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Run, Walk, or Jog: CQ Action (Step 4)
for how trust gets communicated and built, it rests on ethical prin-
ciples. Admittedly, theres a great deal of ambiguity about what
constitutes ethical practice, particularly across different cultural
contexts. But it’s imperative we remain true to our own ethical
principles and to those of our prospective partner. Avoid shortcuts
that result in reduced product safety, abusive labor practices, de-
ceptive advertising, or environmental degradation. Not only will
they hurt you ethically but in the long run, they will hurt business
as well. Never lose sight of the triple bottom line (see Chapter 3)
and always interact with honor and respect. Whether it’s fair-trade
practices that pay laborers a worthy wage, environmental responsi-
bility that avoids polluting rivers to produce a product, or holding
subcontractors accountable for the kinds of labor practices we’d
use in our own company, the importance of behaving ethically as
we work internationally cannot be overstated.
The negotiation process in a cross-cultural context is the syn-
thesis of all four CQ dimensions. Leaders and organizations with
cultural intelligence have an edge in the negotiation process. Be ready
to adapt the way you negotiate as you work in various contexts.
Know When to Flex and When Not to Flex
Theres one more very important skill to master to enhance CQ
action. Should we mimic the behavior of people in other cultures
or not? Too much adaptation can generate suspicion and distrust
and yet we’ve continually noted that inflexible behavior is a sure
death wish for most twenty-first-century leaders and organiza-
tions. When should we alter our strategy and when should it re-
main unchanged? When is it okay to pass on eating something that
turns your stomach, and when should we eat and pray, “Dear God,
help me keep it down?” As we broaden our repertoire of cultural
understanding and behavior, we’ll become more attuned to know-
ing which response is appropriate.
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Leading with Cultural Intelligence
Learning if and when it’s appropriate to adapt our behavior to
another culture is a complex question. It’s more than just knowing
the behavior of people from other cultures. It requires drawing on
CQ knowledge and CQ strategy to anticipate what people from
other cultures expect of us. Singaporeans have preconceived no-
tions of how they expect Aussies to behave and vice versa. Latin
Americans have ideas of how they expect African Americans to
behave. The globalization of television, movies, and music has
played a huge role in creating preconceived perceptions of people
in various cultures. Even if the portrayed norms are inaccurate, the
perceptions they leave can still be very real. If you act in ways dif-
ferent from those preconceived expectations, youre wise to think
about what that will communicate to your observers. As we engage
with individuals from different cultural backgrounds, we should
ask ourselves, How do these people expect me to act based on my
cultural context? How should that affect my behavior? What mis-
conceptions are likely to be present in their assumptions about me?
These are all critical considerations for how we interact and lead.
One of my own learning curves in CQ action has involved the
realization that cultural intelligence is a two-way street. One time I
came to Singapore directly from Sierra Leone, West Africa. When I
got to Singapore, I began venting to my colleague Soon Ang about
the group of Americans I observed in Sierra Leone who took their
bottled water and antibacterial wash with them everywhere they
went. No sooner would they greet people than they’d publicly lath-
er their hands with antibacterial wash. It just seemed incredibly
insensitive and obnoxious to me. Soon asked me, “So why do you
expect the Americans to stop using their antibacterial wash pub-
licly, but you dont expect the Sierra Leoneans to know Americans
are more susceptible to getting sick in places like this?”
I argued the Americans were the ones who went abroad as
guests so they couldn’t very well demand their hosts adjust to
them. At the same time, many of our cross-cultural encounters
don’t involve clear distinctions of guest and host. So we need to

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