SELECT PERSPECTIVES BLOG

Do You Know What Your CQ Score Is?

Posted by  Esteban Tristan, Ph.D.

IQ.  EQ.  It seems that these days we have a “Q”, or quotient, for every sort of ability.  In fact, there is a good chance you have probably taken some sort of survey which has tested you on these abilities.  But do you happen to know what your CQ score is?  If you have not heard about CQ yet, it stands for cultural intelligence, and it is getting increasing press in academic and business psychology.  CQ is a person’s ability to function successfully in settings that are culturally diverse (Earley & Ang, 2003).

So what’s so special about CQ?  After all, if we have a good idea of someone’s overall intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ), do we really need another “Q” in our lexicon?  Well, the answer is…yes. Think about it – the workplace has been becoming increasingly global now for years, and for many it’s been the norm for quite some time.  In fact, according to the United Nations, the number of multi-national companies has doubled since 1990.  The chances that you work or interact with someone from another country or culture have never been higher.   It used to be that you had to travel internationally to really be able to interact with other cultures, but with today’s technology and growing globalization trends, now you can interact with international customers or co-workers anytime from your office or cubicle.  And, this can apply to anyone from the C-Suite to a customer service rep on the phone.

Most of us have heard stories about “ugly Americans”, who come across as culturally ignorant or insensitive when traveling abroad.  Taking this approach in the work setting can be detrimental.  In fact, research shows that CQ is related to better expatriate adjustment and job performance on overseas assignments.  This is not surprising, given that cultural differences can influence various attitudes and behaviors related to leadership, communication style, and decision-making.

But what exactly makes someone culturally intelligent?   Is it simply knowing about other cultures or speaking the local language?   Is it about being adaptable and open-minded?  Or does it just boil down to being more self-aware and having good interpersonal skills?  Actually, it has to do with all of these things.   CQ is a multi-faceted ability that can be broken down into four separate factors:

1. CULTURAL AWARENESS - The first factor is whether a person is consciously aware of cross-cultural factors present in any given situation.  An example might be whether you are aware that you are talking too much when interacting with people from high context cultures, such as East Asians, who tend to speak less than Americans.  That’s because in high context cultures, such as China or Japan, many things are left unsaid and just a few words can convey very complex messages (Hall, 1976).  In contrast, low context cultures such as the US or UK, require you to communicate more frequently and explicitly.
2. CULTURAL KNOWLEDGE - The second factor relates to a person’s knowledge of other cultures which they have learned from their own educational or personal experiences.  In our previous example, this pertains to you actually knowing that East Asians tend to speak less and place more emphasis on non-verbal cues.
3. DESIRE TO LEARN - The third factor is one’s desire to learn about other cultures and the amount of effort extended toward seeking this knowledge.  This is whether you really want to know about cultural differences in communication and whether you actively learn about them.
4. ABILITY TO ADAPT - Last but not least is the actual ability to behave appropriately in cross-cultural interactions, via verbal and nonverbal behaviors.  Just because you know others are talking less and love East Asian culture, it doesn’t automatically mean you will be able to adapt your behavior and quiet down in this particular situation – you have to have the ability to do so.

In summary, CQ is much more than just speaking the language, loving other cultures, or just having good social skills.  It is a sum of various abilities, each of which plays a key role in this complex and increasingly relevant psychological construct.  The next time you jump on a conference call with a client overseas, think about your CQ.  Human resource managers, particularly those working in companies with a global reach or international aspirations, may want to build the CQ factors into their selection and evaluation processes to ensure that their employees possess the ideal level of CQ to be successful.

Earley, P.C., & Ang, S. (2003).  Cultural intelligence: Individual interactions across cultures.  Standford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Hall, E.T. (1976) Beyond culture. Oxford, England: Anchor Press.

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Tags:   hiring, talent management, Talent Strategy, legally defensible, employee assessments

Esteban Tristan, Ph.D.

Esteban is the Director of Safety Solutions at Select International. He manages the development and implementation of all safety solutions and services, which address some of the critical challenges faced by organizations today in workplace safety.

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