What does intercultural competence feel like?
For me it is the Ri stage in the Japanese Martial Arts concept. The end of a journey of diligence, dedication and attention to detail. By the time we reach Ri we have integrated the traditional wisdom of the masters and are now equipped to separate and leave. At this stage our moves are natural, becoming one with the spirit of events and the people in them.
How do we become one?
Answered simply – when organisations grasp that culture is dynamic and begin to understand that time abroad ≠ intercultural competence. When we create an organisational setting which values acquiring intercultural competence as the priority. When we steer the individual towards reflection, adaptation and culturally adapted solutions as a style of leading and interaction – stress testing them on the job.
From unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence – 4 steps to getting there.
The 4 Steps to Competence presents a framework for self-management and performance review.
At the outset of any new assignment we are rightly confident, exuberant even. We are, however, in a state of unconscious incompetence where diversity can provide unexpected challenges. It is our awareness, openness, cultural sensory perception and adaptation that will decide whether we move up to the next stage of learning. Seeing conscious incompetence as a natural stage to progression would act as a propulsion for the individual into the next stage of conscious incompetence. The opposite, avoidance, with all the camouflaging behaviours typical of this cycle should not be an option.
For most of us this stage is very uncomfortable, one we want to remove ourselves from quickly. Not too quickly though because it is here we need the patience and diligence to construct our way out – and this is cultural competence. We will draw on all our reserves of situational courage and our skill in communicating across differing worldviews. We will arrive, chastened, humbled but well equipped at conscious competence when we master these attitudes and behaviours.
Ri – the final stage in attaining competence is unconscious competence. To enter and attain our Ri however our executives need to remain consciously adaptive, to be able to assess and change style depending on the global context and the diversity of the set of people involved. Ri then represents a permanent state of flowing conscious competence – elevated on the shoulder of the masters, eyes forward, at the helm, steering a steady course in choppy seas.
A note about the author – Bernie Wrafter is a trainer, facilitator and coach. She runs a consultancy working with German and Swiss based multinationals coaching and nudging nationals from all continents to experience transcultural managerial gems! Her passion is high functioning diversity in teams, transnational management development, and successful conflict mediation across cultures.
She has studied and worked in the UK, USA and Germany, is a native of Ireland (though rejects national categorisations.) Rather, she identifies herself as “at home in the world, but seldom at home.”