December 28, 2017
How to use the third voice when coaching in an intercultural setting
This is part 2 in a series about Inter-Cultural Intelligence and Psychometric Tools. Part 1 is How to use psychometric assessments to provide a third voice in coaching.
Tools bear the marks of their makers
In part 1, we said that psychometric assessments are great at illuminating behavior. We said that there are both interpersonal and intercultural sides to our behavior; and that in an intercultural setting, both sides need illuminating. It is essential to illuminate both sides because it is the underlying dimensions on the cultural side that provide insight into the interpersonal side of our behavior and help us to solve interpersonal issues.
We noted that interpersonal assessment tools are subject to blindspots. Partly, this is because the tool is simply not designed to take into account and illuminate cultural dimensions of behavior. But that is often because the tools’ designers are not themselves aware of the cultural dimensions of behavior, nor aware of the biases and preferences which separate them from those who may be taking their assessments.
Of the 200-300 assessment tools you may choose from, many are behaviorally slanted. The slant will extend to the expectations that the designer has of the people who respond to the questions; what the desired outcomes may be; what makes a particular outcome good or desirable.
Many tools are imprinted with the worldview and cultural tendencies of their designers right down to the dynamics of the tools; and therefore those tools will have a certain cultural footprint and DNA. For example, assessment tools may assume or expect a certain pattern or level of introspection in order to work as intended; but different conceptions, patterns, and levels of self-reflection are highly specific to different cultures.
Tools bear the marks of their users
In an intercultural setting, we have to take a step back and recognize that even the most savvy coaches are subject to their own cultural biases and preferences. We can use an array of assessment tools, even those that effectively measure and illuminate the cultural dimensions of our behavior; and yet we may still handle the tools or the third voice in the room principle according to our own worldview and cultural reference points.
We highly encourage coaches and companies to use psychometrics, because they do make an effective “third voice in the room”. But we also admonish coaches and facilitators to be very aware that our own cultural preferences cause us to handle psychometrics in very different ways. This includes both the coach who facilitates the assessment, and those who take the assessments.
Establish a third cultural space in which to use the third voice in the room
To overcome our natural tendencies to listen with our own set of ears and to speak with our own voice, we need to strive to create what we call a third cultural space – one that is neither ours, nor the coachee’s (nor even the host nation’s if we are both non-natives). The third cultural space is one that is unique to the intercultural team, department, or company in which we work.
Create a “safe” space together that doesn’t spill over into other spheres of life; a space where people know that you as a facilitator are there to empower them; a space where everyone can help each other make wise choices.
We are already familiar with moving in and out of various social and cultural circles, whether public or private, or family or work-related. If we recognize the need to navigate the intercultural terrain, then it is a small leap to positively engage in cultivating a part of that terrain together with colleagues.
Develop your third cultural space to make the third voice in the room a welcome addition
Whether the context is a workshop, team coaching, or one-on-one coaching, there is an art to using a psychometric assessment tool effectively in an intercultural setting. Develop your third cultural space alongside the third voice of psychometrics.
The third cultural space that you establish within your team or company needs some definition; it needs some mapping. Establish a shared code of conduct; perhaps establish a “behavioral expectations grid” – some baseline rules of engagement that help people grapple with the content of their assessment reports.
In the third cultural space, you can start to create an environment of fun, and of trust, by providing some light-heartedness. Weave in and out of both serious and lighthearted matters, so that people can be playful as well as serious; honor one another.
When you develop your third cultural space alongside the third voice of psychometrics, it allows you to embark on a wonderful journey with people. Not only is the coaching experience more effective, but interactions and interpersonal relationships within the working environment have a chance to improve and grow.
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