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Coaching Leaders With An Eagle Eye!



Coaching Leaders requires that a coach has a multi focus lens. There are two concerns in the world of business that coaches have to keep in mind: (1) Finding the right leaders who can deal with (2) organizational competitive edge at different levels.

The first concern is around the choice of leaders that align with organizational strategy, and the second is how they zoom in at different levels. With the first, a coach makes sure they have the strategic level competencies. The leader has to understand the structure and work with it in terms of vision, mission and strategy. Coaching leaders has to consider at this level the long distant lenses of an eagle eye.

with the second, a coach supports their personal abilities at different levels of leadership. That means a coach has to see it all in detail and be able to zoom in with the leader and zoom out accordingly. These are skills at the implementation level and demand creativity. Coaching leaders is not a one at a time task. There is no such thing as one issue on the table. Coaching leaders deals simultaneously with all levels in one session. That includes personal, interpersonal, management and strategic leadership. In doing so, they encourage agency which leads eventually to the competitive edge – our second business concerned above.  While executive coaching deals with strategic levels, Coaching Leaders deals with performance, culture and communication at all levels.

This creates a need to balance between structure and agency in leadership through coaching. While a leader could be restricted in terms of structure and the resources available, coaching leadership creatively will balance this out. Coaching here would mean unlocking a leader’s mindset towards new and innovative ideas and solutions for implementation. In essence, a coach will support leaders’ awareness of the resources necessary to initiate and implement change (agency). They will also support them in keeping an eagle eye on the vision and performance goals (structure).

To conclude, coaching leadership encourages agency, adds value, and transmits coaching skills to leaders. On the other hand, a coach also encourages an eagle eye view over strategy, culture and performance to support structure and alignment. Coaching Leaders requires that a coach be that eagle at all times.

At Fanar Dr Ghada Angawi coaches leadership to address these two concerns. For more information please speak to Ghadah


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Successful Business communication in Saudi Arabia – Part 1


Communication is an integral part of leadership and management in business and other types of organizations or even in social interaction. This short article highlights the power of the Arabic language and the cultural values that Arabs place on communication. This will help expats, business leaders and any other individual or organizations that work with Saudis to plan their encounters. In addition, also to strategize around their goals from the interaction.

The Arab culture is a high context culture, when it comes to communication. They prefer indirect ways of expression and use body and contextual signals to convey a message without having to say directly what they mean. The context must be read and understood well before conclusions are reached. This is due to the use of proverbs, poems and literary text from the pre-Islamic era. When Islam came, the Quranic text challenged the Arabs and they spent years trying to categorize the text into what they knew. They finally converted to Islam and abandoned their idols, submitting to the miracles of the Quranic text as the word of God, especially since Mohammad, was an illiterate man.

Throughout the past 1400 years, Arabs used and still use the Quranic text as one way to convey a meaning in context using poems and other literary text. The impeded meanings in one verse of the Quran is highly contextual and those who try to squeeze it to fit one interpretation end up distorting it. The whole purpose of the Quranic high context is that it can be adaptive to every generational context and geographical culture to remain an icon for ethical behavior and dealings between humans.

I grew up hearing my grandmother speak with proverbs and poems and communicating with me with her eyes or facial expressions and sometimes with her hands. I watched Saudis in business meetings as they went through the motions taking longer time and setting a scene for hospitality. The meeting would end with a handshake, but little is said about finance or the deal itself. This is left to the end in a highly confidential arrangement, after more meetings like this take place.

Here are few tips to keep in mind when you plan communication with Saudis:

  • Use as many opportunities as you can to be in the culture and observe how people use signals and body language. You may be unable to speak the language, but you will read how they express themselves.
  • If you are going for a short journey, don’t expect to close a deal or sign a contract on the visit. Plan for this to be one of several visits over a lengthy period, that can extend for few months to a year or two.
  • Build relationships as friends for life, not as business partners. This means accept invitations to homes and social events and invite others who invite you. Have a hospitality budget and focus on building trust.

