My book, The Cross-Cultural Kaleidoscope, was written over a period of four years, in a pre-Brexit world. This called for an increase in cultural understanding, thanks to the forces of globalisation, increased mobility and the impact of technology, bringing about multi-cultural societies and new ways of working.
Little could I have imagined that as the book gets launched, ‘hate crimes’ in the UK would have risen by forty-two per cent compared with the same period last year, and my own (‘foreign’) husband would have been commanded to leave – and we live in a sleepy Oxfordshire village, where nothing much happens – normally. These are not normal times.
Whilst specifically aimed at coaching practitioners, educators and global leaders, the book is set in a context of 21st century globalisation, and yet points to the need to be aware of the dangers of racial hatred, stereotyping and of our own unconscious bias. In the introduction, I quote from the late Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, who identified fanaticism, or cultural hatred, as a “source of danger; the gravest of all”. Sadly, we are seeing evidence of this.
This book is not a political statement, rather it suggests that, “there is a universal longing to be known, to be understood. Unfortunately, the experience is rare” (Scott).
However, the other side of this coin appears to be a relentless resurgence in the assertion that we are all alike, in unity. The only thing we really have in common is that we are all part of the human race. In the ‘happy clappy’ world of ‘we are all the same’ we are actually in as much danger of oppressing unique differences, marginalizing voices and causing disrespect to others – despite good intentions. I quote from Derald Wing Sue and David Sue who assert: “it is ironic that equal treatment in therapy may be discriminatory treatment”. In other words, people generally want to be respected for who they are and treated as such. Omitting to honour this could be having entirely the opposite outcome from that intended.
My contention is that we have an ethical and moral obligation to be aware of the fact that we each have our own unique cultural landscape. This comes from a rich tapestry of influences formed during our socialization process. It is impacted by economic, legislative and political conditions, by our education, the community, the arts, the cultural norms of the day, history, religious and spiritual beliefs and even the geographical location and climate. All of these factors contribute to tendencies or group norms but more specifically to how we make meaning about oneself, our concept of self – our cultural self.
These external and internal influences are not static. They can shift according to a change in circumstances, location and across the lifespan. They can even conflict and have to be ‘unlearned’, given a change of location, context, organization, team or culture.
Thus, the Cross-Cultural Kaleidoscope™ model was born. It draws on research conducted over the past decade, in both theory and practice, and pays particular attention to the context in which our global leaders are operating. Namely, chaos. The Cross-Cultural Kaleidoscope™ model provides a framework from which to raise an understanding of the complexity behind our cultural influences. To date, this has been largely misunderstood, yet impacts our thoughts, emotions and behaviours and, therefore, our working practices, leadership styles and organization cultures.
The assertion that a systems approach to coaching practice delivers a greater appreciation of this complexity is prevalent throughout the book. This is particularly vital in multinational corporations, multi-cultural teams and during times of transition.
Use of the Kaleidoscope model in practice is explained, and calls into question a ‘one size fits all’ approach to coaching practice that assumes universality, freedom of choice and individualism. Thus, a call for an increase in culturally derived understanding and culturally appropriate responsibility becomes a central tenet of the book.
Drawing on many years of international business experience, a multi-disciplinary theoretical body of knowledge, an intercultural coaching practice and a multi-cultural marriage, I relate personal stories and research quotations and offer coaching tips and techniques for practitioners as they navigate the complexity and ambiguity of the intercultural world.
Jenny Plaister-Ten is a consultant, coach and trainer. She has held senior positions for companies such as ICL/Fujitsu and Compaq/HP and has lived and worked in Asia, the USA and the Netherlands. She founded a marketing consultancy in Singapore and is now Director of 10 Consulting Ltd. Jenny is married inter-culturally and has a son who attended the European School and enjoys a multi-cultural lifestyle in both the Netherlands and the UK.
Her new book, The Cross-Cultural Kaleidoscope™: A Systems Approach to Coaching Amongst Different Cultural Influences, is published this week by Karnac.
Reviews and Endorsements
‘Without doubt the most significant text in the field of intercultural coaching for a decade. Enjoyable, insightful, evidence-based and provocative, this is an essential volume on the coach’s bookshelf.’
– Professor David Clutterbuck, David Clutterbuck Partnership
‘Jennifer Plaister-Ten challenges all of us who are coaching in a global organisation to think about the impact of culture on our work in a much deeper and more thoughtful way. This is a brilliant, challenging and informative book that is a must-read for coaches working in multinational organisations.’
– Sally Bonneywell, VP Coaching, Talent, Leadership and Organisation Development CoE, GlaxoSmithKline
‘This book is vital reading for coaches who work in a cross-cultural setting, which, as the author suggests, means all of us. The text enhances awareness of the influence of culture for both the coach and the client and enables reflection on what it means to work with different cultural influences. The implications for practice are vast.’
– Dr Elaine Cox, Co-Director of the International Centre for Coaching and Mentoring Studies, Oxford Brookes University
‘Jennifer Plaister-Ten brings a valuable contribution to intercultural coaching by exploring in depth the multi-faceted cultural influences that shape our perceptions. She promotes a dynamic and inclusive notion of culture, which is very much needed in today’s complex and turbulent environment.’
– Philippe Rosinski, Principal, Rosinski and Company, Belgium
‘A very useful, culture-sensitive approach to the often essentially ethnocentric pursuit of coaching – long overdue and going far beyond the few existing cultural takes on coaching and mentoring.’
– Professor Peter Franklin, Asian Studies and Management, Konstanz University of Applied Sciences, Germany
‘The model that Jennifer Plaister-Ten has developed through her research is a helpful tool for coaches to examine and challenge their own assumptions. In South Africa, where cultural differences and belief systems were emphasised to keep the Apartheid system alive, this tool could be very useful in helping us all to challenge those assumptions and belief systems that we were socialised into believing to be the ‘truth’ about our fellow citizens.’
– Dr Lloyd Chapman, author and executive coach, Philos Performance, South Africa