Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Cultural Intelligence is on Me

Written by: on January 31, 2019

Erin Meyer’s The Culture Map is a much easier and much more relevant read related to my research area. While not especially an academic book, it speaks to how our global communities and individuals today try to get things done across cultures. While often utilizing business examples and challenges, I believe the concepts in this book are applicable anywhere cultural rifts impede individuals from different cultures collaborating (perhaps such as serving together within a local church or local churches working together within a community).

The Culture Map stands out as a practical book to explain and frame a very difficult collection of concepts that are increasingly relevant today. The author acknowledges and reinforces that even she herself did not start independent of any cultural bias as we all have. It is encouraging to learn to grow in this way.[1] This reviewer of our text states the obvious, we all start with a cultural bias. Unfortunately, the most destructive default is to not recognize our own culturally informed uniqueness (i.e., bias) and instead simply see the other as different and perhaps less than.

Statistics was my minor within my undergraduate degree (I started as a Math major). Therefore, I am always highly interested in how data is accumulated, compiled, graphed and most importantly, interpreted or applied. I found Meyer’s eight scale model resulting from her decade of research, curious in the scales chosen, the polar extremes utilized, and left me wondering how the data from individuals of various cultures were derived. However, I found her application of the eight scale model most intriguing. That is, “what matters is not the absolute position of either culture on the scale but rather the relative position of the two cultures. It is this relative positioning that determines how people view one another.”[2] Meyer emphasizes that this cultural relativity, this expression of cultural intelligence, is the vital link to beginning to understand the impact of culture on human interfaces (especially communication) between even highly motivated individuals pursuing a common goal (e.g., profit, growth, market share).

I was then fascinated how the derivative of cultural relativity was a better understanding of one’s own culture. I know for me when I gain greater clarity about how my own culture informs my human interactions, I believe this newfound clarity to be an epiphany. Meyer states, “It is only when you start to identify what is typical in your culture, but different from others, that you can begin to open a dialogue of sharing, learning, and ultimately understanding.”[3] This application fascinates me because often social science applications within business focus on how to get others to work together or how to get you to work with me. Instead, Meyer places the derivative of the application upon me as the agent of cultural learning and understanding.

I initiated this post by claiming this text is highly relevant to my research area. Perhaps like many of you, I continue to refine the research question, NPO, and resolution. I see coaching as a powerful set of tools to help groups of pastors learn adaptive leadership skills across cultures and therefore, globally. I am reminded of an application of cultural relativity I learned from a coaching class I am currently taking. This online class of some eight coaches located in several countries are striving to improve their coaching skills. The class includes a coach of Chinese descent who is located in southeast Asia. He shared how explaining the Chinese symbol of listening helped a coach understand the coaching skill of active listening.

He went on to explain how the left side of the symbol represents an ear. The right side represents the other individual. The eyes and undivided attention are next, and finally, there is the heart. This symbol illustrates for us that to listen; we must use both ears, watch and maintain eye contact, give undivided attention, and finally be empathetic.[4] This simple illustration reminded me how often my culture does not listen holistically and therefore, not as well. Once again, I am now more open for dialogue, learning, sharing, and with the Spirit’s insight, understanding.

[1] Rawn Shah, “’The Culture Map’ Shows Us The Differences In How We Work”, https://www.forbes.com/sites/…/the-culture-map-shows-us-how-we-wok-worldwide/ Oct 6, 2014.

[2] Meyer, Erin, The Culture Map: Decoding How People Think, Lead, And Get Things Done Across Cultures (New York, NY: PublicAffairs, 2014) 22.

[3] Meyer, The Culture Map, 244.

[4] Google, “Chinese symbol for listening” (accessed 01/31/2019).

About the Author

Harry Fritzenschaft

Harry is the Coordinator of Coaching for Multiply Vineyard (the church planting resource arm for Vineyard USA) and part-time pastor of business administration for the Vineyard Church of Houston. He is a certified coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and is pursuing a DMin in Leadership and Global Perspective with a focus on internal coaching networks. Harry has been married to Gloria for almost forty-two years and has two grown children; Michelle, who is married to Brandon and has two sons (Caleb and Judah), and Mark, who is engaged to Cannus. He loves making new friends (living and dead) from different perspectives, watching college football with Mark, and helping global ministry leaders (especially church planters and pastors) accomplish their goals in fulfilling their call. He especially loves learning about and nurturing internal coaching networks.

12 responses to “Cultural Intelligence is on Me”

  1. Hey Harry. I appreciate your post. I too wondered how she managed to come up with the make up of the cultural map, i.e, Communicating, Evaluating, Persuading, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in general agreement with everything she’s mentioned in the book. But the other side of me would be very interested in (1) methodology; and (2) how the data was gathered.

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Harry, I am sure there is much research regarding survey questions, compiling answers, and drawing conclusions. If you were looking for scales of cultural relativity, what other areas would you address? Perhaps especially as it addresses individuals working together within a church across cultures? Thanks so much for your thoughts.

  2. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Thank you Harry. Beautiful visual of the Chinese character for listening. Very profound.

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Jacob, thanks so much for your reflective thoughts. What has been a poignant example of learning and assimilating cultural relativity for you? Thanks and take care.

  3. Mario Hood says:

    Wow, loved the breakdown of the Chinese character as well. You reminded of something I wanted to put in my post but forget, and that is the idea of framing that Meyer brings up and you pointed out. It’s not just where we fall but where we fall in a relationship of the other. That is what culture awareness is all about and a great tool in coaching.

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Mario, thanks so much for your thoughts and insights. Where have you experienced effective coaching utilizing cultural relativity? As always, thanks for stretching my thinking.

  4. Mary Mims says:

    Harry, I like how you are combining the Culture Maps, by Meyer with what you are doing with coaching. I think this will be very helpful in our multicultural world. Already from our cohort, we see so many different cultures, and natures represented. I can see how this is much needed.

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Mary, Thanks so much for the encouragement! Effective coaching skills are highly contextual to one’s culture and setting. I need to continue to learn from others so I can help the coaches I develop make cultural relativity part of the DNA of their coaching skills.

  5. Sean Dean says:

    I’m reminded of one of my New Testament classes in seminary (I believe, might have been undergrad), where the professor explained that in the Hebrew mindset there is a difference between listening and hearing. It is easy to listen – to let sound enter your ears and processed by your brain. Harder to hear and understand what the other is saying. Your love of coaching and reflections from the book remind me that we must be mindful to hear the other rather than simply listening to them talk. I think Meyer’s book is a good start to help us hear each other. Thanks for your reflection.

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      Sean, What I love most of Meyer’s work is utilizing cultural relativity to learn more about my culture. This awareness then motivates me to become more vulnerable (perhaps to your great focus, more hospitable) to enter into their culture. Thanks so much for the Hebrew insight.

  6. Rhonda Davis says:

    Thank you for your post, Harry. I enjoy hearing more about your coaching context. I’m sure you have encountered complex scenarios where you and those you are coaching land at very different points of Meyer’s scale. How do you hold these points in tension? Do you have tools, like Meyer, to breakdown communication barriers between you and the client, or between two clients?

  7. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Rhonda, From my experience I take great pains to try and discern the communication style of the one being coached (this is true of both clients as well as coaches). That is, I try to match their pace, tone, amount of silence, and even choice of words. I do this to honor their style and also to reflect back to them what they are saying. Of course, I am limited to English but am sure this would even be more essential for multilingual applications. To your point, I recognize this tension and train coaches to overcome this by letting go of their communication style and enter into their clients. Thanks so much for your questions, they stretch my thinking.

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