Many of you must have been through situations where they experienced cultural misunderstandings while travelling abroad or doing business with other countries.

Much of this comes down to values and how cultures are shaped by their history and the values that characterise them. 

For example, the American value of equality and the Chinese value of hierarchy. The French politeness and formalism and the Australian humour, friendship and a much more informal approach to business.

Encountering cultural misunderstandings while travelling or conducting international business is a common experience, often stemming from varying values shaped by history, and these situations typically emerge when one culture interprets another through their own lens, leading to communication hindrances and interpersonal challenges.


What is Involved in Cross-Cultural Coaching?

Cross-cultural coaching involves not just looking at other cultures, but your own. Through introspective teaching, you can identify what your values are. While you might think you already know what they are, you would be surprised at values you hold that you may not have considered before. 

In the business world, this can occur daily, when people from different countries interact. This is more obvious when these people have to make decisions together as a team.

Cross-cultural training is a necessity for any company that has a diverse workforce or plans on conducting global business, and has become of increasing importance in the past 10 years.

The main purpose of cross-cultural training is to provide employees with strategies that enable them to conduct business in an environment where no single set of rules or behaviours can be applied, especially in virtual workplaces where borders are removed. 


When Can Cross-Cultural Coaching Be Useful for a Company?

Cross-cultural coaching is essential for companies that operate in diverse environments and seek to enhance communication, collaboration, and understanding among employees from different cultural backgrounds. Here are a few points where cross-cultural coaching might be necessary:

  1. International Expansion: When a company expands into new global markets, it needs to understand and adapt to the cultural nuances of those regions to effectively engage with local customers, partners, and employees.
  2. Diverse Workforce: Companies with a multicultural workforce benefit from cross-cultural coaching to foster a harmonious and inclusive work environment, reducing misunderstandings and conflicts.
  3. Virtual Teams: In virtual work settings, where team members are spread across different countries and time zones, cross-cultural coaching helps bridge communication gaps and build cohesive teams.
  4. Global Partnerships: When forming partnerships or collaborations with businesses from different cultural backgrounds, cross-cultural coaching facilitates effective communication and relationship-building.
  5. Effective Communication: Clear communication is vital for any company. Cross-cultural coaching aids in understanding how language, tone, and nonverbal cues can differ across cultures, preventing misinterpretations.
  6. Negotiations: Successful negotiations often depend on understanding cultural norms, values, and communication styles. Cross-cultural coaching enhances negotiation skills in diverse contexts.
  7. Leadership Development: Leaders managing multicultural teams require skills in cross-cultural communication, conflict resolution, and team motivation. Coaching helps develop these skills.
  8. Customer Relations: Companies with diverse customer bases need to understand cultural preferences and communication styles to provide excellent customer service.
  9. Employee Integration: When hiring international talent, cross-cultural coaching eases their integration into the company culture and helps them adapt to the new work environment.
  10. Cultural Sensitivity: Companies aiming to demonstrate cultural sensitivity and respect in their operations can benefit from cross-cultural coaching to avoid unintentional cultural faux pas.
  11. Global Assignments: Employees on international assignments require coaching to adapt to the local culture, work practices, and norms of the host country.
  12. Resolving Conflicts: Cross-cultural coaching equips employees and managers with skills to resolve conflicts arising from cultural differences effectively.

Incorporating cross-cultural coaching into your company’s development strategy can create a more inclusive, productive, and harmonious workplace that is better equipped to navigate the challenges of a diverse global landscape.


What Are the Benefits of Cross-Cultural Coaching?


Now that we have explored when cross-cultural coaching can be applied, let’s delve deeper into how organisations can effectively benefit from it to enhance their intercultural competence and overall success.

People often focus on the benefits that intercultural training brings to individuals. What is forgotten is how these benefits are then reflected into the company or organisation that they work in. Here are the main positive impacts:

  1. Improved communication: Much of cross-cultural training is in essence about communicating with people clearly and avoiding misunderstandings. It helps employees become better at understanding each other’s perspectives and behaviors, regardless of their culture or background. It can also help them understand how they might be perceived by others in the workplace, to understand how to listen, what to listen for and how to interpret what they hear within a much broader framework of understanding. This allows them to remove all the barriers such as preconceptions, prejudices and stereotypes that obstruct our understanding of other people and promotes self-confidence, open relationships and dialogue. As such, it promotes clear lines of communication and better relationships, allowing all teams to cooperate more effectively, managers to direct their team members better, sales staff to be more attentive to their clients’ concerns etc.
  1. Productivity and Efficiency: Employees who can understand each other better not only help them work together through developing communication, but also impacts other areas such as recruitment, management, meetings styles, leadership, reward schemes, and retention. All this combined helps an organisation perform and therefore positively impacts productivity and efficiency. A company with employees who are trained and aware of multi-cultural differences is always going to have a competitive advantage over its rivals.
  1. Long Term Success: The businesses that succeed in the long term are those that can tap the limitless bounties of the global economy. However, in order to do so, you need people with the right skills, experience, knowledge and understanding. Having employees that are flexible in manner and open in mind can approach the challenges of working in foreign environments much more easily.

Fostering intercultural competence through cross-cultural coaching not only benefits individuals but also translates into substantial advantages for companies, including improved communication, heightened productivity, and a stronger position for long-term success in today’s globalised business landscape.


In conclusion, cultural misunderstandings while travelling or in international business stem from historical values shaping diverse cultures. Cross-cultural coaching, vital for global companies, not only promotes better communication and understanding but also boosts productivity and efficiency. In the long term, investing in culturally aware employees positions businesses for success in an interconnected world.

Celine Senior HR Advisor

About the Author:

With over 20 years' experience in Human Resources, working across both government & private sectors, Celine is an expert at her craft. As a Senior HR Advisor, Celine has extensive experience working across different industries, advising clients on a wide range of HR topics.
Read more about Celine Rethore.