Coaching and mentoring – going global and cultural aspects

coaching and mentoring – going global and cultural aspects

coaching and mentoring  –  going global – When it comes to coaching and mentoring – going global  there remains no doubt that coaching and mentoring also provides self-knowledge to those who are designated with overseas assignments, alerting them to any shortcomings and more importantly, providing an action plan to address skills gaps.

As coaches and mentors, the challenge for managers in coaching and mentoring – going global is to prepare those who report to them to be both locally and globally focussed.  Just as they are domestically responsible for guiding those they coach or mentor in order that they may develop the skills, abilities and knowledge to succeed in their current jobs or advance into more responsible positions, so must they be able to support those that they coach and mentor in order for them to keep pace with accelerated change in the global marketplace.

Whether the global business entails a joint venture or partnership, merger or simply a new market for an existing product, there are cultural issues that need to be considered.  Culture can be described in several ways.  It is a way of life shared by all or almost all within an area, that older members of the group pass on to younger members and that shapes behaviour and structures world view.  Culture reflects our thinking, doing and living; that is, it includes our values, beliefs, myths and folklore.  It also includes the laws, customs, regulations, ceremonies, fashions and etiquette by which we live,  encompassing language as well as clothing, tools and food.

In coaching and mentoring – going global when it comes to the role of coaches and mentors and in the role of business mentor is to guide those that they mentor in terms of direction and with a certain appreciation of the culture in which they will work whether the assignment is short or long term.  As a business mentor this involves ensuring that those they coach are aware of nine distinct factors that, acting one upon the other, create the culture of a country or region.  Let’s now take a look at these cultural factors.


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When it comes to religion this may be the single most influential factor in cultural thinking and thereby living and doing.  Religion forms the foundation for many beliefs and norms and determines what is most important in life.  Many religious texts describe how one should eat, dress, relate to others and work.



Education determines how knowledge, skills and attitudes are transmitted.  Education may be formal, (primary, secondary, higher and vocational), non-formal (structured but not from any academic system, such as on-the-job training), or informal (unstructured, such as learning from one’s parents).  Certain societies encourage rote learning in an environment with complete, absolute respect and obedience to the instructor while other societies support participative learning with a more egalitarian relationship between teacher and student.



Societies may be capitalist based, government controlled or a combination of both.  Recent events in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa indicate a rapid movement towards a more capitalistic, free-market economy.  even in these formerly centrally planned economic systems.  But, economists expect the impact of Marxist economics to influence the culture of these societies for many years to come.



In considering politics, we are talking about both political structures as well as activities related to the allocation and use of power.   Political systems range from totalitarian to democratic and may exclude specific groups based on ethnicity, gender, age or economic status.



The concept of family within a culture can range from nuclear (immediate) family to extended (including grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles).  The nuclear family has limited interaction outside the family members which means that family members are free to ignore the demands of extended family but also may mean that family members are free to choose their marriage partners, professions and living arrangements.  In extended families, found in most of Asia, Africa and Latin America, the obligation to family members overrides the desires and wishes of the individual which means that all family members, but especially a son, are expected to remain with the family to support it in whatever way they can.




While we may not realise it, the words and structures in our language strongly reflect our values and beliefs.  For instance, English is a very direct and active language.  If we like something, we say so, if we don’t, we also say so.  On the other hand, Japanese is a less direct language in which opinions are softened.  Indeed, communications between the two groups often become confused since Americans for instance mistake the word ‘yes’ for acceptance rather than acknowledgement that an issue is under consideration.  Not only is English more direct, it is also less formal.  For instance, in English there is only one form of the second person for both singular and plural.  Yet, by contract, in Vietnamese there are many counterparts of ‘you’ and each is dependent upon age, gender, relationship, number and status.  The consequences in terms of cultural are self-evident in that it is more natural for an American to be informal and egalitarian than for a Vietnamese.


Class Structure

 In open class structures people may choose to move up, down or laterally in the system without incurring major difficulties.  However, within a closed society one’s position is determined and limited by who one is – that is, by birth rather than by accomplishment.  India has a class system that is very closed whereas the US has an very open class structure.



 There remains no doubt that a society’s history impacts its culture.  China has a long and glorious history which has given the Chinese a very different perspective on time than those in a newly-formed nation in Africa.  Colonised countries in Africa and Asia have many values derived from and/or in contradiction to their colonisers.  Arabs identify with the military achievements of Muhammad and his successors.  The US takes pride in the rugged western history and rapid industrialisation and the democratic system that came about following the Declaration of Independence in 1776.



A case in point is that the events of September 11 2001 have clearly demonstrated how different perspectives exist between those whose land is made up of vast farmland, forests and valuable minerals and those with a scarcity of arable land.  Whereas one has contributed to America’s optimism and confidence and perhaps excessive materialism, the other may perhaps explain the more fatalistic viewpoint of the Arabic nations.

Nevertheless, as a business mentor, when it comes to coaching and mentoring – culturex is not as simple as the nine factors describe above suggest.  Most countries also have many ethnic cultures within their borders and these influences also play a significant role.

Likewise, in terms of corporate culture, each organisation has a distinct culture that is passed down from older to newer members of the organisation and determines management thinking.

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