Intercultural Coaching, what is so unique?
Cultural coaching in organizations is gaining gradually more weight in how these organizations succeed in this diverse environment. More and more coaches are realizing there are skills to be gained and knowledge to be acquired in relation to intercultural competence. Certainly, there are lessons to be learned from the literature and research on the subject of cross-cultural management and leadership in the organization for coaches, but the field of intercultural coaching is still under-researched and in need for theoretical underpinning to facilitate practical models for coaches to use and explore in their own context. Moreover, the field of coaching and its competencies is in its infancy and new emerging applications in different cultures are being explored by coaches around the world. What we know now is there are differences in coaching approaches that require a learning attitude from the coaches themselves towards their diverse clients and the cultures they come from.
Some coaches argue that they can almost deal with any cultural situation that arises in coaching. They argue that the coach training covers all the required competencies a coach needs to handle a client regardless of their background or culture. Other emerging coaches who come from a different cultural background, disagree and argue that the eleven competencies identified by the International Coach Federation (ICF) are not enough to prepare a coach for intercultural exposure in the coaching practice (Barosa-Pereira, 2014). My own position regarding this issue is relative. A coach training is designed and delivered according to western standards relating to western culture. Coaching instructional material and the delivery of this material in another culture is in the process of adaptation by the trainers/coaches themselves who are part of that other culture. Nevertheless, the material and competencies stay the same in its major content and do not account for the other culture’s need for other competencies or content. While this approach may be acceptable in the western culture, the receiving culture(s) may find some or part of the content incomplete or not in harmony. Therefore the coaches receiving training in the other culture are confused on how to practice coaching under the ICF regulations and ethical framework while their culture(s) may contradict with some of it.
The other issue I like to raise here is that a receiving coach who is from another culture differ in his competencies from the delivering trainer/coach from the original western culture. The receiving coach, by training with the western cultured coach, is already gaining the intercultural experience and competency that will enable him to have an additional skill in handling their own client if they come from western culture. The skill that coach/trainer might skip gaining in their occupation with the delivery of the instructed material. Thus, when a coach from a non-western culture is exposed to another third culture, they already know how to maneuver and adapt, claiming they have no need for cultural competency and that any coach in their basic training will be able to handle their culturally distinctive client. That is very true only for the western culture they are receiving from. Yet we need to discover if they can deal with an Asian or African or North European culture with the same ease. I am stressing the importance of conducting cultural coaching studies to assess the validity of introducing a new competency. Having said that I argue strongly that ICF and the like organizations review their approach in training coaches, the competencies and the material required to build those competencies.
Barosa-Pereira, Alexandra. 2014. “Building Cultural Competencies in coaching: Essay for the first steps.” Journal of Psychological issues in organizational culture 5 (2).