The Arabs are generous and giving. They will great you with warmth and open arms, mix entertainment with business and build trust over time before they decide to partner. With observation and self-awareness, you will develop a code of communication specific to every Saudi client and learn the culture.





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Diversity or conversion? what an intercultural coach can do.

Some organizations focus on diversity to say they value fair opportunity and equality. They hire people from diverse backgrounds and prepare them through training and development programs. While diversity may be an addition that can enhance organizational effectiveness, it may also cause many problems due to the one-way communication from the majority of the employees towards the diverse group or multicultural group (Ely 1996). This is exhibited in how an organization tries to align its members to its main dominant culture overlooking or even opposing the diverse cultural back ground of these employees. It also exhibited in how an employee is trained and directed on how the system works in this specific organization. The organization does not acknowledge or utilizes the employee’s own cultural experience.

In our efforts to include, we end up excluding. What can be done here?

First, it’s important to allow the individuals from the other culture to bring value to the organization by sharing their views on what they are perceiving from the organizational culture, how people communicate or behave, and what systems are in place. Second, they should be asked to bring values through sharing their own cultural experience and what seem to have worked and allow ideas to flow of how we can integrate both cultures depending on what benefit the business and the people in the organization. This process allows for expression and reconciliation between different cultures. Third and most important is we hire an intercultural coach to support both the receiving and the coming cultures in adapting and integrating together.

These three steps above ensures a successful intercultural communication and full diversity and inclusion processes.


Ely, David A. Thomas & Robin J. 1996. “Making differences matter: a new paradigm for managing diversity.” HBR (September/October).


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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 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) is 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 in 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 does 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 a 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 manoeuvre 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).

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The intersection between EQ and CQ

Recently I read an interesting article by Nicole Barile. I enjoyed the read so much and could not but reflect in a comment explaining the overlap between the two and questioning the need to compare. I then had an encounter that brought the two together on a breakfast table in my own home. This article dives deeper in the comparison from a research perspective and demonstrate in a practical way how complementary the two can be when put to practice together.

Last weekend my son brought his Chinese friend Michael to spend the evening and sleep over. The two boys met in Australia in 2015 and since then became close friends. My son is from Saudi Arabia (Arab cultural cluster), his friend is from China (Confucian Asia cultural cluster), the two of them live and study in USA (Anglo cultural cluster). This is my first time to run a close and continuous conversation with a Chinese young man who was born and brought up in China. While he was having dinner, I immediately observed that he had a neutral gesture on his face while my son was being expressive and enthusiastic looking. After dinner, he presented me with a gift which I dearly accepted and showed great gratitude. It was Chinese compacted tea in a shape of a wheel. During watching basketball and drinking Chinese tea in the evening, he was cheering for the Golden State team with a loud voice but still, I could not get the emotional vibe. I was not very sure about our communication, so I decided as I went to bed to have a cultural emotional conversation on the breakfast table next morning.

According to Peter Salovey:

Emotional intelligence EQ might be thought of as the ability to perceive, understand and regulate one’s moods and emotions in order to use them to succeed in life(1) .

While CQ is defined as:

The capability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations(2).

Nicole, in her article related to how both intelligence share communication and change domains. My first reaction was to agree with her and elaborate on the self-awareness, communication strategy and the resulting behavior like empathy. Before I elaborate on my comment, let me tell you first how the conversation went on the breakfast table.

After presenting Michael with a variety of Makkan, Hijazi(3) food consisting of Shakshoka (Egyptian influenced egg cuisine), Fool (Lebanese style) and Shoshomolo (Tahini with Molasses Turkish influenced) with Pitta bread, I started by explaining that I am honored by the opportunity of having a Chinese cultural expert in my house and I would like to take this opportunity to learn about the traditions of china in relation to table manners. Michael quickly took off and explained to me as I listened attentively and with interest. We exchanged along with my husband and my son some of the interesting overlaps with Arabs between the two cultures, like power and hierarchy, even on the dining table. In side as a coach, the thought about emotions kept coming to me as I recalled a comment a friend of mine made about the Chinese children and how they hide their emotions.
I gathered my courage and asked him about this assumption. To my amazement he started telling me about the schooling system and some of his personal childhood experiences and his parents expectations. It struck me that the whole system is built on competition for who gets the highest grades in order to be placed in a university. Michael is a living speaking calculator. He also told me about the children in the villages he had taught and how devastating their poor parents became when they don’t succeed or make mistakes.

