Energized by Cross-Cultural Encounters
“The challenge for us as leaders is to see our existence not only in terms of our own interests but ultimately about things larger than us.”
Of all the books we’ve read so far, this book really rocked with me the most. David Livermore’s enthusiasm for his subject, Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is very captivating. Because of past, present, and possible future relationships with people from other cultures, it resonates with me.
Leading With Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success was well-organized but not dry. Though the title seems to indicate that it was written for leaders, it is approachable by anyone with a desire to learn how to engage with other cultures. His principles on effective communication can be used in any cultural systems which are – “the ways a society has organized itself in terms of meeting basic needs and the structures required for order.”
The heart of the book is the description of the 4 capabilities found in culturally intelligent leaders. He describes each one and gives engaging stories to illustrate how one can grasp the essential idea and put it into practice. He constantly reminds the reader that this is a learning and growing process.
One starts by examining her motivation for adapting cross-culturally. Does she have the “level of confidence and motivation for this cross-cultural assignment? If it’s lacking, what can I do to increase it?” It seems obvious that a person must try and learn as much as possible about another culture. It would take years to become an expert in any culture so Dave asks, “What cultural understanding do I need for this cross-cultural assignment?” Dave teaches how to discern what cultural differences really matter. Then he discusses ten of the most important cultural value dimensions and helpfully “clusters” the various nations of the world into each dimension, with the caution that we do not stereotype people or assume that all nations are homogenous. Once we have motivation and some knowledge it is important to strategize. We should ask, “What do I need to plan to do this cross-cultural assignment successfully?” Here Dave stresses the importance of being aware of what is going on around us. We should be able to step back and reflect. And again, it is important to keep in mind that one of the goals is to learn from what we observe and use it in the future when we plan our strategy. Finally, it is time to appropriately change our verbal and nonverbal actions in order to accomplish our objectives when dealing with other cultures. Real discernment is needed here. We need to decide “What behaviors should I adapt for this cross-cultural project?” This is not easy. Too much adaptation can generate suspicion that we are phony. Not enough of course may signal arrogance or be insulting. The idea is to be thinking about the other person as well as my objectives. An underlying tenet of good manners is unselfishness.
Learning about cultural norms is important so that we can treat people with respect. Learning the capabilities of CQ help us to do this while adapting our behavior to reach our objectives in cross-cultural encounters.
And now, a word about why I think I resonated with this book so much. I suspected very early on that Dave is a Christian. I don’t know why but I was sure when I read this quote:
“I’m very energized by cross-cultural encounters. Put me in a room full of people and the internationals in the room draw me like a magnet.” This has been my experience my whole life from the time I hung around the missionary nuns in kindergarten at Regina Coeli Catholic School to adopting 4 international kids. God has just given me a heart this way.
Once while working at a café in Minneapolis many years ago a tall, scruffy, black dude walked in and ordered coffee. He tried to pay for it with 15 pennies. (Now you know how old I really am when coffee was 15 cents!) Anyway, others may have seen a greasy, tattooed, scary-looking black man. Translation in Mary’s brain – “This looks like a guy that could use a job. We need a cook. Why don’t I ask him?” So, I did. Turns out he was just out of prison and no one would hire him. I asked him if he could cook. He said, “Yes. I have some experience.” I asked, “Can you start tomorrow?” He said, “I’ll go get my parole officer.” Jim turned out to be one of our best ever cooks.
I’m still not sure what God has for me in the future. I only know that reading all of the wonderful stories in this book makes me long for international travel especially with a purpose. For now, I think I will get and read one of Dave’s other books, What Can I Do: Making a Global Difference Right Where You Are. (published in 2011).
The other thing that made me curious about David Livermore was that I kept getting vibes all through the book that this guy’s enthusiasm was born in genuine love for people. I noticed that he lives in Grand Rapids. Our denomination’s college – Calvin College – is there. Sure enough Dave graduated with a BS in Education in 1989 from Calvin. He went on to Cornerstone University, also a Christian school. He taught intercultural studies, was a youth director, and coordinator of Global Outreach. One of his favorite authors is N.T. Wright. No wonder we jived!
Why is this important to me? I really love reading books by people who are informed by their theology and know how to be salt and light in the culture without “preaching”; They have a good Biblical worldview but don’t ‘Bible-pound’. It is a skill that I am trying to learn and this book is a great example of leading and having influence in our global world.
 David Livermore. Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success (New York: American Management Association, 2015). 63.
 Ibid. 83.
 Ibid. 47.
 Ibid. 69.
 Ibid. 138.
 Ibid. 159.
 Ibid. 44.
8 responses to “Energized by Cross-Cultural Encounters”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Some fantastic insights and additional research and digging Mary – thank you! While I didn’t love the book as much as you did, I like your emphases and your enthusiasm for knowing and understanding and loving others who are different to you – great story about Jim! Thank you.
Mary – thanks for the post…. it seems obvious to me that you would pick up on Livermore’s enthusiasm and diagnose it as a genuine love for people….. as the old children’s taunt goes – ‘It takes one to know one’…. and I have definitely seen that same love and enthusiasm in you!
I also picked up on him living in Grand rapid and immediately assumed he was CRC, Presbyterian or Dutch reformed! Isn’t everyone that lives in Grand Rapids?
Mary – I love the way you find out these other details that make the “story” even richer! I agree that Livermore seems to let his faith and theology inform his writing but he doesn’t try to make this a gospel treatise. He is just living out his calling. Thanks for highlighting that.
Great point Mary – “Too much adaptation can generate suspicion that we are phony.” Being ourselves while learning and respecting the new culture is a good method in moving forward. I also appreciate how you often inform us in your blogs about the author. It is always interesting to know the framework a person writes from. Thank you for your informative and well-written post. I so enjoy your perspective.
You always have a way of bringing my interest in a book and world experiences.
We definitely need to be intentional in our relationships with cross culture relationships.
I love your story on the cook
Really enjoyed your post Mary! I think you’ve got the heart of any cross-cultural situation: “Learning about cultural norms is important so that we can treat people with respect.”
Treating people with respect is so important. Because my family and I have lived overseas so long, and we’ve felt the sting and pain of being laughed at and mock because we were “different,” our antennas are always up for it happening in my own culture.
About a month ago my wife came home from the grocery store almost in tears. I asked her what was wrong. She said there was a women in the checkout line who could not speak English well and was struggling with the whole checkout process. The women in from of my wife began to make fun of the women and mock her. My wife said, “it sent me back to when that was me being laughed at and mocked.” Then she said, “they just don’t get it do they?” When we lose respect we have lost our humanity. As Christsians we cannot allow that to happen in our lives and in our country. Thank you for highlighting the importance of respect Mary. Enjoyed your post!
Mary this post was very interesting. Your anecdote depicts the very reality minorities face. What I would identify as the “surprise quality” factor. I have had to experience this in more ways than one. I remember one of my first evaluations in corporate I was told ” I was surprisingly articulate and professional.” Yet I had always exuded those characteristics. So I was insulted. Mary I am not condemning you. I just hope you can equally understand how people can be misperceived. I wonder if this person was a scruffy white woman how this story would have played out ?
I understand totally, Christal.
I would have hired her!!!!!!!