Tag Archives: cultural differences

Cultural Intelligence – Drive

I would like to delve further into the four components of  Cultural Intelligence (CQ) over the next few blog posts.  This post will focus on Drive.

Drive is one of the key components to CQ.  It is your interest, motivation and confidence to adapt to a multicultural situation. It consists of intrinsic and extrinsic interests and the drive to learn and understand different cultures, their norms and behaviours.

The intrinsic and extrinsic motivators are culturally determined.  Extrinsic rewards are usually financial, such as salaries, bonuses and benefits.  Intrinsic rewards are psychological rewards that individuals reap from engaging in meaningful work with a healthy balance of choice, competency, challenge and success.


As an individual you need to establish and maintain your own CQ drive and as a leader you also need to instill and support the motivation of your employees.  Remember that your intrinsic and extrinsic motivators may be vastly different to those of your peers and employees so it is important to have a range of strategies in place.

Strategies for Improving CQ Drive for self:

  • Take some unconscious bias tests, seek feedback
  • Be prepared to make mistakes, learn from them and then move on
  • Identify your passions, what they are and why do you care about them?
  • Reflect on what guides and influences your behaviours and attitudes toward culturally diverse groups
  • Welcome opportunities to mentor others as a ‘cultural broker.’

Strategies for Improving CQ Drive for others:

  • Understand your own motivations, it will assist you when you are influencing and motivating others
  • Provide an exciting and clear vision of what can be accomplished i.e. share success stories and celebrate milestones
  • Ensure that the relevance between task and purpose is transparent.  Help people to make clear connections between the vision and the work
  • Reinforce confidence in the self-management of individuals.  Intrinsic motivation improves when people feel trusted and their expertise and skills are recognised and appreciated
  • Share customer feedback and interactions with individuals and the wider team.  Not only does this promote purpose and goals, it also reinforces the successes and highlights areas for improvement.


  • Take a moment to consider what you find most challenging when you are in culturally diverse settings
  • Consider some of your CQ drivers and those that you have observed in others
  • How do you think improving your CQ drive could assist both yours and your teams overall level of CQ?
You may like to listen to my ‘CQ Drive’ Podcast in ‘CQ for Global Leaders‘ by clicking here.

The Cultural Barriers


An interesting study recently released ‘Australia’s International Business Survey 2015’ had some key findings supporting the case for increased cultural intelligence (CQ). The findings provide insight into the nature, needs, concerns and future plans of the overall Australian international business community from an organisational perspective. Over 1200 Australian companies were included in the survey, from 19 industry sectors operating in 114 international markets.

Some of the CQ highlights were:

  • Local language, culture and business practices were sited as the main barriers from an Australian perspective when doing business in overseas markets.
  • 64% identified cultural differences in building long-term business relationships as challenging.
  • 63% identified cultural differences as challenging when negotiating across borders.
  • 58% identified cultural differences as challenging when making buying decisions.
  • 47% identified language barriers as challenging.
  • 93% identified face-to-face meetings with overseas customers as important. It was considered. one of the single most important market development activities.

While these findings are not surprising, they do indicate a strong case for earmarking CQ as an area of significant importance. With these insights at hand the challenge for organisations is to truly appreciate the importance of navigating culture and local business practices, improving soft skills for building relationships, cross-cultural communication and negotiating in the most effective manner.

Organisational Effectiveness and Cultural Differences


I wanted to share some key points from a recent article “Three Secrets of Organizational Effectiveness” by Newton and Davis. In their discussions around three management approaches – autonomy, purpose and recognition, they highlighted to me that what might work well in one part of the world might possibly have the opposite effect in another. When I was reading this article I found myself reflecting on some of Daniel Pink’s work concerning autonomy, purpose and mastery and Google ‘s recent claims that success and productivity are a direct result of employee purpose and autonomy.

Newton and Davis contend that one of the keys to organisational effectiveness is to support greater individual autonomy. Autonomy followed by purpose – that is inclusive of understanding why we do what we do, and finally an appreciation of work in terms of rewards and recognition are discussed as the secrets to organisational effectiveness.

When I read articles such as Newton and Davis’s, it serves as a reminder that it is useful to consider alternative viewpoints from a wider cultural perspective. For example, in the discussion around autonomy the conclusion made is that by stifling autonomy through practices such as employee micromanagement it forces people into a “fight-or-flight” brain response. The “fight-or-flight” response is triggered by a perceived threat that activates particular brain activity causing reactive responses. It induces a level of fear and anxiety, the outcome being reduced productivity and poor quality decision-making. Lieberman, a fellow neuroscientist, also supports these findings by contending that it causes reactive behaviours and decreased neural circuit activity in the brain that is associated with innovation, attention and problem solving.

I do not wish to question these findings, I have no doubt that this is accurate for individuals from a task, equality based culture such as the U.S. or U.K. or Australia; but not necessarily from someone who is from a more hierarchical, relationship-based culture such as India or Indonesia or Oman. These same responses of anxiety and fear that arise from a lack of autonomy could potentially be a consequence of awarding too much control and autonomy.

In cultures where working in a more consultative environment, where taking a collective, hierarchical decision-making approach is valued and where there are clear guidelines for decision-making, awarding greater autonomy can be an unnerving and daunting experience placing excessive pressure on individuals from these cultures. Hence, when we think about the advantages and benefits of improving autonomy we do need to keep in mind the potential for different interpretations and responses.  There is more than one way of operating and as such, organisations and their leaders need to be mindful that the impact can vary from one cultural context to another.

Newton and Davis provide an interesting discussion around the value of taking the time to help employees understand the “why” of their everyday work and it’s impact on the wider organisation. When employees have the ‘why’ insight there is greater likelihood that they will understand why particular organisational goals exist and where they ‘fit’ into these goals. Berkman, a leading neuroscience researcher, argues that when people understand the reason that a goal exists, it is much easier for them to form a “goal hierarchy” which can in turn be a powerful motivator.

This is similar to Kets De Vries and Florent-Treacey (2002), who argue that most successful global organizations have as part of their core corporate culture three meta values – community, pleasure and meaning. One of the products of these values is the nurturing of good citizenship behaviour, it promotes a sense of pleasure for employees at work, resulting in continuous learning and finally a sense of meaning for employees so as to create congruence between personal needs and the fundamental purpose of the organization.

The meta values are particularly critical in terms of outsourcing or offshoring work to other parts of the world. Explanations of why particular goals are set and their purposes, result in improved prioritisation processes and thus greater likelihood of unity, support and reaching the desired outcomes.

Leaders need to consider the various potential cultural responses to what constitutes organisational effectiveness and take the time to reinforce to their employees their value to the company, how they and their work fit into the wider organisational picture and the overarching organisational strategies. When individuals and teams are working remotely across distance, time and cultures it is critical for leaders to motivate employees in culturally appropriate ways that are inclusive of autonomy, purpose and recognition.