I then gathered my courage again and asked him a personal question about his facial gestures and made a note that I am unable to read what he feels by looking at him as he is speaking. As politely as he can, lowering his gaze as he spoke, he answered that children are trained form an early age to hide their emotions. I felt struck by the cruelty of the hiding emotions visualizing an oppressed agonized child. But Michael read me quickly and elaborated that they do express but they are taught to be very sensitive to how the other reacts to what they express. He said it’s all about consideration to others’ emotions. He continued telling me that a Chinese child learns to read the clues of others and understands how much they can share without hurting or causing discomfort. I then asked: ” What’s wrong with sharing happiness?” to which he answered: “It may provoke jealousy in someone that does not have it!”

At this point in our conversation, I had an aha moment and it dawned on me how these kids have high EQ to the point they can navigate their own frustration or anger or even happiness in order to preserve the other person dignity or emotional well-being. They could hold back expression so as not to embarrass or ridicule or upset someone who they think is important even if that someone was a stranger. I then realized how the EQ we know is not the EQ that exists in other cultures.

Not only my respect grew for the Chinese culture, but I was enlightened by the EQ of their kids. I then realized how both CQ and EQ can serve together. It existed in Michael who is considered Culturally intelligent in my opinion to be able to speak to a culturally diverse family and express his thoughts and emotions (although in a neutral way), and it came to action for me, as an EQ and CQ assessor myself.

So how does EQ and CQ work together?

According to the Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence (4), the chapter on Cultural Intelligence:

Cultural intelligence is another complementary form of intelligence that can explain variability in coping with diversity and functioning in new cultural settings. it is unlikely that cognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence, or social intelligence will translate automatically into effective cross-cultural adjustment, interaction, and effectiveness .

While EQ is similar to CQ in terms of dealing with emotions, its usually without consideration of cultural context. The Emotional cues and symbols are constructed within a culture, when the home of such emotions change (another culture) the ability becomes limited to the individual. EQ, therefore, EQ is culturally bound. While CQ helps an individual to build their capabilities so that they can understand, and function in any cultural context, they still need to learn and know about that culture and the emotional cues in that culture. Nevertheless, If an individual possess high EQ, the possibility of their CQ being high, is very likely because of their developed EQ competencies.

In my own work as an ICF coach, I learned that creating awareness is a key competency in coaching. But awareness building is a different matter and takes much longer that a coaching session. There has to be a readiness for practice and training in the form of action planning. As a 6seconds EQ assessor, in the first pursuit (of competencies) which is knowing yourself, we support a client in acquiring two competencies: enhancing emotional literacy and recognizing patterns. The later is directly related to self-awareness. As a CQ assessor, the CQ framework is built on four dimensions: drive, knowledge, strategy and action. The Framework is built on increasing self-awareness and thus practical training and effort. With communication, EQ third pursuit, giving yourself, is where you practice empathy and build it as a competence. In CQ it’s the behavior part were communication is integral, and therefore a chance to practice empathy.


(1) Salovey P. (2007), Introduction to Freedman J. (2007), At the Heart of Leadership: how to get results with Emotional Intelligence, published by Six Seconds.
(2) CQC definition of cultural intelligence
(3) Makkah is where I come from, the center of the Islam religion and where the Holy mosque is. Hijaz refers to the region of western Arabic peninsula by the Red sea, which is today western Saudi Arabia.
(4) Ang S., Van Dyne L, Ling Tan M. (2009), Cultural intelligence in Sternberg R. J., and Kaufman S. B., Cambridge Handbook on Intelligence (2009). Copy right CQC by permission only.

