Abbey Communication Cultural Differences

Using Models of Culture in Coaching

Imagine you have crash landed in a nameless country, you have no idea where you are, but you are looking for clues as to where you might be. What would you notice?  The initial list would probably include:

  • The language being used
  • The weather conditions
  • How people dress
  • The food
  • The architecture
  • The currency
  • The cars or other vehicles being used.

If after observing all the above, you are still none the wiser as to where in the world you might be, you might start looking beyond the obvious and consider:

  • Power dynamics in relationships (e.g. gender roles or deference to hierarchy)
  • Attitudes to time (e.g. punctual or not punctual)
  • Attitudes to individuality (is it encouraged, or perhaps discouraged e.g. do all people wear the same kind of clothes and behave in the same kind of way)
  • Attitudes to controlling the environment (do you feel “in the hands of the gods” or in control of the world around you)
  • Attitudes to rule following or rule breaking.

If you are noticing this deeper layer, you will be noticing the norms and values of the culture.  What happens if you need to work your way into this new culture, but your norms and values are different to those around you, how do you manage to survive and thrive?  How do you reconcile seemingly opposite values?

We regularly see values and cultural differences that result in misunderstandings within teams and between colleagues. We use a number of models to help open discussion about the differences (Schein, Hall, Hofstede, Lewis etc.) but the model we find digs the deepest into these differences and seeks to reconcile the differences is the Trompenaars Hampden-Turner model, the Seven Dimensions of Culture, and it’s sister model the 4Rs of intercultural competence (Recognition, Respect, Reconcile and Realize/Root).

In our next blog we will show you how we use these models in our training and coaching here at Abbey Communication!

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