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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 have 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 deal 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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CQ and building Intercultural Competence

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

It is 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 to be 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 bring 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 to 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 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.




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Defining Interculturality

Many times, when I present myself as an intercultural coach I am asked this question:

What is the difference between Intercultural work, diversity, and inclusion? Aren’t they all trying to do the same thing?

The simple answer is yes, they are related but in when explained they are different. In this short article, I will first define the term “Intercultural” as a base for all the work I do and the writing I present in this blog.

In the Oxford Dictionary, the word cultivate is a verb from Latin cultivare meaning to prepare the land for crops. In biology, it’s to grow or maintain. In plants, it’s to raise and grow. It’s also to try to acquire or develop (a quality or skill) or win the friendship or favor of (someone). The noun culture has several meanings:

  1. The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.
  2. The ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society.

The word culture in itself is limited in how it explains the complexity of interculturalism.  K. Gilbert and P. Rosinski (2007) define culture as “the characteristics of one group that distinguish it from another” (Kate Gilbert and Philippe Rosinski 2008). Culture, therefore, is an internal process that exhibits itself in the form of the obvious: artifacts, language, body gestures, social habits and literature (Hofstede 1994). The concept of a group regardless of their geographical location, nationality, religion, gender, generational, organizational or social stratification, indicates the inclusion of different elements from the above, specific to this group. This means that previous research dependent on the taxonomies above is inadequate in explaining cultural differences on an individual level (Gibson 2014). The definition does not determine if individuals represent the culture they belong to or not on an individual behavioral basis. Hofstede defines it in the context of an organization as “the code, the core logic, the software of the mind that organizes the behavior of the people”. We learn to pass on survival behavior that determines the future of the group. Impeded are our beliefs, values, thoughts, and feelings, determined by our perception of the world. We form assumptions and they in return affect our strategies, goals, and philosophy, which is the second level of culture according to Schein (Schein, 2010). The third level would be the artifacts or the visible “yet hard to decipher organizational culture and processes”. These three levels of complexity in one culture tell you a lot about what happens when 2 or more cultures are combined.

Intercultural, on the other hand, is defined as “pertaining to or taking place between two or more cultures”. Oxford dictionary adds: “derived from different cultures”. Martine Abdallah-Pretceille (2006), prefers culturality as a term indicating a flexible and adaptable business environment that encompasses all the emerging patterns of thinking, expressions, and behaviors (Abdullah-Pretceille 2006). I like to adopt this term “interculturality” as indicative of the fluid nature of culture and its ability to merge and assimilate or expand with other cultures. Thus, it’s a constant motion where the landscape is continuously changing by the addition, subtraction or interaction of its variable elements. Coaching for Interculturality, therefore when used in this context would mean “Coaching taking place between two or more cultures in motion. Coaching is defined according to the International Coach Federating (ICF) as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”.

When we combine the definition of coaching to Interculturality, the resulting outcome implies a spiral of growth.  In my view, the definition of “Interculturality coaching” would be: “partnering with the client in a spiral of personal growth, interpersonal understanding, social engagement, and global mindset”.  Included in this definition is all four levels of leadership. The personal level is where our identity recognition and most of the growth of our own cultural competency happens. The second is where we are able to understand and comprehend cultural differences in others and therefore make sense of the obvious. The third level is where our adaptability in behavior patterns transcending beyond our own cultural convictions towards enabling us to engage with the different culture. The fourth is where we become global leaders facilitating intercultural growth in others. In the definition, the outcomes are clear on all four levels of leadership. While in other kinds of coaching, the outcome is defined by the client, this kind of coaching is predefined in the relationship of the contracting phase before even taking the coach on board.


  1. 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.
  2.  Hofstede, G. 1994. Cultures and Organizations: software of the mind. Mcgraw Hill, USA.
  3.  Gibson, Barbara. 2014. Intercultural competencies needed by CEOs. London: Ph.D. Theses, Birkbeck, University of London.
  4. Hofstede Geert (2005), Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, McGraw-Hill, New York.
  5. Schein Edger (2010), Organizational Culture and Leadership, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.
  8. Abdullah-Pretceille, Martine. 2006. Intercultural Education 17: 475-483.
  9. The International Coach Federation (ICF),
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On Organisational Culture

January 20th 2017 inauguration day brought a flat if not negative feeling among all the people who find the new president an interculturally incompetent individual. Acquiring an intercultural competency can never be stressed enough in our daily lives in every human profession, unless you work on an island in total seclusion. Since election day, I have set myself the task of writing blogs on the subject. This is the last and third part of ‘why intercultural competency is important’ in this series.

