Is cultural quotient more important than emotional and intelligence quotient?

4 minute read
Is cultural quotient (CQ) more Important for today’s leaders than emotional and intelligence quotient? Thom Dennis, CEO of culture change and leadership development specialist Serenity in Leadership, looks at why CQ is more important than ever and examines how businesses can nurture it

Cultural quotient

Cultural quotient or cultural intelligence (CQ) is our ability to understand, remain adaptable to and thrive in differing cultural environments. While IQ (intelligence quotient) measures cognitive abilities, EQ (emotional quotient) measures emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills, CQ measures cultural awareness and sensitivity. All three are important in different contexts and situations and can be potentially developed and improved with practice and experience. With an intensified push to see the development of diverse and equitable workplaces and an increasingly global market, CQ is more relevant than ever and business leaders are more consciously and actively pursuing it within their workforce. 

How does CQ help business?

CQ is a recognised measure of how good we are at understanding cultural differences including nationality, ethnicity, culture, location, gender and age. CQ helps us understand how decisions made by businesses are influenced by the beliefs, attitudes and values of the people that make up those organisations. Culturally intelligent people are often more open-minded, interested in other people and curious about different ideas, emotionally intelligent, display empathy, values and trust, collaborate and communicate well, and can be flexible, resilient and adaptable. CQ has proven to have exponential positive impact on performance, creativity, teamwork, trust, diversity, negotiation skills, recruitment, cooperation, conflict management and communication.

So why is CQ more important now?

Leaders increasingly need more CQ to navigate the societal and political divides and health uncertainty of our volatile world.  There is an increased need for solid trust, excellent collaboration and anticipation and good communication.  We have never been more reliant on networks and aware of differences between demographics, particularly generational.  Workplaces need to be environments which understand, welcome and adapt to culture multiplicity. 

The growth of different cultures is a complex and ongoing process that has been shaped by a wide range of factors such as:

Economic growth: Over the past few decades many countries around the world have experienced significant economic growth. For instance, China has experienced rapid economic growth since the 1980s, with its GDP increasing from less than $150 billion in 1980 to over $14 trillion in 2021.

Population growth: The world's population has been steadily increasing over the past few decades, with the global population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, driven by various factors including improvements in healthcare and reductions in infant mortality rates.

Technological advances: These have led to significant growth in various industries, including telecommunications, transportation and healthcare. Take the effect on culture from the rise of smartphones which has transformed the way people communicate and access information.

Environmental importance: There has been a growing awareness of environmental issues and the need to address them locally, nationally and globally.

Global trade. This has been a major driver of economic growth from free trade agreements to the rise of multinational corporations.

Changes to social structures: Artistic styles, or social norms and trends, can enable and constrain cultural growth in many ways.  Cultural diffusion through trade, migration, war or economic hardship shapes the beliefs, traditions and practices of a culture which can inspire the next generation.

Eight ways organisations can boost their CQ

  1. Pursue diversity
    The more diverse the workforce, combined with a genuine openness to communication, the greater the chance of cultural intelligence. This makes the recruitment process all the more important.  If your business lacks diversity- perhaps you are a small organisation and it has just worked out that way - add an empty chair to meetings to represent a potential diverse customer or colleague’s perspective. Remember that diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams when CQ is high, but when CQ is low, diverse teams experience lower levels of productivity and effectiveness.

  2. Build solid communication
    Communication is key to building relationships across cultures. Learn how to communicate clearly and respectfully, taking into account cultural differences in communication styles.

  3. Don’t underestimate the significance of CQ
    Implementing formal training around CQ enables your employees to be cognizant when it comes to pursuing inclusion and understanding the importance of cultural differences and similarities. In culturally diverse situations CQ predicts personal adjustment and adaptability, judgement and decision-making, negotiation effectiveness, trust, idea sharing and innovation, leadership effectiveness and profitability and cost savings.

  4. Develop your own self-awareness
    Understand your own cultural biases, assumptions and value dimensions. Reflect on your own culture and how it shapes your behaviour and perspective. This will help you to better understand and appreciate other cultures and adopt the tips for interacting with someone with a particular value orientation.

  5. Encourage empathy, flexibility and adaptability
    Try to understand the perspectives and experiences of people from other cultures. Listen to their stories and try to put yourself in their shoes. This will help you to develop empathy and build relationships across cultures. Be open to new experiences, ideas, thoughts and ways of doing things and take the time to review andcement learning.

  6. Seek feedback
    Ask for feedback from people from different cultures to help you understand how your behaviour is perceived. Use this feedback to adjust your behaviour and communication style accordingly. Recognise that you don't know everything about other cultures and that you may make mistakes and be willing to learn and grow.

  7. Encourage informal interactions
    Social events and team-building activities are good ways to strengthen communication and awareness within a diverse group of individuals.  Understanding an individual on a personal level helps us be more aware on a micro and macro level.

  8. Encourage cultural traditions
    Respecting traditions that are important to individuals, organising training about different societal issues, or acknowledging a particular awareness day that belongs to a culture within your team, are simple ways to open the door to understanding and respect.

Thom Dennis, pictured below, is CEO of conflict resolution, culture integration and change specialists Serenity in Leadership

Thom Deninis CEO of Serenity in Leadership

Published 19 April 2023
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