The following is an excerpt from Chapter 3, “When Your Appetite: CQ Drive (Step 1)” of Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The New Secret to Success by David Livermore, Ph.D.
Be Honest with Yourself
The first important way to enhance CQ drive is to be honest with ourselves. As I questioned Wendy about her upcoming trip, she was able to honestly acknowledge her reservations about immersing herself in the Latin American culture. That’s a significant breakthrough.
Some of us love trying new foods. Others hope to sneak aside to eat a taste from home when traveling abroad. Even though I come to life when I’m immersed in a new place, I regularly have my own share of moments when I hit the wall. They don’t have to be all-out meltdowns, and they usually aren’t. For example, here is a journal entry I wrote when teaching a group of leaders in Malaysia:
I’m jet-lagged, Em is sick at home, and my teaching didn’t go well yesterday. I wish I could jump on a plane and go home. I should know better than to think I can get good responses by asking questions to the whole group, but I didn’t want to use smaller discussion groups yesterday. I need a different approach today.
Honestly assessing our level of interest in a cross-cultural assignment is an integral part of becoming more culturally intelligent. For me, the lack of motivation stemmed from wanting to be home with my sick daughter, feeling tired, and questioning my effectiveness. For Wendy, the lack of motivation was rooted in fear.
A similar kind of honesty was needed by Klaus, a German expatriate on a two-year assignment in Nairobi, Kenya. He described the fear his family experienced when they moved to Nairobi from Munich.
We found ourselves distrusting everyone. We’re not by nature like that. But we heard so many stories about expat families being robbed and taken advantage of. My wife resisted hiring domestic help for the longest time for fear of having Kenyans in our home. Eventually we became more relaxed. But the fear factor was a huge challenge for us during our first six months.
Surely it’s appropriate to tend to the safety of our families and to find out if and when we’re clearly subjecting ourselves to danger. But when we discover our fears are unfounded, as Klaus did, the challenge becomes facing our fears and persevering.
Honesty also requires facing the prejudices and biases we implicitly associate with certain groups of people. Notice the frank, raw musings written by Sharise, a business leader in Portland, Oregon.
Am I a racist? Yesterday when I stopped to get my blood drawn, a black man walked in. I just assumed he was the lab tech. Only later did it become evident he’s a physician. . . . Why did I so quickly assume he must be the lab tech? If he had been a white guy, I probably would have guessed he was a doctor.
We all have biases. The key is whether we act upon them. Implicit association tests are tools created to demonstrate how bias affects the way we interact with people. These tests expose the implicit biases we have toward people’s skin color, weight, age, and religion. They’re fascinating! You can review some of the actual tests by visiting the website http://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit. They’re a great tool to demonstrate the automatic impulses we have toward certain cultural groups. The goal is to be honest about our biases instead of pretending they don’t exist. Although our internal biases are automatic, honestly understanding them can help to control and moderate our interactions. We can make a deliberate choice to suspend any judgments that we’re biased to make.
A great way to begin developing CQ drive is through being honest with ourselves. It might simply be honestly admitting that you don’t particularly enjoy cross-cultural interactions and experiences. Owning that sentiment is a great start. Then we can begin to look at how to connect things that do motivate us with our cross-cultural work. Write it down, talk with a trusted friend, and verbalize what energizes you about your cross-cultural work and what leaves you fatigued, fearful, or just unmotivated. Honesty itself is not enough to motivate us, but CQ drive begins with honestly assessing our level of interest in cross-cultural work.
Excerpted from Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The New Secret to Success by David Livermore, Ph.D. Copyright © 2010 David Livermore. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission. All rights reserved. http://www.amacombooks.org.