ICQ (cultural intelligence) is about leading and serving people in a way that they feel valued, understood, and empowered to turn differences into synergy instead of driving each other mad. It is the “Science of Uncommon Sense,” and luckily there is a structure beneath the surface, and it is a skill we can dramatically improve.

Csaba Toth of ICQ Global has spent the last 15 years creating the blueprint of why people think and behave differently, Global DISC™. It combines the practicality of the DISC model with the deep psychological insights of global mindset to bring out the best in leaders and their teams without having to heavily invest time and money.

Our latest Future of Work Roundtable session, “Uncommon Mindset in Unusual Times: Why Common Sense and Good Intention Can Backfire When Trying To Lead and Serve People,” features Toth’s presentation; an excerpt follows. To see the full session, including a demo of a live Mursion demo, visit our YouTube channel.

Join us for our upcoming Future of Work sessions by signing up here. And, to experience Mursion’s virtual reality simulations and see for yourself how this platform can support your own business to achieve its leadership development and other business goals, schedule a demo today.

“Uncommon mindset, that is such a popular topic now. A lot of people want to have common sense, but what is that exactly? Why do we demand it? Jacob Morgan published a book last year and he has one question only: ‘What should we be teaching leaders now to prepare for the future?’

He came up with four mindsets and five skills: Growth Mindset, Teamwork, Inclusion, Global Mindset, Self-Awareness, Innovation, Communication, Coaching, and Technology. As you can see, eight out of the nine skills and mindsets are directly linked to how much you understand yourself and others. People skills are not soft skills. They are not optional.

People skills are not soft skills. They are not optional.

Acknowledging Our Differences

If you manage and serve people, believing that they are like you, it’s going to backfire. Common sense is pretty much expecting other people to come to the same conclusion, even though they have completely different backgrounds. Praising somebody for common sense is not really praise.

That’s why communication breaks down, but how much? If you look at the research, 60 to 80% of our problems in a company stem from clashes of personalities, poor leadership, and clashing values. All three of them stem from the same source: the lack of understanding of why people think and behave differently. That creates a serious mindset. For example, 86% of leaders see themselves as inspiring, that’s some confidence then.

If you look at the actual data from McKinsey, 82% of employees think they are not. Our 80% of CEOs believe that their customer service is outstanding, but if you look at the data from Salesforce, only 8% of customers agree with them. According to them, 91% of the customers are not going to say anything, they don’t give you a feedback, they just go somewhere else where they feel understood and valued.

If you don’t get the feedback, how do you know how to improve your business? What is the cost of this? Our 75% of employees leave managers, not companies. I’m pretty sure that most of you will have a horror story. You love the company, but working with the person who was awful. Our 89% of new hires fail within 18 months because they cannot fit in. It’s not because they are not smart enough. It’s because they cannot fit in.

If you think about the loss of reputation, the loss of productivity, the level of this engagement, and the cost of recruitment, that is insanely complex and expensive. Often people have the best intention. They have common sense, but somehow it backfires. 

That’s what I’m interested in, the structure beneath the surface, the blueprint of why people think and behave differently. The result of that research is Global DISC, which is now ICF accredited. 

What Is Cultural Intelligence?

More than 80% of cultural differences exist within countries, not between them because we all belong to 15 or 20 groups at the same time, country of origin is a tiny fraction of that. They want to understand how useful these categories are. They compared 17 different culture groups in terms of practicality and range of differences. The bottom three, as the research said, the first container of culture, the country of origin, gender, and generation. You cannot predict anybody’s values and beliefs based on those categories, how would they have to behave maybe, but their values and beliefs, not so much.

The reason is that it’s not up to you. You don’t choose your gender, your generation, or why you were born, but even if you are completely different, you don’t how to navigate efficiently in that environment. That’s how we say that culture is not who we are. It’s what we are used to. There’s a big difference there. If you dig deeper, then you realize that there are different personality types within a smaller cultural group as well, with completely opposing preferences.

Now it’s getting really messy. How can you be an expert in 200 countries, four or five generations, professions, hobbies, even if the numbers were correct and up to date, it is just overwhelming. If you look at the only layer of diversity that has proven beneficial in terms of performance, which is cognitive diversity, then it becomes much more interesting. When we talk about diversity, most people think about the identity differences, and yes, that is very important in terms of equality and equal opportunities. But if you look at performance, that’s a different story.