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How to Build Your CQ Drive

In a Previous article, I quoted Intercultural competence as the capability to function effectively across various cultural contexts (national, ethnic, organizational, generational, etc.)[1].  From here came the concept of Cultural Intelligence (CQ). In the CQ Model above, Drive sits as the corner stone of gaining CQ. In this article, I present CQ Drive and its components and how it grows Intercultural competence. From a practical coaching skills perspective with examples from my most recent Intercultural experience.

In CQ, there are three sub-dimensions to drive. The first is Intrinsic Interest where an individual derives enjoyment from culturally diverse experiences. This is demonstrated in an individuals’ preference for choosing to go on a tour on your own to explore the local neighborhood in a country you decided to visit and speak with local people instead of taking a bus tour guide where you are a distant participant.

When I first arrived in Norwalk, CT in 24th , January 2016, I remember going down next morning with my kids for a walk exploring what people were doing in our neighborhood. I visited the library and found my first Dunkin Donuts. I met few people from different backgrounds who smiled back and said hi. Norwalk, CT is multicultural, and Americans are welcoming in general. I felt happy and settled-in quickly. My adventures in the neighborhood told me something about my ability to enjoy the context and be part of it. It was natural and filled me with joy. Benefits of this walk came back two days later as you will see next.

The second sub-dimension is extrinsic interest which means an individual can be motivated to benefit professionally from an Intercultural encounter.  This may ably to certain people whom their career is around being in an intercultural environment, it means they will find ways to interact and grow their cultural awareness motivated by that. For me, this was the ability to learn how to standout in an American competitive market filled with leadership coaches.

The third day after my arrival I was picked up by the ICF-CT president Sheila Wall, from the doors of Norwalk library, which I had explored two days earlier, kindly offered me a return drive to the chapter in-person meeting (that’s why it’s important to walk the local streets where you go). She introduced me as a first timer and I was greeted by 25 professional peers and assigned a one our free coaching which later determined my involvement on the board for a year. I was motivated to position my career through the chapter and made my list of to do things when I arrive in CT a month ahead, one was to call the chapter president and seek information. Luckily, my call came three days before the meeting in the middle of all the unpacked boxes and luggage on the first day of my arrival as it was on the top of my list to do. The guest presenter of the workshop was Marge Piccini and the topic was about positioning yourself in the market as a coach. I had the honor to be coached by her in my own positioning for a free hour as part of a draw gift. I then worked hard to learn more, and I am now the owner of my business in Intercultural coaching. I was highly motivated professionally to situate my self in the market and succeed.

The third sub-dimension in CQ Drive, is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy means having the confidence to be effective in a culturally diverse situation. This is the part that I emphasize during an intercultural coaching session. The strength you have which can be used to enhance your performance. How to capitalize on your past successful experiences. This is exactly what Marge Coached me on in 45 min of the hour she gave me. Quickly that changed my Career direction and focused my thoughts. This is the essence of what I do in my company Fanar when I present CQ training and Intercultural coaching. Therefore, I think I can help anyone who finds themselves in a new transition and a different culture, be it marriage, career or study.

Thank you for reading and do book me for a free consultation through the link .



[1] Soon Ang and Linn Van Dyne, 2008. Conceptualization of Cultural Intelligence, in Handbook of Cultural Intelligence: Theory, Measurement, and Applications (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2008), 3.


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The Immigrant Prophet

Eugène-Alexis Girardet- caravan desert 1853-1907 oil on canvas


I was invited to an Eid Banquet in Yale by the Yale Chaplin for the Muslim community few days ago. I went with my interculturalist friend with whom I share an interest in the global peace, harmony and love movement.  We chose to sit at the front, to be a step away from the podium so that we get to be part of the action, and to network with Yale professors and deans in attendance. The keynote speaker is Ms. Rumana Ahmed, Former senior advisor to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes at the National Security Council under President Obama. The speech was moving and inspiring for me and partly motivated this blog entry. The event in itself represents a smaller version of my global vision of how we, the inhabitants of this planet and the most intelligent of its creatures should come together for a sustainable future. I may not represent the mainstream Muslim women who put on their head cover and I do not wear a head cover Hijab for many reasons, but my claims regarding Islam are based on evidence and research into the Quranic verses and the sunnah of the prophet Mohammad (peace and prayers be upon him).

