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If you don't get this, you won't get far!

Leadership development gurus will tell you …

Management seminar instructors will tell you…

2 year-olds will tell you …

It starts with “Why?”

Why do I have to look both ways before crossing the street?

Why do I have to treat my customers with respect and dignity?

Why does it matter how I lead, I am the owner, after all?

Why? Why? Why?

“Because I said so!”

“Because that’s the way it’s done around here!”

OK, maybe not.

Why? is the foundation, square one, course #101, the starting point for “success” in whatever endeavor you’re undertaking. “Why?” is even more significant if your endeavor includes people who define success, or leadership, or values differently; if it includes any one from a different culture.

Asking yourself “why” is the starting point for effective cross-cultural communication. Cultural Intelligence (CQ©) is “defined as the capability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations.” Let me repeat the cliché: we live in a multi-cultural world. Effectively communicating cross-culturally is no longer an option.

This illustrates my point:

My wife and I spent a few days in a cabin overlooking the lake where I summered as a kid. Great to be back! The lake is more-or-less half way between Kenogami and Matheson, Ontario. (Yep, you’ll have to google map it.) A truck-stop along the way advertised Punjabi food to take-away. As a kid, I went to the truck-stop for French-fries and gravy. (And before you say, “French fries are multi-cultural.” I kinda doubt France had anything to do with them. And this was before poutine made their way from small-town Quebec. But I digress). Now you can order tandoori chicken and naan.

It is truly a new environment. And we need to communicate, operate, and, generally, relate in with a myriad of cultures. When I say, “We need…” I am assuming something that might not be clear. Step one, then, is why do you need to communicate effectively? During the CQ course and conversation, we discuss one’s CQ motivation or drive. What difference does it make?

You observe that during a business (education, leadership, management, … fill in the blank) meeting, some in the group don’t say a word.

Even during the brain-storming session, they sit and observe. Why? Is it because they are bored? Are they giving the leader the silent treatment? So they simply have nothing to offer?

The question why, could (and I say, should) motivate you to discover what’s going on. Remember, I wrote about curiosity? Here is the practical moment where curiosity shows up. Why do I conclude that they are bored? Why don’t they speak up?

CQ Drive describes the extent to which you are motivated and persistent in your approach to a multi-cultural situation. We talk about your intrinsic motivation: this is your natural (and/or developed) level in curiosity. Do you find it interesting that …

CQ Drive also asks why effective cross-cultural engagement benefits our efforts. This can be considered extrinsic or external motivation. A lot of attention recently is on international students at colleges and universities; it is in the institutions’ best interest to understand something of the incoming students’ expectations and behaviours.

Another way of saying this: How badly to you want it?

Before we can figure out the what of another’s culture – whether to bow or shake hands – we need to understand the why.

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