Although it does not train life coaches, ICF has developed professional standards so that it can certify the level of achievement and competence of those in the coaching profession. In addition to a Code of Ethics, ICF has identified 11 Core Competencies that a coach should master.
Some experts are suggesting that it is time to add number 12 to that list: a cross-cultural competency. In an increasingly global economy and interconnected world, people of varying cultures find themselves occupying the same space. This provides both the potential for misunderstandings and opportunities for growth.
First, we should acknowledge that all coaching is, in a sense, cross-cultural. If an Anglo woman in Atlanta is coaching an African-American man in Milwaukee, the conversation is as cross-cultural as that of an American coaching a Korean. Each of us operates out of a specific culture, even if we are not aware that we do.
Second, culture is not necessarily a barrier to be overcome but an experience to use in coaching. A good coach can work with a client to understand how his or her culture—based on place, economics, and other factors—impacts the way that client sees the world. “Creating Awareness” is already a core competency but when we consider one’s culture, the idea expands greatly. Our values, expectations, and concerns often grow out of our culture setting.
Third, one’s culture may be a source of leverage as one deals with a personal or professional challenge. As a person becomes more aware of his or her culture, the possibilities of using the resources there for change can be extremely valuable.
Someone once said that It would be difficult for a fish to describe water because it does not know any other environment. As human beings, we have the opportunity to become more aware of the environment or culture we find ourselves in and use it for personal and professional growth.