Rumana spoke of the prophet Mohammad as an immigrant, certainly not the first but his was a distinctive one. He is the grandson of the most respected elders of the tribe of Quraysh, the governors of Makkah, a husband of the wealthiest and most beautiful woman in that tribe, Khadija, the one to whom people come to deposit their money in his position (their bank) for his trustworthiness, consult with him on major challenges and issues of their social and political affairs for his insight, and swear by his honesty when speaking of truthfulness. He has no reason to lie or play games with them, he is only a messenger to tell the truth about life, asking them to rethink their ways of living including idolizing stone statues, burying baby girls alive, prostitution and adultery, drinking and badmouthing, abolishing slavery, fighting murders and crimes, and being truthful and ethical in ones’ dealings. A universal list of morals. We all strive to live like this and dislike the ways of evil specially when it comes to brutality and injustice. Mercy was his message to mankind.

For that, as has always been the case with dissidents or those who disagree with authority, he was tortured with his companions, boycotted, and kicked out of their social and political affairs, accused of insanity and witchcraft and told to return to the stat quo or they will kill him. His wife, Khadija died in his defense after losing her wealth and status in the process and many of his companions were asked to immigrate to Abyssinia as there resides a Christian king who is just and fair. After he exhausted his means with his tribe and people of Makkah, he was ordered to immigrate himself secretly after a plot to kill him in his bed.

The new destination was a week’s travel on camels’ backs from Makkah, now four hours’ drive at 70mph. Tayba, or now called Al-Madina (the city) Almunawara (enlightened) was a land between two volcanos with a soil rich for agriculture. The palm trees extended miles around it and its wells were rich with clean water that brought goodness to the land. There were two tribes residing in Al-Madina and a treaty with the three Jewish tribes who live in fortresses at its edges. The five tribes lived in peace and harmony for a long time on the way of caravans as they traveled from Makkah for trade to Al-Shamm (Syria) and Al-Yaman (south),an  ideal geographical location for a new era.

Reflecting on this immigration, it marked the beginning of Islam’s spread as worldly religion, up to the present day. The Eid banquet marks the Hajj (pilgrimage) and coincides with the first day of the Islamic calendar year. The Islamic Calendar year is marked not by wars or other incidents of conquering evil as many nations date their independence, it is marked by immigration to peace, harmony and love. That same reason why people around the world immigrate. The search for respectful living conditions and new lives for them to build. The coexistence with the two tribes of the Arabs and the three tribes of the Jews in Al-Madina teaches us all a lesson in tolerance for our differences and an acceptance of others who look differently and act differently from what we are used to. The prophet first paired between families and instilled brotherhood and sisterhood so that the immigrants can sleep in their paired homes and share food, money and all their resources. The Arab tribes welcomed the pairing as a social gesture of acceptance. The pairing involved training skills for work for the newcomers and gradually building financial independence by lending money and starting work in trade or agriculture. It also meant that the newcomer’s home will be built physically through the pairing process. This is coaching and mentoring in its finest forms. It was how social cohesion was established and how racial biases were abolished. From that society we learn how to encompass and contain, not how to separate and segregate.

Immigrants are the infrastructure of any Muslim society and the history of Islam continues to demonstrate immigration and the merging of social, racial and bloodlines in its finest forms. Pilgrims come to Makkah every year where marriages take place afterwards, settlements for trade, learning and teaching and tourism and exploration. In these human behaviors, lies the secret to healthy society where “there is no difference between black and white except in how they behave” socially, and how they practice ethics. A saying of the prophet Mohammad and a verse in the Quran states this meaning.

