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Leading Global Teams: Coaching Guru Norman Grant On Developing Cultural Intelligence

Portrait of Jaguar Heart

Transformational Systemic Team Coach


Key Takeaways


  • Cultural differences within a peer group can lead to hosts of misunderstandings. And before you know it, your team’s greatest strength—its diversity—becomes a crippling weakness. 

  • This is where systemic team coaching practitioners can save the day. As a conductor of your team’s orchestra, this method helps people get on the same page about solving a complex problem at work.

  • With a quarter of a century-old coaching career under his belt, Norman Grant, a certified systemic team coach, guides businesses on leveraging the power of collaboration.

  • For businesses aiming to expand in international markets, having culturally intelligent leaders would mean a better grasp of local market dynamics and effective marketing strategies.  


Norman Grant is a certified systemic team coach whose unique journey began with a simple plan—a four—month European adventure. But fate had other plans. What started as a short trip became two decades of living and working across Asia in Japan, Korea, and Shanghai. 


These experiences ignited Norman's passion for navigating the complexities of cross-cultural teams. Norman has a proven track record of success from resolving conflicts at the managerial level in China (Michelman) to boosting cross-cultural intelligence through leadership development courses in Japan (Paidy).


With a rich 25-year-old coaching career, Norman continues guiding businesses on leveraging the power of collaboration. Through his one-of-a-kind expertise, he helps harness cultural intelligence, a less-spoken aspect of human interpretation. Not only do Grant’s methods make teams effective but they also contribute to the success of business personnel working globally.


Peering Into Systemic Team Coaching

"It emphasises systemic thinking, shareholder engagement, and continuous learning to drive sustainable change." Norman Grant

Diversity hiring gives rise to distinct teams. While that’s good news for a global company’s outlook, there’s another silent battle waiting to be won. The fact of the matter? Cultural differences within a peer group can lead to hosts of misunderstandings. And before you know it, your team’s greatest strength—its diversity—becomes a crippling weakness. 


This is where systemic team coaching practitioners can save the day. As a conductor of your team’s orchestra, this method helps people get on the same page about solving a complex problem at work. It brings people’s unique perspectives to light, making them understand how it fits in the grander scheme. It fosters open communication, where each contributing member feels valued and heard. Systemic team coaching zeros in on the internal dynamics of a team, tying that back to the values of an organisation. Traditionally, coaches addressed individual development. However systemic team coaching ensures that a system works for the individual; not vice versa.  


Cross-Cultural Collaboration: Challenges


Uniting a team of diverse individuals is complex. Some common challenges include barriers in communication, misaligned expectations, and prejudice, explains Norman. Many workers seek to make fortunes overseas. But what about their families who have left everything behind and moved to a foreign land? How can this transitional leap be made smoother? 


A cross-cultural, integration and career coach in Japan, Grant helped families of employees who had migrated to the country assimilate to its culture. Some of his valuable services at IMPACT Group included offering intercultural coaching for employees and their families, conducting proactive career consulting and job searching guidance to relocated spouses through self-assessment, identification of career goals, and creating networking strategies. 


The Importance of Cultural Intelligence

"Leaders with this intelligence are better equipped to lead diverse teams, drive innovation, and navigate complex global challenges effectively." Norman Grant

In a hyperconnected and globalising world, it is a prerequisite for the leaders of today to be armed with the ability to navigate the tapestry of diverse cultures, Grant argues. Command and control leadership needs to be updated. Leaders must tap into their emotions through self-work to stay relevant in a high-paced global environment. This is where cultural intelligence (CQ) comes into play. 


  • For businesses aiming to expand in international markets, having culturally intelligent leaders would mean a better grasp of local market dynamics and effective marketing strategies. This business is bound to build relationships essential for successful expansion. 

  • Gen-Z values workplaces that embrace diversity and inclusion. Leaders exhibiting cultural intelligence are likelier to attract and retain top talent. 

  • Cultural insensitivity will cost you. Remember in 2018 when global retailer H&M faced backlash when they chose to feature a young black boy wearing a hoodie with the phrase “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle”? 


