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Coaching Leaders With An Eagle Eye!



Coaching Leaders requires that a coach have a multi focus lenses. There are two concerns in the world of business that coaches has 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.   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 uncloaking 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 all the time.

At Fanar Dr Ghada Angawi coach 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.