How is your CQ?

Trisha Carter, Trans Cultural Careers was the Guest Mentor at the Australian Services Roundtable, SME event in August on Cultural Intelligence (CQ).

In looking to communicate with those from another culture, one of the first considerations is appreciating your own culture, then applying that lens to the new culture and identifying what is the same, what is different and consciously looking at how best to adapt.

  • CQ Knowledge – what is the local business, economic and legal environment?  What are the values and assumptions that are similar or different?
  • CQ Drive – how keen are you to learn and adapt
  • CQ Strategy – undertaking some planning, awareness and checking back in.
  • CQ Action – what do I need to do?

Some key tips Trisha shared during the conversation included:

Language – not many of us in Australia speak another language fluently, so it is likely an interpreter will be required to in any business meetings. Aussies tend to speak quite fast so slow down, use clear language and expect the meeting to take twice as long. It is also useful to brief the interpreter with any speeches, agendas or relevant business information.

Also be mindful of not interrupting. It is OK to have a gap in the conversation to allow the other party to take in the information, give considered thought and respond. Also be aware of volume – ask yourself if your volume is louder or softer than those you are speaking with and match and mirror.

Context – Australia is a very low context culture with very direct communication, where in many Asian countries the environment and other ‘hidden messages’ may be at play which can be difficult for westerners to pick up. Further, our direct communication style and our expectations of agreeing to do business in the initial meeting create discomfort and disappointment.  Invitations to social and business dinners are all part of the process of building relationships and developing comfort with each other.  This takes the time to develop.

Hierarchy – this is really important in Asian cultures, particularly respect for the most senior and understanding where you sit in the pecking order. Australians may need to be more comfortable and confident sharing our credentials and upgrading our titles in order for others in higher power distance cultures to know they can trust us. 

Before you head overseas

It’s not enough to just jump on a plane where you see an interest in your product or services and expect to do business in the same way as your home country. Corporates that send their executives overseas provide expat cultural training so it is even more important that SME’s looking to internationalise take the time to address the cultural aspect of cross border business. 

Trisha Carter is an Organisational Psychologist who has been working for over fifteen years with corporations and government departments developing global skill-sets in their leaders and employees.  She has delivered intercultural and cross cultural training, coaching and presentations in Australia, New Zealand, China, Papua New Guinea, UK and the USA. Trisha’s business Trans Cultural Careers has developed cultural intelligence in hundreds of employees and their families moving to or from over 60 countries around the world. Her blogs and e-resources supporting expats are at