Executive coaching through a cultural lens
As a coach, it is not possible for me to ignore my client’s cultural background. It is possible that even seasoned coaches with limited exposure to other cultures, may engage in a coaching assignment without recognition of differences in cultures. Without realizing, they may come to conclusions about their clients based on some behaviors, and take an approach that would spell disaster. Let us remember that the coach is also influenced by his/her culture-driven mental models, and may use this as a litmus test to judge and “mis”guide the client.
I remember a conversation with a life coach about her young Asian client, who kept addressing her as, “madam.” She took offense because she perceived that as being aimed at her age and appearance. For him, it was a mark of respect to someone he perceived as a teacher. She came to the conclusion that some of his work-related problems stemmed from his “distorted” view of women, age, and related issues.
We live in a multicultural world. Each of us brings our perspectives to a situation or person, based on our background. It is importance to acknowledge that we are colored by our own culture, while the person across the table comes from a different culture. Otherwise, we will be doing our clients a major disservice.
So, there are 3 perspectives I take into consideration:
- My mental models based on my “mixed” culture – Indian upbringing blended with social and corporate influences of America.
- My client’s mental models – could be purely from a difference culture or a mixture like mine
- My client as the individual – unique patterns of behavior and values
Rule #1 – If you don’t know, don’t conclude. Ask questions!
Examination of their own assumptions, acceptance of the multiplicity of variables that constitute an individual’s identity, and development of a client centered, balanced coaching method will aid the coach in providing effective help.