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Coaching and Culture
by Dr. Keith E. Webb

Does culture effect coaching? You bet it does!

I've noticed that most coaching training originated from cultures that could be described as individualistic and egalitarian - countries like Australia, Britain, and the United States.

However, much of the world is group oriented and hierarchical in their cultural ways of behaving. The peoples of Arab-speaking countries, China, Greece, Indonesia, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, West Africa, in fact, the majority of the world's population follow these cultural tendencies.

Isn't globalization decreasing cultural differences? Amazingly, just the opposite. One researcher found that "managers employed by multinational organizations are maintaining and even strengthening their cultural differences," rather than blending into one common culture.

Coaches must be aware of their own cultural perspective, and the perspective of their client.

Coaches from an individualist, egalitarian cultural setting may be blind to the complex social contexts, obligations, and politics of their client's situation. Yet, because of the client's respect for the coach, they may assume that the coach is aware of all those things, trust that the coach knows what he or she is doing, and choose a course of action that is culturally inappropriate.

Coaching to the majority of the world's people:

1. The Coach-Client Relationship
Your role will be filtered through your client's cultural grid, which is, to view your relationship vertically not horizontally. Egalitarian, come-along-side helping roles are quite foreign and often not even desired. Your client will view you as an expert with a higher status than himself or herself. Your client may behave accordingly by deferring to you and creating dependence on you.

2. Setting Goals and Raising Awareness
You do not coach an individual in isolation. Rather, you coach a person highly integrated into one or more social groups which value and reward loyalty as a sign of good character. Your client's success depends on how well he or she fits with the group.

3. Designing Actions
Your client will want to please you and do any action steps they think you want them to do, even if you didn't ask them to. Explore the cause and effect relationship of an proposed action step. This will help you to avoid "coach pleasing" and understand the relevance of the action step.

How About You?

Where could you look to find more help coaching across cultures?

Copyright © 2008 Keith E. Webb & CRM. Reprinted with permission.
Dr. Keith E. Webb is a trainer and experienced cross-cultural leadership coach helping non-profit organizations, teams, and individuals multiply their cross-cultural impact. Dr. Webb can be reached through CreativeResultsManagement.com.

Related Books:

Coaching In Ministry: How Busy Church Leaders Can Multiply Their Ministry Impact
by Keith E. Webb
Published by Active Results LLC, 98 pages.

TransforMissional Coaching: Empowering Leaders in a Changing Ministry World
by Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl
Published by B&H Books, 304 pages.

Coaching Across Cultures: New Tools for Leveraging National, Corporate, and Professional Differences
by Philippe Rosinski
Nicholas Brealey Publishing
This is a secular book, but useful, especially for a multicultural team trying to understand each other and how a team leader might coach them through that process of understanding.

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