Since the year 2000 more than 50% of Fortune 500 companies disappeared. Size is not a guarantee for anything. It’s about being able to see the same situation from different perspectives, so you can make better decisions. That’s the definition of uncommon mindset. This would be so much better, but this is just the potential. Diversity is just the potential for success or disaster. It depends on how much you understand yourself and others. It just means that you have a lot of people with a lot of perspectives, but is the environment inclusive? What about these people here, can they contradict you? Can they bring up ideas and problems? 

It’s about being able to see the same situation from different perspectives, so you can make better decisions. That’s the definition of uncommon mindset.

Personality vs. Culture

Then there’s the question, which one is more important, personality or culture? By culture, most people think about countries and nationalities. There are a lot of models, but most of them are international models, not intercultural ones. They focus on one culture group out of many, and that’s the country of origin or nationalities. On the other side, you find a lot of psychometric assessments and behavioral models.

They explain how the different personality types tend to behave if they are not influenced by anything or anyone around them, which technically never happens. You can put different people in the team and they are going to conform to certain norms. Technically, they’re missing half of the picture, which is the cultural intelligence part.

The last idea, smart people in diverse teams create synergy by combining their skills and perspectives. That’s why we hire people. We want to create synergy, but is that really what happens? You cannot turbocharge your car by celebrating your engine. You have to understand how the different parts work together so you can optimize them. That’s how you create synergy. That’s how you create superior performance. Relying on common sense is not going to give you that.

Not what is right, not what is true, what we considered true, and that’s why cultural differences are just clashes of common senses, nothing else. If that’s how you approach the topic, you can remove this illusion of superiority that I am right and I teach you. No, both of us can be right, we just have to be able to ask the right questions. What can you see that I cannot?

Both of us can be right, we just have to be able to ask the right questions. What can you see that I cannot?

Most people have 5 to 10% flexibility, that’s our comfort zone, and it’s completely normal. Our brain is 2% of our body weight, but uses more than 20% of the energy, so it’s designed to create habits, mental shortcuts. Thinking is difficult, that’s why a lot of people don’t do that, it is physically tiring. If you look at the sliding scale as a range of communication and behavioral styles and you are in a situation that would require this one, then you have to flex too much, it’s going to be too tiring, or maybe you just react instead of responding so you don’t get the best possible results.

What can we do? Can we change it? Of course, we can. There’s nothing wrong with you. What we want instead is to expand your comfort zone, it’s you, but an upgraded version, and that’s what we want to achieve. But we can go even further. Even the company has a corporate comfort zone, you can call it culture. That’s the behavior that is rewarded and expected, it’s everywhere.

You can push the boundaries. Something is accepted, maybe tolerated, and the rest, punished. Here’s the real question, how do your personal preferences relate to what is normal and rewarded around you? How much do you have to pretend in order to be accepted? 

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

People in companies with a growth mindset, you look for challenges and knowledge to level up because they believe that intelligence can be developed. On the other side, you have people in companies with a fixed mindset, and they protect the status quo and they stay in their comfort zone because they believe that intelligence is fixed. 

You’ve mentioned that you have a 100% growth mindset. How do you feel about artificial intelligence? Huge potential. Something that should be embraced. Exciting open new doors. Let’s get nasty. How about the fixed mindsets? Exactly the same situation, but you have a 100% fixed mindset. What do you think about artificial intelligence too complex? 

The question is, if it’s a choice, you choose not to do something or you believe that it’s not possible. It’s not the same thing. I think it’s true that if you overdo a strength, it can become a weakness, and life is not binary. That’s the point, that we can put everyone on the sliding scale. The real question is, how big is the distance between you and me? The only people who have no judgment and bias are the ones who are not alive or the ones who lack complete self-awareness. 

Yes, there’s an interesting concept because often people believe that comfort zone is something safe. Even though certainty or safety don’t exist in nature, we crave it. The idea is that if I stay in my comfort zone, nothing bad can happen. It’s almost like a paradox because the world is changing. We have the gap between what you are trying to protect and the world is getting bigger and bigger, and we can’t refuse evolution. That’s why when we look at growth mindset, it can be scary. People are not scared of change, people are scared of sudden change, so we can intentionally choose to walk today, so we don’t have to run tomorrow.

I think in terms of values, it’s very important to be on the same page, but in terms of behavior, not so much. When you get new people, then you get a fresh perspective. Just like on the individual level, don’t doubt yourself, have confidence in yourself, but do double-check your best practices and your habits. Are they best serving you or they might be hurting you? That’s the real question.”

by Wendy

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