How developing cultural intelligence can boost your business performance

One of the greatest barriers to effective business relationships is misunderstanding. Unfortunately, this can happen among international teams working across different cultures. Some of the main differences you see impact communication, values, mannerisms, and norms; when these are poles apart, it can be near impossible for people to find common ground.


Those who find it easier to interact successfully with other cultures normally have a deeper level of cultural intelligence; the ability to understand, and sometimes mirror, the cultures of others.


The good news is that cultural intelligence can be developed. With a deeper awareness of our cultural differences, you or your employees can not only better understand and empathise with different patterns of human behaviour, but also reap massive rewards in business.


Let’s look at an example of how a lack of cultural intelligence hindered (and ultimately ruined) a successful business move. Johnny, ex-Head of Sales for CarcinoMed China, recently relocated. Previously, he had led his team to success based on clear-cut goals and targets; calling meetings with individuals to discuss any issues directly if monthly targets hadn’t been reached, and awarding bonuses if they had.


He moved to China, hoping to recreate the same sales triumphs in his new team. Unfortunately, his management tactics went down like a lead balloon. The team hated his direct management approach, and instead perceived him as confrontational, aggressive, and critical. In comparison to his previous colleagues, they weren’t as motivated by money. They were driven by a softer, more encouraging approach.


The new move was a car crash. Johnny admitted defeat, resigned and left taking his (somewhat relieved) family with him. His partner had been so lonely since moving, and the stress of the kids finding it hard to settle into a new school had started to take its toll on the whole family. 


Such a shame, because this whole situation could have been avoided, had he placed importance on the below features of cultural training during his preparation for moving abroad:

1)    Familiarisation with the new market and company culture in advance.

2)    Managing expectations, and unpacking the mindsets of different cultures.

3)    Teaching of practical aspects of living and working in a new environment.

4)    Provision of additional support (emotional and logistical) to help his spouse and children settle into their new environment.



Not only would investing in cultural training (which amounts to typically less than 1% of the cost of relocating an individual) have provided an immense personal boost to Johnny and his family, it would also have made business sense:

1.    68% of customers who switched to a competitor in 2023, said it was down to poor business communication skills.

2.    With an average cost of turnover per employee at around £30,000, it costs much more to replace a talent than to give them the skills to adapt to a new environment.

3.    Culturally diverse teams, where people of different backgrounds work harmoniously together, perform better.

4.    It cost 68% of business leaders who lost deals due to miscommunication $10k or more. For 13% of them, the cost rose to $50k or more.



It’s abundantly clear that providing employees with the tools they need to work effectively and respectfully in different cultures is a smart move.


Book a free consultation with Dialogue below if you’d like to understand more about replicating your team’s ability, skills and confidence overseas.






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