Four Essential Skills For Building Cultural Agility


Cultural Due Diligence is assessing and preparing for the possible impact of culture and cultural difference.

Ask yourself this: Is it reasonable for my counterpart(s) to change? If no, you may consider Style Switching, which means using a different behavioral approach to accomplish your goals. If, however, it is reasonable for your counterpart(s) to change, you may engage in Cultural Dialogue, in which you and your counterpart explore cultural differences and negotiate mutual adaptations.

And finally, Cultural Mentoring comes with helping others through their cultural adaptation and knowing when and how to seek out a mentor for your particular situation.

To make this come alive, I’d like to share an actual case study to help illustrate the process and how it supported our client, Irit, in her cultural adaptation to a new overseas assignment.

Irit was recruited to head up the fine jewelry division for one of the largest retail chains in India. Before accepting the position, she researched all she could on the country, the people and its economics, particularly in her industry.

Upon arrival in India, she deliberately networked, and during her first three months she often took the male-dominated senior leadership team to lunch, stopped by to share chai with her team and asked many questions.

Recognizing that the organizational culture was very different from the organizations she had worked with in the past, she quickly surmised she would need to style switch quite often in order to connect and be productive with her colleagues.

There were a few colleagues who were interested in stretching their own capabilities and engaged her in dialogue, sharing their own many levels of culture and asking about hers.

In this way, she was able to quickly start working productively with her international counterparts.

Irit attributes much of her success to her British colleague who mentored her by sharing stories, revealing her local knowledge and supporting Irit as she struggled through the competence-building process.

This is an example of how using the foundation of key cultural skills enables smoother transitions and embeds cultural agility into a global professional, adding to the knowledge, skills and abilities required in their global role.

Lynne Tarter