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Intercultural Competence

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

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 coaching can 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 angles 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 are 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 coaching: Essay for the first steps.” Journal of Psychological issues in organizational culture 5 (2).

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

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

Kate Gilbert and Philippe Rosinski. 2008. “Accessing cultural orientations: online cultural orientation assessment as a tool for coaching.” An International Journal for theory, research, and practice.