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Culture Precedes Everything Else

Karen Kirchner

SVP/Director Team Member Services, Customers Bank

At Customers Bank, we firmly believe the pillars of success are IQ, AQ and EQ. Most business leaders acknowledge that the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is vital in determining a potential candidate’s ability to perform specific tasks associated with a position. IQ is what gets an individual in the door for an interview; however, it is the Adaptability Quotient (AQ) and the Emotional Quotient (EQ) that determine if the candidate is a good fit for an organization’s culture.

An equally crucial offshoot of EQ that has been getting a lot of attention lately due to current events is the Cultural Quotient (CQ). While EQ focuses on one’s ability to have self-awareness and empathy, CQ picks up where EQ leaves off to focus on cultural intelligence and the ability to work and relate effectively across cultures. This awareness can include the ability to recognize unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures and phrases, as well as cultural differences to avoid misunderstandings.

CQ becomes vitally important in business environments where the workforce is becoming more diverse and industries are increasingly dealing with diverse cultures. Cultural differences can be as subtle as changes in management styles between the offices of a single company or they can be strikingly apparent, such as when two multi-national corporations based in different countries try to collaborate on a project.

In the technology sector, there’s been a recent push led by tech giants like Microsoft, Google and other industry juggernauts to reevaluate the terminology that could be misconstrued by industry insiders and outsiders. Most industries widely accept using terms such as whitelisting and blacklisting to refer to trusted vendors and applications, but that does not make these terms any less offensive. Among other terminology the tech industry is trying to address are labels like master and slave, which refer to a model where one device controls other identical devices. The prevalence of a term does not make it any less offensive and it is very encouraging to see industry leaders step up to become more culturally aware.

Just like the tech sectors desire to be more inclusive and culturally aware, the good news is that individuals can improve their CQ. Several years ago, Harvard Business Review published an in-depth article on this topic that included several examples that demonstrated the importance of Cultural Intelligence and how it can affect one’s career growth.

Anyone looking to improve their CQ skills would benefit from the steps identified in the article to build greater cultural awareness. Continually developing one’s CQ abilities enables us to grow and expand beyond our own experiences. This personal growth is critical to recognizing the importance and influence of cultural differences and appreciating how they can change our lives.