Exemplifying the Importance of Cultural Intelligence on a Distant Team

People with a deep understanding of culture have empathy as their fundamental quality. It is essential to take into account the viewpoint of others in order to fully comprehend the situation, especially when working within a decentralized team.

Teams are often formed with a commonality in qualities and characteristics in mind. It can be incredibly beneficial to be working alongside a colleague who has a shared enthusiasm for innovation, creativity and autonomy.

But ideological unanimity leads to a deadlock at best.

For this reason, increasing diversity is an inherent benefit of using Works to recruit remote engineers from across the globe.

Despite the increasing emphasis on the importance of diverse teams, Dr. David Livermore, a leading authority on the topic, cautions that having a variety of people without a clear purpose can be risky. In fact, research has shown that, due to the interpersonal tensions that can arise, diverse groups often perform worse than more uniform teams.

Your distributed team is lacking Cultural Intelligence if it is to maximize the value of its accumulated knowledge (CI).

Why is it important for distributed teams to have cultural competence

Having a basic understanding of different cultures is just the start when it comes to having cultural intelligence. It is important to recognize that people may have dissimilarities based on gender, skin color, religion, sexual orientation or even political views.

As the upcoming election approaches, it is inevitable that political discussions will arise amongst colleagues in the workplace. Depending on the views expressed, there could be a risk of certain members of the team feeling excluded or alienated.

It’s crucial to learn how to work around and capitalize on these differences without generating a gap.

It has been suggested that those who have a diverse range of individuals in their teams, in terms of nationalities, ethnicities, functions and philosophies, coupled with a strong cultural drive, are more likely to generate innovative solutions to problems.

A recent analysis conducted by McKinsey has revealed that organizations with a more diverse workforce are 35% more likely to generate financial returns that are higher than the national sector median. This demonstrates the value of having a workforce that is composed of individuals from a range of backgrounds.

Using the Four CQ Abilities with Remote Groups

The Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) publication Cultural Intelligence: The Essential Intelligence for the 21st Century (PDF) outlines four subskills which make up the Culture Quotient (CQ). These subskills are essential for successful functioning in the 21st century.

CQ Drive

The concept of Cultural Intelligence stems from an individual’s capacity and eagerness to interact and work with people who have different values and worldviews. This is determined by assessing an individual’s willingness and capability to collaborate with those who come from different backgrounds.

For someone who has a strongly ingrained aversion to different cultures, the implementation of workplace regulations alone will not be sufficient to encourage true collaboration.

Having a diverse group of people on such a team can only lead to drama and lower productivity.

There are three components that make up CQ Drive, and they are as follows:

  • When recruiting new staff members, it is essential to look for individuals who demonstrate an intrinsic interest in acquiring knowledge about different cultures and worldviews for the sheer pleasure of gaining such knowledge. It is also important that these individuals share a genuine passion for the culture of the company they are joining.
  • Having an understanding of the cultural norms of colleagues in a remote team can be hugely beneficial, and the advantages that this cross-cultural competence brings can be seen and felt in many tangible ways. As such, those who are particularly attuned to the cultural norms of their colleagues may have a distinct advantage over those who are not.
  • One’s self-efficacy reflects how comfortable they feel contributing to a multi-ethnic team.

During the recruiting process, CQ Drive is invaluable.

CQ-Level Information

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is comprised of two facets: CQ Knowledge and CQ Skills. CQ Knowledge entails having an understanding of global cultural differences and how they shape the workplace. This involves having awareness of different cultural values, norms and expectations, and being able to understand how they can affect communication and collaboration with colleagues from different backgrounds. This knowledge can be acquired through research and learning from others.

CQ Knowledge has two components:

  • A broad familiarity with cultural practises; a view from above, so to speak.
  • It is essential to have an understanding of the specific context in order to be successful in a certain market. For example, if your IT firm has a presence in Latin America or is recruiting locally, it is essential that the rest of the team is familiar with the cultural values and customs of the region. This includes knowledge of the usual methods of communication, production and general thought processes that are particular to that culture.

North Americans generally have a Universalist attitude when it comes to following the law, believing that everyone should be held to the same standard. In contrast, most people from Latin America typically have a Particularist outlook, advocating rules that are dependent on the situation and the relationships between people. However, it should not be assumed that these differences represent a valid generalization about entire civilizations.

