How culturally-sensitive does executive/leadership coaching need to be?

I just returned from Johannesburg after leading a business and executive coach training for 27 delegates. This leads to an important question:

How different is coaching from country to country? Is coaching relevant everywhere or do some countries/cultures require so much adjustment that coaching isn't relevant?

Over the past two years I have traveled to some remarkably diverse places to lead coach trainings: Phillipines, Indonesia, Australia, United Kingdom, South Africa, and of course the United States. Meanwhile, people from Japan, Mexico, Canada, France, Poland, Romania, South America, Vietnam, and China have either travelled to me or worked via distance to become coaches.

The conclusion is unanimous: Coaching, when done right, can be a powerful force to help leaders improve results, develop key skills, and be more successful in their careers.

There are of course cultural differences, and different issues come up all the time. In South Africa, you can't coach there without an understanding of Apartheid, the devastation of AIDS, and the challenges of bringing a huge disadvantaged population forward. During the seminar we discussed coaching and training programs to help expatriate executives assimilate into the South African culture, as well as programs to help frontline employees provide top tier service (in places like restaurants and hotels) despite having very limited education in the past.

However, 80% to 90% of what we covered applies everywhere. Clear communication, engaging and mobilizing employees, setting strategy, eliminating unproductive behaviors and beliefs, leading teams….all of these topics and more remain crucial. The delegates in South Africa responded extremely well to the many interactive coaching toolkits they received, something that no other program can provide…a turnkey, flexible set of coaching tools and frameworks that they can use immediately and adapt as needed to fit their own style, client, and — where appropriate — culture.

Most importantly, as interest in coaching continues to grow in the USA, it is absolutely on fire around the world.

I return from South Africa extremely optimistic about the potential for coaches to make a difference in the USA and around the world, whether as business coaches or executive/leadership coaches (or both).

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