Business, as they say, knows no boundaries. And coaching—particularly executive coaching—has increasingly included a cultural perspective as a means of maximizing a client’s ability to succeed in a modern, multicultural business environment.
But what about your life coaching client from around the corner? Would knowing that person’s cultural history help you coach them? New research suggests it would.
Researchers Kate Gilbert and Philippe Rosinski argue that culture is an “integral part of (an) individual’s identity,” and factoring that into the coaching relationship “opens up greater awareness and clarity about one’s own cultural starting points and assumptions, particularly the cultural foundations of values and beliefs.”
For Gilbert and Rosinski, bringing culture into coaching “can open the doors to a wider and deeper understanding of learned behaviors; the degree of congruence or incongruence experienced in different aspects of life; and the possibility of consciously choosing difficult orientations.”
Kate Gilbert is a senior lecturer in coaching and mentoring at Oxford Brookes University in the UK. Philippe Rosinski is a master certified coach and author of a book on cross-cultural coaching, Coaching Across Cultures.
Rosinski describes coaching across cultures as having two key goals:
- to enable more effective work across cultures (both internationally and when working with people from various organizations and backgrounds)
- and to offer “in essence a more creative form of coaching
“The approach challenges cultural assumptions. It propels you, the coach, and your coachees beyond previous limitations,” Rosinski said. “It offers new options in the form of alternative ways of thinking, communicating, managing time, and engaging in our various activities.”
Does it truly work?
To test Rosinski’s theories, Gilbert examined Rosinski’s cultural orientation framework, or COF, which examines eighteen “dimensions” grouped in seven categories “corresponding to critical challenges faced by people everywhere.”
“The purpose of the COF,” Gilbert writes, “is to bring to light the individual’s cultural orientations, the cultural filters to perception.” By using the tool, Gilbert says, “the process can give rise to quite profound introspection and reflection, particularly on values.”
Writing in Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, Gilbert and Rosinski argue that “the coach with acute cultural ‘antennae’ can keep an eye on the overall cultural context of the client. By using the COF assessment tool, the coach and client together can build awareness of the internalization of the external culture, and the externalization of internal culture.”
The interest in cultural awareness is taking root in coaching, with several universities and business schools—including Oxford Brookes, Surrey University, the University of Sydney and the Kenichi Ohmae Graduate School of Business in Tokyo—offering culture and coach training in their curriculum and research projects. Harvard Business School recently added Rosinski’s Coaching Across Cultures as a recommended book to business leaders.
Rosinski believes the new focus on culture corrects a mistake coaching has made by ignoring the question of cultural identity.
“For many years, the cultural dimension was ignored or at best, given anecdotal and superficial attention,” he said. “Coaching, originating from the U.S., assumed a worldview that was not universally applicable.”
Do you incorporate culture awareness into your coaching? If so, how?