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The 1 Missing Management Tool

Written by: Liu Liu, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


We live in an age of globalization, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more instantaneous connections. At its surface, it appears the world cultures are becoming increasingly homogenized, we eat the same kind of food, wear the same brand of clothing, and even laugh at the same jokes that appeared on Reels and TikTok, and people use English as a common business language. This somehow gives a false impression that we share the “same culture” and speak the “same language”.

Many companies and organizations have international outreach in their business operation, and you as the manager are most likely working with people from other countries or leading a team of people who are from different cultures. If you are a manager and leader like me, you are likely to have attended training in various aspects of management, team building, team management, financial management, and project management, just to name a few. On top of these, your companies or organizations might also have given your management tools like conflict management, how to motivate teams, how to have a winning mindset, and others. All of these form your management toolbox and they are lovely to have.

When it comes to effectively managing a cross-country and cross-culture team to deliver results, there is one tool missing in your management toolbox, cross-cultural intelligence. I am talking about you as a manager and leader suffering from these.

  • Feeling you don’t fit in

  • You don’t understand what’s happening around you

  • You can’t read the social cues

  • You offend without knowing why

  • You think the precise arrangement has been made, but it hasn’t

  • You feel people are either too polite or too rude to you

  • People are agreeing with you but nothing happens

  • You feel you have to constantly “justify” your plan to the colleagues

You tried to apply all of the management tools in your toolbox, and not much improved. After a while,

  • You started to doubt yourself, wondering if they took on more than they could chew.

  • You might feel you are backed into a corner, with no way out.

  • You wonder if the goal and task are too big, the team is against them, not cooperating.

  • You are pressing harder and harder with the team but still can’t get good results.

  • You have to take on more and more yourself because you can’t get the team to do it right.

  • You are feeling overwhelmed but don’t know what the solution is, and you can’t necessarily talk to the boss about the problem because you don’t want to be seen as not capable.

  • You work long hours and have less time to rest, recharge and spend with families and friends. Some of you might be getting into the space of depression.

Cross-cultural intelligence is not simply cross-cultural communication. Communication is an important part, but there is a lot more to it. Cross-cultural intelligence is essentially

  • how a person first understands one’s own culture and one's behaviors as a result of this culture.

  • secondly has an open mind, a respectful and learning attitude towards other people’s cultures, and tries to understand the different behaviors caused by the differences.

This is a double-edged sword.

  • If a manager, a company, and an organization can recognize the importance and need to learn and apply cross-cultural intelligence in the workplace, it could improve efficiency and profits drastically.

  • If this is overlooked or ignored, it could create another layer of problems on top of the normal management challenges.

So, what is it to be? Would you like to be a cross-cultural intelligent manager who leads a culturally diverse team to excel in the results? Or carry on as before and continue to struggle like others. The choice is yours.

Follow me on LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Liu Liu, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Liu Liu is a coach and manager with decades of experience, as a Cross-Cultural Intelligence Coach who specializes in helping international organizations and businesses to improve communications and cooperation among staff for better individual and team performance. He coaches managers and leaders working in a cross-cultural context to build trust, communicate effectively, and deliver results. He also coaches people on management, leadership, and career development. He is someone who helps you to imagine a greater possibility for yourself and supports you in achieving it.

As a senior manager in an international relief and development organization, he has worked with people in over 30 countries over his two-decades-long career. He uses a coaching approach to manage cross-country teams and complex programs to deliver results and impacts.

He is also an experienced trainer and facilitator who has delivered training on management-related and other subjects in over 30 countries.

With a cross-country marriage, developing a career in a second country, and working in an organization that has a reach of 50 countries, Liu Liu understands the importance and pitfalls of working cross-culturally and developing a career in an unfamiliar environment.

Liu Liu is an Associated Certified Coach(ACC), a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), and an Executive Contributor to Brainz Magazine.

He holds a BA(Hon) in International Studies and an MSc in Development Management.


Photo Credits:

  • Clive Mear



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