The most widely discussed element of Cultural Intelligence (CI) is Cultural Intelligence Knowledge (CQ Knowledge). This concept suggests that both employees and managers should widen their awareness of the world beyond their own environment. Unfortunately, it is too late to modify this now, however, the research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) highlights the necessity of incorporating CQ Knowledge with the other three competencies if one desires to enhance the Cultural Intelligence of their organization.

CQ Methodology

Someone with a high capacity for metacognitive thinking in Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is able to anticipate potential obstacles and issues, keep track of interactions and adjust their behavior accordingly. This is a key strength of those who possess an advanced CQ Strategy.

CQ Strategy consists of the following three components:

  • Having the foresight to be prepared for a situation where cultural complexity is a factor is essential. This involves being mindful of the potential for cultural differences and taking the necessary steps to ensure that any potential new team members are thoroughly researched and their backgrounds are fully understood.
  • Awareness, both of one’s own thoughts and those of the other individual engaged in an intercultural exchange, is essential. For example, they could have an understanding of how to make a meaningful contribution during their initial team gathering.
  • Interaction-based checking involves taking notes and increasing one’s understanding of cultural norms. Through observing their behavior in meetings, for example, it is possible to gain valuable insights into how to effectively collaborate with a new colleague.

CQ Strategy connects the dots between being aware of cultural differences and making the most of them.

CQ in Action

It is important to be cognizant of the different cultural norms that exist and to be able to act in a way that is appropriate and respectful. It is also essential to recognize when it is not necessary to make adjustments to accommodate the cultural variations that exist. This is what I refer to as ‘cultural intelligence in action’.

CQ Action is comprised of the following three components:

  • Intercultural communication is based on speech actions, or the use of culturally-specific language to convey understanding.
  • Changes in intonation, loudness, and tempo of speech may be used to convey emotion.
  • Nonverbal communication includes actions such as making facial expressions, employing body language, and limiting eye contact.

Critical thinking in action means trying new ways of interacting and assessing their effectiveness.

Learn how to assess and improve the cultural savvy of your distributed workforce.

The Assessment of CQ

The results of a CQ test may shed light on the areas of weakness in your staff’s CI, allowing you to take corrective action.

Composite Cultural Quotient (CQ) is a widely used metric in many examinations. Instruments such as the Multicultural Personality Questionnaire (MPQ), the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), the Implicit Association Test (IAT), the Intercultural Adjustment Potential Scale (ICAPS), and the Cultural Intelligence Scale (CIS) are all examples of multi-rater assessments (360-degree feedback) which measure an individual’s CQ.

But in order to choose the proper test, you must first have a clear idea of what it is you want to quantify.

The Modifiable Personality Questionnaire (MPQ) is one of the assessments that is conducted in order to gain insight into an individual’s fixed attitudes, which can be highly pertinent in understanding how they may interact with others in a team setting. It is therefore important to be aware of such attitudes, as they could potentially have a significant effect on the cohesion and functionality of a team.

CQ Implementation

Team composition, task assignments, customer expectations and geographical factors all have considerable impacts on the quality of the work produced. One-to-one instruction is the most effective approach to educate employees on how to improve the quality of their outputs.

However, there are characteristics and actions that may be fostered to enable CI thrive in your remote teams. Like:

  • Open dialogue should be encouraged at all times.
  • Boost group confidence.
  • Foster adaptability in working style, problem solving, and teamwork.
  • Allow workers to decide how to complete tasks on their own.
  • Honor a society that values diversity and toleration.
  • Discovering shared experiences may help team members connect.
  • To stop worrying about being correct and start caring about other people.
  • Do not allow your scattered teams to pass any kind of judgement.
  • Investigate the cultural nuances that may affect your company’s success.
  • Integrate CQ training into the onboarding process and maintain a high standard of testing and upgrading.
  • To improve CI, try rewarding good behaviour.

At Works, we understand that successful cultural learning, sensitivity to other people’s differences, and collaboration across ideological lines requires commitment from both parties. That is why we strive to find individuals who are capable of helping you make the transition. If you would like to find out more, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us via email. We look forward to hearing from you.

Join the Top 1% of Remote Developers and Designers

Works connects the top 1% of remote developers and designers with the leading brands and startups around the world. We focus on sophisticated, challenging tier-one projects which require highly skilled talent and problem solvers.
seasoned project manager reviewing remote software engineer's progress on software development project, hired from Works blog.join_marketplace.your_wayexperienced remote UI / UX designer working remotely at home while working on UI / UX & product design projects on Works blog.join_marketplace.freelance_jobs