Got CQ?

Most people these days are familiar with Emotional Intelligence or EQ (the ability to recognize our own emotions and those of others to guide thinking and behavior) and Social Intelligence or SQ (the ability to form rewarding relationships and manage complex social change). But what about Cultural Intelligence?

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is defined as “The capability to function effectively across various cultural contexts; national, ethnic, organizational, generational, etc.” (Handbook of Cultural Intelligence: Theory, Measurement, and Applications)

So, what’s the big deal about CQ? Is it just a fad… another “Q” to add to the alphabet soup of how we assess and rate capabilities in the corporate world?

The truth is, CQ builds upon EQ and SQ, and allows us to successfully read and navigate different cultural environments. Your ability to do that well can be the key to attracting new opportunities, earning higher wages, thriving (vs. floundering) in an intercultural environment, and simply being more successful in our diverse, globalized world.

According to the International Labor Union and Economist Intelligence Unit, 70% of all international ventures fail due to cultural differences, including expats living abroad, mergers, outposts, and virtual teams. And 90% of leading executives from 68 countries have cited multicultural leadership as their top management challenge.

Their TOP management challenge! What if YOU could help them solve that problem? What if becoming a “Culturally Intelligent Professional” became your brand?

Our world has changed. Corporate USA doesn’t look like it did 20 or 30 years ago… or even 10 years ago! And it’s going to continue to change. The research also shows that 49% of kids 5 years old and under in the US today are children of color, and there are 1 million university students in study-abroad programs.

But hold on… CQ isn’t just greater awareness and a set of skills that come in handy when working abroad or with a team of people from different countries at home. It also refers to the cultural differences that occur within an organization (Accounting vs. Marketing), within regions of the country (San Francisco vs. the Mid-West), gender differences, generational difference, religious preferences, and on and on.

The good news is… CQ is something that can be learned and developed!

There are Four Capabilities of Cultural Intelligence, as defined by the Cultural Intelligence Center:

  • CQ Drive – This is the level of internal and external motivation you have around learning and adapting to multicultural situations. It speaks to your levels of curiosity and interest to learn, as well as your confidence entering into unfamiliar situations and interacting with various types of people.
  • CQ Knowledge – This addresses your understanding about different cultures. Do you know how they’re similar and how they differ? There’s a lot of information out there to research, read and study. But, it’s a mistake to think that just having the knowledge is enough!
  • CQ Strategy – How much thought do you give ahead of time to how you’ll approach multicultural interactions? Do you think about how you might have a difficult conversation with someone, based on knowing a bit about their cultural values, for example? This capability is about your awareness, your intention, your planning for how to approach others who might have another perspective than your own. It’s also about your level of discernment about when and how to adapt.
  • CQ Action – Putting it all into action. None of this understanding matters if you can’t actually relate to others, work well together, and adapt interculturally.

CQ is even more impactful when integrated along with great leadership skills. And that’s a whole other newsletter topic!

Where to begin to develop your CQ?

  • Plan a conversation with someone from a different background than you in the next week
  • Read a foreign-based novel; notice the underlying values that inform their interactions
  • Have your own Cultural Intelligence Assessment done and work with a coach (I know a good one!)
  • Have your team’s Cultural Values mapped out and shine a light on frequent conflict areas

Common sense and social agility can take us only so far. When stress, conflict and tight deadlines rear their ugly heads, and individuals default to their own deeply held cultural values, beliefs and habits… being unable to navigate and bridge those differences can be the kiss of death to a project or larger initiative.