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CQ and building Intercultural Competence

Intercultural competence is the capability to function effectively across various cultural contexts (national, ethnic, organizational, generational, etc.) [1].

Its therefore not only the knowledge we gain from cross cultural encounters that happen when we travel or eat in a restaurant that offers another culture’s food. It’s not only the cultural values that the cross-cultural management literature indicates. It’s not only the ability of being able to talk with anyone from any culture. It’s the collection of all of this plus the motivation to grow your own awareness of your biases, communication and behavior during these encounters.

I attended the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Advanced Certification (CCA) with Dr. David Livermore from the Center of Cultural Intelligence (CQC) in Chicago in May after researching the material they have and the evidence behind it. CQ has been around for quite a while and has gained credibility over the years through its rigorous and reliable methods of assessment of over 60.000 plus individuals internationally. The assessment is tested over and over again and the findings reveal more data every year which contributes to a better understanding of how human behavior and attitudes change as they work on the specific CQ components.

CQ is widely used in higher education MBAs and study abroad programs. The students take the assessment and are coached, trained and coached again over a 4-6 months’ period with a focus on developing personal awareness, knowledge, cultural strategy and behaviors in the form of verbal and nonverbal communication. The universities that have been conducting the program through CQC are in the process of evaluating the findings but they reported higher CQ after the introduction of the program so far. This is very promising in bridging the gap in education between theory and practice where most of the graduating students lack good communication skills and the ability to read the culture even in the same organization domestically let alone internationally.

Business organizations looking to enhance team performance are high on the list of clients. The assessment and training brings an understanding of what cultural values individuals in a team hold and how they can be communicated with other team members so as to shorten the length of the communication cycle and reach business goals faster. This gets even better when we introduce CQ assessment and training to organizations that function in different geographical locations or have multicultural teams. Coaching is one other powerful tool that supports such a transformation.

A study showed that of 100 companies that adopted CQ assessment and training, 92% had increased revenues within 18 months. Executives at every one of them credited cultural intelligence as a significant contributor to those increased revenues, which in some cases were up by almost 100%. Also, companies that worked to enhance their leaders’ CQs expanded internationally faster and became more successful at attracting and retaining top talent[2].

CQ in social enterprises and non-profit organizations works in the same way, facilitating the dialogue between faiths, immigrant cultures and underprivileged minorities. In essence the model works on the following four capabilities[3]. When you think about how it relates to leadership. It actually addresses the interpersonal leadership core where you examine your own vision and motivation. It also addresses your interpersonal leadership level of interaction with others around you. The more you work and get coached on CQ the more Emotional Intelligence (EQ) you develop in relation to yourself and others. EQ addresses your noble goal and motivation. It also addresses your ability navigate your own emotions and how it leads your life choices. Moreover, it helps you understand what people are feeling and makes you more empathetic. Being an EQ Assessor and a CQ CCA is very powerful indeed. I feel I have such an in depth understanding of how people feel and think and react, alongside an intercultural twist.

[1] Soon Ang and Linn Van Dyne, 2008. Conceptualization of Cultural Intelligence, in Handbook of Cultural Intelligence: Theory, Measurement, and Applications (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2008), 3.

[2] David Livermore, 2016. CQ: The Test of Your Potential for Cross-Cultural Success.

[3] David Livermore, 2017. Level 2 intercultural training course. Chicago.

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Intercultural Competence

VS. cross-cultural Knowledge: where do we go from there?

attrib. to Gordon M. Robertson


Since I started using my own ‘interculturality coaching model’ in 2014, my interest in Intercultural Competency ‘IC’ became my passion. I continued my research to find what can coaching do to enhance IC in individuals who are in situations demanding them to behave out of their cultural comfort zone and expand their ability to communicate across-cultures effectively.

The bulk of research tells you a lot about how nations and cultures across the world perceive, process and make decisions based on their inherited cultural dimensions. The cross-cultural management literature focuses heavily on these dimensions. Among the famous and most recognized theories in the field of management and culture is Hofstede’s cultural dimensions’ models of work-related values (Hofstede 1994). The model consists of five dimensions; power distance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/femininity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation.

