As coaches we are working in an increasingly remote and multicultural environment. It is therefore necessary to reflect on and voice cultural bias and possible misconceptions early on in any coaching relationship.
Discussing openly about both differences and similarities will help to build trust and bridge the gaps in both knowledge and understanding. This will increase confidence and create an atmosphere of collaboration.
It is essential to show the teams we support how to use respectful language and to ensure they are not making assumptions by frequently checking understanding and also encouraging them to remain respectful of possible different language interference and world views.
One of the most powerful strategies for working cross culturally is to speak from the heart and to stay truly present and authentic.
In the multi-national teams I support, we focus on the positive energy we bring to our interactions and how deep listening and speaking from the heart is so essential. How putting judgements aside and taking time to prepare ourselves for meetings is crucial to greater understanding. Finding that calm space inside us that holds an open and trusting space where real insights emerge.
These elements are even more essential when working with different team cultures and unconscious bias.
When setting up for remote international team meetings I often share a coaching technique called Clean Language (more info in my book Coaching Skills for Leaders in the Workplace). This ensures misunderstandings are kept to a minimum.
It is amazing how many assumptions we make on a daily basis and this methodology helps to remove them. It is also highly respectful and enables teams to bring greater clarity to their communications.
Although there are only a few developing questions to choose from, when you combine them with a client’s own words, every question is unique. Asking these questions helps to slow a person down and gets them to think about what they really mean by the words they’ve used.
Using Clean Language allows the receiver to stay in their own thoughts and patterns and to use their own language. In this way we stay – “clean”
Clean Language can be very challenging as by using the receiver’s own words, there is no escape or misunderstanding. It also provides a very strong connection as rapport building is quick and conversations flow without interference.
Once used with fluency it is highly effective.
When considering the pitfalls of remote coaching with international teams we discuss how to be clear, tolerant and flexible yet still be able to meet expectations. We consider how to have a good understanding of the possible stressful elements of working remotely with teams who come from a different cultural background.
You also need to be mindful of the confusion different forms of communication present, such as email, Zoom and skype. Noticing differences of style and delivery and adapting accordingly.
TAKING THESE FUTURE TRENDS INTO ACCOUNT WHEN WORKING WITH REMOTE INTERNATIONAL TEAMS WHAT FACTORS DO WE NEED TO CONSIDER?
- Always help them to start the relationship by sharing what unconscious bias they bring to the table – be a role model and share yours
- Inquire openly about possible personal baggage, conflict or assumptions
- Find out about what may not be culturally obvious or spoken about and share it
- When communicating, agree timing, boundaries and consider cultural norms that may affect the meetings
- Coach them to start from a place of acceptance and tolerance
- Ask them: ”What needs to happen for us to trust and work well together?”
- Then ask: “Is there anything else?” & “What kind of xxx is that?” & “And when you do xxx then what happens?”
- Remind them we are all unique and doing the best we can under the circumstances
- Get them to consider how their own cultural experiences and ways of being could affect the relationship
- Encourage the use of basic Clean Language questions for greater clarity
All the above strategies will enable coaches to support both individuals and teams in an increasingly remote and international environment.
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