Not everybody has the money to pay a professional coach. And while I think it is a very worthy investment, I thought I’d share with you a little bit of what a coach would do if you were to work with him or her. What you need to know is that coaches do not provide you with solutions, they support you in coming up with solutions yourself. They do that by asking questions which help you re-frame the situation you are in. And that is very important, especially when you find yourself in an intercultural setting in which you do not necessarily have a very clear image of what is going on.
The most common model coaches use to support you in coming up with a solution is the GROW model. As you guys can see in the picture below, it consists of 4 steps: goals, reality, options, will. I want you to remember the last time you were lost in a cross-cultural setting, with no clue what was happening and why people did what they did.
Source: The Coaching Journey Website
Now that you have thought of a situation, it’s time for you to set your goal. What is it that you want to achieve in this situation? Let’s say you are working with many Chinese colleagues who are just not willing to open up to you. You come from an informal culture so you set the goal of creating a slightly more informal work environment.
So how does the reality look like right now? Maybe your colleagues do not approach you at all. They only talk with you when you come to them with some problem. It disturbs you.
So, what are your options? What can you do about it? In most cases when it comes to cross-cultural environments this starts with research. Finding out what the source of the problem is. You will want to talk with somebody who is more experienced than you with working in that culture, or even better someone from that culture. With the newly found knowledge, which in this case probably is a simple problem of power distance and the different degrees of formality between your own culture and the Chinese one, you will start to think about possible solutions.
What will you do? After you have come up with several possible options, you now decide which one suits you best. Remember, if it doesn’t work out you can always come back to step one to redefine your goals. Maybe you realize that creating a more informal environment will simply not work out because it isn’t suitable for the cultural environment you find yourself in. Or maybe you realize your strategy didn’t work out. In that case you can always go back and come up with different options.
The GROW model is very easy to apply in any type of cross-cultural conflict. All you need to do is to ask yourself the right questions and find people who can help you to define the problem!