Cultural Agility: How Intercultural Coaching Nurtures Self-Awareness

This article explores the importance of self-awareness in Cultural Agility and how intercultural coaching facilitates its development. Intercultural coaching empowers clients to navigate cultural complexities and foster inclusive leadership by identifying biases, challenging assumptions, adjusting mindsets, and enhancing Inclusive Leadership.

In our increasingly interconnected and intricate world, Cultural Agility is essential for effectively navigating diverse landscapes. As mentioned in a previous post, a prime element of intercultural coaching is cultivating self-awareness. Indeed, by examining our cultural values, biases, and assumptions, we can develop a heightened self-awareness that allows us to recognize how our perspectives may differ from others. Understanding how our cultural lens shapes our interactions with others forms the foundation for building Cultural Agility. 

Through a fictional dialogue between an intercultural coach and their client, we will explore how intercultural coaching promotes this self-awareness and enables coachees to navigate cultural complexities more confidently.

1. Identifying cultural biases

Intercultural coaching adeptly guides individuals in introspection and self-reflection, thereby empowering them to identify their cultural biases.    

Imagine a coaching conversation around intercultural meetings.

Client: During a virtual meeting with team members from various cultures, I noticed one person appeared hesitant to contribute to the discussion. To me, they were disengaged.


Coach: What cultural assumptions influenced your perception of disengagement?


Client: I assumed they were disengaged because, in my culture, active participation and speaking up during meetings are seen as signs of engagement and involvement. I tend to associate silence with disinterest or lack of contribution.

2. Challenging assumptions

By challenging these assumptions, intercultural coaching broadens the client’s understanding and appreciation of others, ultimately leading to more meaningful relationships. 

Let’s see how the dialog unfolds.

Coach: Thank you for sharing your perspective. You know, different cultures have varied communication styles and expectations in meetings. How might the cultural background of that team member have influenced their behavior in that situation?


Client: Now that I think about it, their cultural background might value listening before speaking or taking time to formulate their thoughts before contributing. It’s possible that they were being respectful or trying to gather more information before sharing their thoughts.

By challenging (...) assumptions, intercultural coaching broadens the client’s understanding and appreciation of others, ultimately leading to more meaningful relationships.

3. Adjusting the mindset and communication

Recognizing and embracing cultural differences is crucial to expanding communication abilities and effectively managing automatic responses.

Coach: Great. With that in mind, how are your future interactions going to evolve?

Client: I think it would help me be more patient and understanding. 

Coach: And what will you change then?

Client: Instead of assuming disengagement, I will give them the space and time they need to contribute in their own way. I can also actively encourage their input by inviting their thoughts.

4. Enhancing Inclusive Leadership

By adjusting the client’s mindset and communication approach, the latter values different communication styles and fosters Inclusive Leadership.

Coach: “they need to contribute their own way”. Ok. And how will this impact your leadership?


Client: I believe it will lead to richer discussions and more diverse perspectives, ultimately benefiting the team and our outcomes. I guess this will challenge my “active”, and “direct” way… However, being a successful leader involves more than just personal perspectives. It also entails empowering each member of the team. I guess that having had this conversation, I will be more alert, more mindful, and overall, more inclusive.


Coach: Good. Meaning?


Client: I will… I will breathe more consciously… And I will have this kind of motto: Embrace diversity, Empower the disconnected team members.


Coach: Just the “disconnected” ones?


Client: Embrace Diversity. Empower Originality.


Do you want to foster your Inclusive Leadership? 

You might also find insights and reflexive activities in our e-book.

Navigating Cultural Diversity

5 Steps to Enhancing your Inclusive Leadership

e-book phone inclusive leadership

This fictional dialogue demonstrates how intercultural coaching raises the client’s self-awareness by exploring the cultural assumptions that influenced their perception and understanding. By prompting the client to consider the impact of cultural backgrounds on behavior, the intercultural coach strengthens Cultural Agility and fosters Inclusive Leadership. The client’s increased self-awareness allows them to adapt their communication style and create a more inclusive and effective team dynamic in multicultural settings.

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