The Future of Cross-Cultural Leadership 


Norman’s more than two-decade-long experience positions him to help companies embrace a global perspective of doing business. Pre-pandemic, the Asian Pacific region was the playing field for businesses. But now, with the rise of remote work, the world is their oyster. A growing number of individuals are quitting their jobs because opportunities from anywhere on the planet are available in the palm of their hands. 


Some insights on positioning yourself in this new business landscape: 


  • Strong communication is key: This includes respecting diverse viewpoints. 


  • Embracing technology: Support virtual teams with collaboration tools (Slack, Yammer, Zoom, to name a few) for real-time document sharing and project management. Additionally, virtual team-building activities can create team synergy and encourage collaboration.


  • D&I Advocacy: Diversity and inclusion should not be treated as a ‘one-off’ initiative. Promoting these initiatives is a constant work in progress that needs nurturing. 

 

INTERVIEW


PASSION FOR CROSS-CULTURE WORK


1. What sparked your interest in specializing in cross-cultural coaching, and why do you find it fascinating? 


My interest in cross-cultural coaching came from my experiences living and working in diverse environments. I have lived in 5 different countries and visited maybe 25 or so in total and found the intersection of different cultural norms fascinating because it offers a rich source of perspectives, values, and ways of working. 


This is one of the first things I observed and probably what kept me abroad so long. Years ago, I traveled around Europe for about 4 months and after I returned to Canada, I wanted more of what I had experienced on my trip so I planned a second trip - traveling through Asia for a few months, ending up in Thailand with the plan to buy a return ticket back to Canada. Well, a few months turned into over 20 years living in Japan, Korea and Shanghai. Of course, I have asked myself the question “what if I had stayed in Canada?” but I really believe that the long experience and the expertise I gathered over the years have prepared me well for the direction in which businesses around the world are now headed – in particular, finding opportunities to bridge gaps, foster understanding and leveraging diversity for greater innovation and collaboration.  


2. How has your personal and professional background influenced your approach to working across-cultural borders? 


Having lived in different countries, I developed a deep appreciation for cultural diversity and an ability to adapt to different cultural norms. I think this is what fascinated me from the beginning and what shaped my approach to cross-cultural work - emphasizing empathy, curiosity, and flexibility. 


3. As I understand it, you have a rather different take on the meaning of ‘Culture’ could you elaborate? 


Indeed, my perspective on culture extends beyond the traditional notion that because someone is say, from Japan, we should apply all we know about the Japanese to this individual. While we should not ignore what is known generally, we must understand we are just scratching the surface and need to go deeper. We must be careful how we apply generally known cultural norms to any individual – let me tell you a recurring incident – Sometime ago, I arrived at a company to facilitate a course on Communication and Collaboration with a team. I looked at one student and my brain zeroed in on one country and all I knew about that country, however after a brief conversation, I discovered that he was indeed from that country but had been away from it for over 15 years – living and working in several countries. Needless to say, the combination of his experiences have made him a unique individual. 


Culture for me, is about how each person's values, beliefs, and experiences contribute to the creation of a rich tapestry of personal cultural identity from which different ideas emerge.   

Each one has his or her own culture.


When faced with difficult business decisions in our globalized world, companies go for teams with individuals from diverse backgrounds since they can bring a broader range of perspectives to the table.  


Imagine what could be achieved globally, through the collaboration of over 8 billion people. 


4. Can you share a personal or professional experience that highlights the importance of cultural understanding in the business context? 


Certainly, in one instance, I was facilitating a global team meeting where miscommunication arose due to differing cultural communication styles. Through open dialogue and cultural awareness activities, we were able to uncover underlying assumptions and clarify expectations. This experience really underscored the critical role of cultural understanding in fostering effective communication, and collaboration, leading ultimately, to business success


ROLE & EXPERTISE


5. As a certified systemic team coach, what does your role entail, and how does it contribute to the success of business personnel working globally? 


As a certified systemic team coach, my role involves partnering with teams to navigate complex dynamics, enhance collaboration, and achieve their goals. By applying systemic principles and cross-cultural expertise, I help teams develop cultural intelligence, leverage diversity, and adapt their strategies to diverse contexts. This not only enhances team effectiveness but also contributes to the success of business personnel working globally by maximizing their cross-cultural capabilities.