There are several more dimensions added by other researchers in the field. Hall (1976) simply divides culture into high-context and low-context. He argues that the concepts relate to the way in which information is communicated and hence links to language. The assumption is that within the low-context, the listener would know very little about the context and meaning of the communication, while in high-context, the listener already knows a lot about the context (Hall 1976).

Rosinski (1999), came up with 18 dimensions grouped in seven categories corresponding to critical challenges faced by people everywhere, regardless of their role or position. The dimensions have emerged from a synthetic analysis of a range of theoretical frameworks developed by eminent anthropologists, communication experts, and cross-cultural researchers, including Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck (1961), Hall (1983), Hofstede (1997, 2001), Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1998), among others. Other researchers also contributed to the field from different angels such as expatriate adjustment, expatriate selection and training, expatriate performance, global teams, cross cultural training and intercultural communication. Most of the research addressed in different ways the intercultural competence.


What I have to say here, is that the studies and research on intercultural coaching is scarce as Alexandra Barosa-Pereira (2014), in her latest literature review elaborates. Alexandra is a credential holder coach from the International Coaching Federation (ICF), who has reviewed the literature on the subject of cross-cultural coaching and was unable to locate any research or study comparing the ICF core competencies with the dimensions of IC. She also explained that there is a good amount of studies on coaching expats in different cultures and using coaching as a medium for coping and performance enhancement. In her words, Alexandra thinks that: “Every coach should develop cultural awareness, since this should be the starting point to respect clients in their uniqueness” (Barosa-Pereira 2014).

At this point it becomes important to discuss interculturality competence beyond “raising awareness” of an existing culture or the dimensions and orientations of that culture or any other culture for that matter. Raising awareness is one of the coaching core competencies at ICF. ICF argues that every coach should be able to listen deeply and communicate empathetically with their client. What ICF does not bring to the service: “is there any other ingredients missing in the coaching skills and training that contribute to their ability to communicate across-cultures?”. This raises the issue of coaching identity and the need to update the coaching competencies within a wider global context.

In my humble opinion as a researcher in the field, coming from a Middle Easter mixed culture, working in a western environment, moving constantly between other cultures, trained and credentialed by ICF, intercultural competence, definitely is an important addition to any coach training.



Barosa-Pereira, Alexandra. 2014. “Building Cultural Competencies in coching: Essay for the first steps.” Journal of Psycological issues in organizational culture 5 (2).

Hall, E T. 1976. Beyond culture. Anchore press, Garden city, NY.

Hofstede, G. 1994. Cultures and Organizations: softwere of the mind. Mcgraw Hill, USA.

Kate Gilbert and Philippe Rosinski. 2008. “Accessing cultural oreintations: online cultural oreintation assesstment as a tool for coaching.” An international Journal for theory, research and practice.




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The Intercultural knowledge Seeking Journey

I am writing this at my usual resting spot in JavaBaba Café in Vermont after a three-hour drive where I am, thanks to my husband, a passenger. Each time we drive to Okeme resort under construction there is new scenery to behold, and more to contemplate. I think of my longer journey away from home which started in 2006 and still has not come to an end (still trying to find home).

This time, I was reminded with the long journeys that my ancestors took on the back of camels and donkeys with the sole purpose of learning. They would navigate the Arabian desert using stars as a guide to their destination, leaving behind the comfort of home and family to the wilderness of unknown territories. The loneliness of the path was broken with singing and chanting to encourage the animals to move faster and inspire themselves to overcome illness or weakness. These long journeys often took days, even weeks. My grandmother had once told me that travelling from Makkah to Jeddah took three days on the backs of animals, which is between 60-80 miles. It would take three months from Makkah to Iraq or Sind (India), or to Egypt onboard ships that would row their way across the Red Sea when the sails failed to catch wind or were slowed down by the heat. It can even take longer if they are travelling to North Africa or Persia. Nowadays, we travel too briskly in a day or two, barely getting acquainted with the spirit of our journeys.

