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Cultural Intelligence

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In today’s Polyglot business world, managers must be prepared to conduct business with people from different cultures, both domestically and internationally. To achieve this, managers must embrace cultural intelligence so as to achieve organizational success. By definition, cultural intelligence is a theory within organizational psychology and management that recognizes capability of a person to function effectively in an environment that is characterized by cultural diversity. As Thomas & Inkson (2004) clearly put it, managers and organizations must be able to find a way out of the thicket of habits, assumptions and gestures that define their employees and coworkers differences in today’s diverse business environment. Besides the employees and coworkers, suppliers, customers and other interested parties may be from different cultural backgrounds. Unfortunately, most people often take culture for granted by considering it to be a natural and right way to think and behave. Consequently, people tend to ignore the existence of cultural differences, which can create misunderstandings that may lead to ineffective interaction (Thomas & Inkson, 2004).   

Livermore (2009) contends that the twenty-first global workforce requires individuals who are not only sensitive to diverse cultures, but are also capable of analyzing these cultures as they encounter and interact appropriately with people from different cultures. To do this, people, both abroad and at home need cultural intelligence. It has been established that CQ enables individuals to manage the stresses that culminate from culture shock as well as the confusion and frustrations that typically culminate from clashes of cultural differences (Livermore, 2009). CQ also plays a vital role in enhancing cross-cultural adjustments. Placing CQ as a major concept in the business world raises several questions that impact both organizations and individuals. This new type of intelligence has been gaining acceptance throughout the business world.  In contrast to other types of intelligence, CQ teaches individuals different strategies of improving cultural perception in order to differentiate between behaviors that are driven by culture and those that are specific to an individual (Spencer, 2009, p. 140). Therefore, corporate intelligence enables one to interact effectively across diverse workplaces and global cultures.

I have no doubt that I am culturally intelligent. Understanding cultures other than my own is something I have always been interested in since my days in high school. I am certain that I have always exhibited a profusion of cultural intelligence because I have been able to blend into any environment successfully regardless of the cultural backgrounds of my peers. I must admit that my cultural intelligence has enabled me to view people, and what they bring to the table differently. CQ has opened me up to new experiences because I am always prepared to deal with cultural shock. Additionally, I am more informed about what I might encounter in cross-cultural relationship. I am no longer afraid of dealing with the disorientations that I experience when encountering radically different situations. Because of my CQ, I am able to appreciate multiple perspectives and make appropriate adjustments to my behavior. As a result, I have been able to relate effectively and quickly fit in with other people whose background are not like mine.

My cultural intelligence culminates from my passion of learning and understanding my colleagues and the clients’ cultures. I have come to discover that members for my team may experience cultural shock to a lesser of greater degree. They may miss the HR policies from previous employers, families, scenery, weather, camaraderie from previous teams, and the customs of their home countries (Earley, Ang & Tan, 2010, p. 122). Dealing with these facts effectively proves that my cultural intelligence is above board.

Sometime back, I was moved to a North American country, where I managed a team that was mandated to devise an entry strategy in this nation. When I first arrived, some members of my new team brought me welcoming treats such as elaborate desserts and mangoes in fancy dishes. After eating the treat, I would wash the fancy dishes and return them to the owners. Later, I discovered that it was very rude to return an empty plate. Since I was not aware of this culture, I unintentionally offended my kind coworkers.  In this team, there was a young Muslim lady who chose to wear her head scarf whenever she reported for duty. While this was an external symbol of her deep faith, some members were surprised by this routine. She confided in me about how she felt when her workmate stared at her. I came to realize that some members of my team experienced culture shocks, but I did not always recognize it. Sometimes, I mistakenly took their distress personally and withdrew from these challenges when the exact opposite was required of me. These experiences enlightened me on the importance of understanding and collaborating with people from other countries to prevent conflicts and misunderstandings (Spencer, 2009, p. 138). Moreover, I learned that people can rarely go wrong when they go out of their way to listen, offer support and build relationships when working with people from other cultures.

With the view of improving my effectiveness in managing people from diverse cultures, I have to improve my cultural intelligence. Guided by Thomas & Inkson (2009, pp. 69), I will bump up my cultural intelligence through awareness, training and practice. I fully understand that knowing everything about every culture is not possible. Nonetheless, I will strive to maintain a level of general awareness and remember that everyone sees things through a different colored lens. Awareness allows one to remain open to a better level of understanding of his or her clients and coworkers (Thomas & Inkson, 2009, pp. 176). I also intend to bump up my cultural intelligence through training. It has been established that being educated about the major role that cross culture communication plays in enhancing team function is very important to executives and managers. At the moment, there are many training programs for managers and their subordinates wishing to improve their cultural intelligence. I will enroll myself in on of these programs, which can be found in many Cultural Intelligence Centers. It is imperative to understand that these centers have certifications, assessments and resources that enhance CQ (Plum, 2007, par. 6).   

As Elron, E et. al. (2008, p. 124) argue, practice is the best strategy of improving ones’ cultural intelligence. It does not matter if you are working with a group of individuals from a particular geographical region or you are going to work abroad, practicing the cultural norms of the other party is important. Everyone should be prepared to honor and mimic the style of the people of different cultures as a sign of respect. Practice is such a fascinating subject. In my opinion, the most important thing to do when it comes to conducting business with those from different cultures that is different from your own is to develop a positive attitude (Elron, E et. al., 2008, p. 126). Therefore, developing a positive attitude by practicing the cultures of other people will definitely enhance my cultural intelligence. I will always have an open minded attitude when dealing with my subordinates and clients of different cultures other than my own. Adaptability and flexibility will also help me improve on my cultural intelligence.

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