6. How do you approach leadership training to ensure its effectiveness in diverse cultural contexts? 


It all begins with a conversation with the client to get a sense of the challenges being faced. This is followed by the start of a journey during which I partner with a team. Then, I incorporate interactive activities, case studies, and real-life examples that resonate with participants from different backgrounds. I emphasize the importance of cultural awareness, empathy, and communication skills in effective leadership, while also providing practical strategies for navigating cross-cultural challenges. Additionally, I create opportunities for peer learning and reflection.


LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT


7. In your experience as a facilitator in Learning & Development, what key principles do you prioritize to foster continuous growth within teams? 


Another important question – I try to foster continuous growth within teams by creating a safe and inclusive learning environment, promoting active participation and engagement, providing actionable feedback, and encouraging a growth mindset. I also emphasize the importance of reflection, goal setting, and accountability to sustain learning and development over time.


8. How do you tailor your programs to address the unique needs of participants from various cultural backgrounds? 


I try to incorporate diverse perspectives, cultural examples, and interactive exercises that resonate with participants from various cultural backgrounds. I also leverage cultural competency assessments and feedback to identify specific needs and preferences, and adapt my facilitation style and content accordingly. By creating a culturally responsive learning experience, I ensure that participants feel valued, understood, and empowered to apply their learning in their cultural contexts.


SYSTEMIC TEAM COACHING


9. Can you explain the concept of systemic team coaching and how it differs from other methodologies?


Systemic team coaching focuses on understanding and addressing the interconnected dynamics within a team and its broader organizational system. Unlike traditional coaching methodologies that may focus primarily on individual development, systemic team coaching considers the collective impact of relationships, structures, and culture on team effectiveness. It emphasizes systemic thinking, shareholder engagement, and continuous learning to drive sustainable change and performance improvement. 


10. How does a systemic approach contribute to better team dynamics and overall business success? 


It does so, by fostering a deeper understanding of the underlying factors influencing team performance and identifying leverage points for improvement. By addressing systemic issues such as communication breakdowns, role ambiguity, or conflicting goals, teams can enhance their cohesion, collaboration, and adaptability. This, in turn, leads to greater innovation, resilience, and ultimately, business success.


IDEAL CLIENTS


11. Who are your ideal clients? 


These are organizations and teams operating in diverse, global environments who recognize the value of cultural intelligence and systemic thinking in driving their success. They are committed to fostering inclusive cultures, maximizing the potential of their teams, and achieving sustainable results in an ever-changing world.


CHALLENGES IN CROSS-CULTURAL COLLABORATION


12. What are some common challenges that business personnel face when working across cultural borders, and how do you address them in your coaching and facilitation? 


Common challenges include communication barriers, misaligned expectations, and cultural stereotypes. In my coaching and facilitation, I address these challenges by promoting cultural awareness, facilitating cross-cultural dialogue, and providing practical tools and strategies for bridging cultural differences. I also emphasize the importance of empathy, curiosity, and adaptability in building trust and fostering effective collaboration across cultures.



13. Could you share a specific example where you helped a team overcome a culture barrier to achieve success?


Yes, I worked with a multinational team struggling with cultural misunderstandings and interpersonal tensions that were impacting their productivity and morale. Through a series of facilitated workshops and team coaching sessions, we explored cultural differences, built empathy, and developed shared norms and communication protocols. As a result, the team became more cohesive, open and collaborative, leading to improved performance and a stronger sense of unity despite their cultural diversity.


MEASURING SUCCESS


14. How do you measure the success of your coaching and facilitation interventions in terms of cross-cultural effectiveness? 


I try to access both qualitative and quantitative indicators such as improved communication, collaboration, increased cultural awareness and sensitivity, enhanced team performance and satisfaction, and tangible business outcomes. I also gather feedback from participants and stakeholders to evaluate the impact of our interventions and identify areas for further improvement.


15. Are there specific metrics or indicators that reflect positive outcomes in this context? 


Yes, some specific metrics or indicators include cultural competency assessments, cross-cultural team assessments, employee engagement surveys, diversity metrics, customer satisfaction ratings, and business performance indicators, the combination of which, can provide a rather comprehensive view of the impact of cross-cultural interventions on both individuals and organizational levels.  


CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE


16. How do you help individuals and teams develop cultural intelligence, and why is it crucial in today’s globalized business environment? 


I help them through a combination of awareness-building exercises, interactive workshops, and experiential learning opportunities. This includes exploring cultural dimensions, practicing perspective-taking, and developing skills for effective cross-cultural communication, negotiation, and collaboration.  Cultural intelligence is crucial in today’s globalized business environment because it enables individuals and teams to navigate diverse cultural contexts with sensitivity, empathy, and adaptability, leading to stronger relationships, enhanced collaboration and better business outcomes. IT ALL BEGINS WITH A CONVERSATION WITH THE CLIENT!


17. Can you help provide insights into the impact of cultural intelligence on leadership effectiveness? 


Cultural intelligence is essential for leadership effectiveness in today’s multicultural world. Leaders with high cultural intelligence demonstrate the ability to understand and appreciate diverse perspectives, adapt their leadership style to different cultural contexts, and build trust and rapport across cultural boundaries. They are better equipped to lead diverse teams, drive innovation, and navigate complex global challenges effectively. Cultural intelligence also enhances leaders’ ability to build inclusive cultures, attract and retain top talent, and foster a sense of belonging and engagement among employees from diverse backgrounds.


GLOBAL COMMUNITY IMPACT


18. Could you share other areas where your coaching and facilitation could have a positive impact beyond the corporate setting?


I think that when the lives of individuals and teams are enriched by increased cultural intelligence awareness at work, this, in turn, serves as a catalyst for building stronger communities. The results of what has been learned promotes understanding, respect, inclusivity, creativity, social cohesion, and cross-cultural leadership.  By cultivating these qualities within workplaces, individuals and teams contribute to the creation of more vibrant, resilient, and harmonious communities.


Company personnel spend many hours together, so, promoting cross-cultural understanding, empathy, and collaboration, could reflect favorably on home and community life. In my experience, this could touch on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Conflict management, Bias, and others. 


KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR LISTENERS


19. For our readers who may be business leaders, what are the key takeaways or advice you would offer in navigating cross-cultural challenges? 


  • Cultivate cultural curiosity and humility- Approach cross-cultural intersections with an open mind and willingness to learn from others.

  • Develop cultural intelligence – invest in developing your cultural awareness, empathy, and adaptability to navigate diverse cultural contexts effectively.


  • Communicate effectively – Practice active listening, seek clarification, and adapt your communication style to bridge cultural differences and build rapport.


  • Build inclusive environments – Foster a culture of inclusion and belonging where diverse perspectives are valued, and everyone feels respected and empowered to contribute.


20. How can individuals enhance their own cultural competence for better collaboration 


I am working on a book that could help with this, but let me give a few pointers -       


  • Engage in cultural immersion experiences.

  • Seek feedback and reflection on cultural biases and blind spots.

  • Attend workshops on cross-cultural communication and diversity.

  • Build relationships with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds.

  • Practice empathy, flexibility, and adaptability in cross-cultural interactions.


FUTURE TRENDS IN CROSS-CULTURAL LEADERSHIP


21. Are there emerging opportunities that you find particularly interesting in the current global landscape? 


Yes, I can give you 2 or 3.

  • Prior to Covid, I saw the Asian Pacific region as my area of work. Post Covid, I began to see the world as my area of work. I also found more people are quitting their old jobs and finding greater satisfaction in working globally for themselves. This is exciting!

  • Because so much is being done online now, technology is being leveraged for virtual cross-cultural training and collaboration.

  • Harnessing the power of diverse perspectives for innovation and problem-solving is a big one.


22. One final question: Is there anything you would like to say to our audience?


It’s rather easy for a team leader to recognize that members need to improve, for example, presentation skills, and then seek to provide it; but it’s not so easy, the need for help, when members are faced with certain other team dynamics affecting their ability to provide more value. A team leader might feel that all is well, or just part of the process that can be overcome internally when All it takes is a conversation to discuss what is or is not happening.


Connect with me on LinkedIn for a chat about cultural intelligence and team coaching:

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