When Islam spread west and east, scholars[1] came from all these parts to Makkah during pilgrimage and remained for a year or two to study and exchange knowledge. It was a consortium of minds, a center for the sciences and a constant circulation of the newest research conducted around the world.  It was also a business hub for exchanging goods and entering new ventures. The stories and history of the world were told from the eldest to the youngest. Geography and detailed description of places, people, food and traditions were shared by the original people of those places. Languages and accents were discussed, learned and the literature accompanying it was transferred from one culture to another.

Most importantly the Hadith of the prophet Mohammad was told and collected along with the memorization of verses of the Quran in one of the 7 accents read and learned by mouth for certifications purposes. Hadith was to be told verbally and written only after one has taken it from several peoples’ mouth. A scholar will have to find the narrators geographical locations when they visited Makkah through a snowball effect. This means one narrator will lead to another and the knowledge seeker will have to search for them, meet them and hear it verbally from them before he can say in writing that he heard it. He has to hear it in the same phrases and words with little or no changes time and time again from different narrators. He then has to make sure every narrator he uses to verify the verbatim of the Hadith learned is highly credible in the sight of his social group, mosque, city and country. If there is one person who claims him uncreditable the Hadith narration is falsified and he has to look for another narrator. This process was done with every creditable Hadith reported in the two most credible books: “Sahih Muslim” and “Sahih Albukhary”. Sahih means correct or righteous. “Muslim” and “Bukhari” are two Imams or scholars of Islam who took upon themselves the writing of the Hadith collected from the third, fourth and fifth generation of narrators who heard from the companions of the prophet Mohammed, whom themselves told and verified to many of their own students. Narration stopped after the compilation of the books in writing and all that needed to be done was to verify the copies whenever they were transcribed to be used in main cities or libraries of Islamic towns and territories.

The research on the chain of men or narrators starts here. The generations that followed the compilers of the books of Sahih wrote six additional books, some of them were more rigorous than the others, having had to learn the knowledge and the men  and women’s biographies to be able to judge if they met and spoke verbally or just happened to live in the same era, which is not enough. This investigation continued to be the debate of all the scholars in the Islamic Studies field and Islamic Sharia. It controls the validity of the text or evidence used from the text to judge, infer, stipulate and arrive at conclusions in all matters related to actions permitted and prohibited, the acts of worship in its finest details and the benchmarking of new incidents against the eldest that occurred in history. This science opens up branches of knowledge in history, law, and jurisdiction and explains why we, as Muslims can differ debate and contradict each other sometimes.

This is very beautiful and gracious. It’s a blessing that we can continue to discuss and learn to the end of time. If Allah wanted us to be alike, he would have made all matters clear in the Quran. But, Allah, left the text interpretations open forever, so that it accommodates all lives, locations, times, contexts and nations. The cultures that can adopt Islam as a way of life, don’t have to give up this or that, it’s a matter of learning the basics and then measuring and stipulating. It keeps individuals occupied with knowledge and learning for their whole lives. Plus, it keeps the original identity of the region or culture untouched or changed, thus, resulting in all forms of architecture, traditions, social behaviors and colorful foods and music preserved in their original state. Only, when sameness is sought through strict and rigid thinking that we colors are lost to black and white and beauty is wiped of the planet. A lesson important for all religious leaders to keep in mind.

I hope my readers’ journey takes them to reading some of the Quran’s text translated (one way of understanding) and then trying to read some of the translations of Hadith, or to talk to Muslims from different cultures on how they see the text. This in itself is the Miracle of Quran which challenged the Arabs who were proud of their literary superiority in poetry and text. In This age the miracle still stands in another form, where it prompts translations with contemporary understanding.

I hope that I have added in this piece one more challenge to your Intercultural journey.


[1] Men and women equally. In Arabic text a female is included in the male noun by default. This means, in writing you don’t have to write, he and she, it is already encompassed by such a definition.