American culture has many embedded cultures in it. The external perspective is often based on products of television and film. From an insider’s point of view and coming from an intercultural background, having lived here for a year now, it strikes me as an intercultural melting pot, even when I traveled to the south. Regardless of what the media conveys, and ignoring its presence, I see all shades of colors, food, costumes and accents. What is the truth about who we are as ‘Americans’? who does the name represent? The media focused culture? Or the corporate culture? Or the high-street culture? Or all of the above?

In retrospect, the assumption around a dominant culture in one organization fades in the face of these questions, making an intercultural competency that enables interaction and communication between individuals from different cultures, a must. When a coach speaks about an organizational culture as being dominant and rests in the knowledge that he can deal with what s/he knows, is not that being too idealistic? My argument is that assumptions that simplify and generalize will certainly blind an individual from seeing the full picture. The question is, is there a dominant culture? Which culture, the country or the collective organization? Is there really a specific country culture? My invitation is to consider the multi-layers of cultures that exist and their relation to all these variables. My invitation is to be prepared.

Another assumption is the claim of a wrong or a right culture. Using which cultural standards can we judge a culture to be wrong or right? Is there a universal culture? Universal standards in several cultures? If we don’t think intercultural competency is a necessity, how can we find that standard? An example in the work place would be of a Muslim taking a prayer break and asking that the meeting time be adjusted so they won’t miss their prayer. What’s wrong and what’s right here? What if that individual was the manager of a branch and their presence is important in the meeting? What if the individual was a woman and she wanted to keep wearing her Hijab, would the organizational culture accommodate her presence in the media publicly? What is right or wrong? What is the role of intercultural competency here?

That leads to a third assumption around culture. The assumption that if someone is from a certain nationality, educational background or belongs to an interest group in a certain culture, that they represent that culture. The scholarly work on culture was mostly formed to inform cross cultural management, expatriate assignments, and the management of diversity in the workplace. Little or no research emerged concerning intercultural coaching because coaching focused on individuals rather than organizations dealing with intercultural issues  (Kate Gilbert and Philippe Rosinski 2008). Not only that culture is a collective identity and we deal with individuals that exist in this collective identity, but these clients may not be representative of it and they certainly may not agree with it. The challenge is to know the culture and be curious about the individual. This applies to every professional. Similarly, to assume that persons who identify or show a trace of a different culture are from that culture or representative of it. This assumption leads to judging people by looks or clothing or social and religious rituals which prevents us from interacting and communicating with them. The intercultural competency allows you to examine these issues with care, and to avoid generalizations.

Finally, I would like to mention the role of communities of practice in enforcing a culture. Individuals who belong to certain groups in the work or social places tend to develop specific cultures in these communities. This is true even though individuals who belong to them come from across the globe. Knowing and dealing with these cultures is also part of the intercultural competency a coach or a professional needs to develop. I hope I have addressed all kind of assumptions and arguments for and against intercultural competency for professionals and for coaches specifically which will invite my reader to consider training and accessing knowledge to build their own competencies.

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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Intercultural coaching: holding the space for it to emerge

what does it mean to hold the space for intercultural coaching?

Intercultural has become a word used by many but what does it really mean for coaching?  While we coach, we follow our client who navigate through their thoughts and emotions, examining their behavioral pattern and looking for ways to improve or implement. In doing so, there is always an opportunity to bring culture into the discussion and ask the client if what they are sensing or experiencing comes from the culture or is a reaction to the culture, which culture? how many cultures? what do they feel about this development and if they are welling to navigate the challenge accompanying it?

The challenge in this approach is that the coach have to have high awareness of culture in play. It requires cultural intelligence and the ability to see through the lenses of different cultures. Nothing prepares you for this except that you develop that awareness. Its not about a specific cultural orientation or a geographical location where certain type of culture exists. Its a combination of all in play: your own culture(s) as a coach, the client own culture(s), and the organizational or context own cultural values.

The cultural values of could be a combination of several merging cultures. Thus, its not enough to learn the main culture pertaining to the geographical location where the coach and client are operating. The global transitions and movement or relocation is at its highest now and new mergers of multi cultures are arising with new generation that is not third or even fourth kid culture but more. The new generation is already out there working and leading, what are we going to do about this rapid change and demand?

I would encourage you as a coach to stay open and curious and ask the questions about culture.

Thank you