“Aninsideout” Journey to Innovation in Cross-Culture Work Environment


A Coaching Model By Miranda Meng, Leadership Coach, TAIWAN


My ideal clients are expat executives who lead cross-cultural teams. I support the executives in engaging members across different demographics in an effort to meet goals and increase innovation. I support expat executives in innovating during uncertainty by helping them understand the cultural nuance of goal setting and leveraging cultural differences among team members.

How Do I Support the Executives?

Coaching is based on clients’ wills. Because clients’ needs are different. I carefully tailor my coaching sessions to uniquely fit client concerns. During my coaching sessions, I focus on making our conversations flow freely without dragging clients in a direction they don’t necessarily want to be headed in. Similarly, I believe my role as a coach is to support clients to reach whichever goal they want to achieve, instead of me giving them topics to work on or deciding goals for them. I try to generalize some key points and processes to showcase my coaching model as done below.

Understand Culture Nuance of Goal Setting

People may ascribe many different meanings to a similar term or vocabulary, especially in a multicultural context. In the same way, executives should be aware of the cultural nuances that underlie communication within multicultural workspaces. Publishing a goal-setting policy and a company dictionary for some phrases’ definitions is not enough. Executives have to

Know Where You Come From

If you want to meet people halfway, you have to first know where you are currently. Learning more from yourself is necessary. How do you see and define things? How do you usually create a strategy and why? How do your emotions get triggered? There are a variety of things to learn. It requires self-awareness and openness to accept who you are.

Be Clear on Your Goals and Vision

Especially under conflicts or uncertainty, it is good timing to review what the real goals are and how they tie back to the company vision. When executives focus on the real goals, aligned actions will take off.

Notice Differences and Learn From the Acquired Information

If executives ignore differences or insist there is nothing to learn from the process of understanding differences, values are hardly created.

Leverage Cultural Differences to Benefit

All discussions work for creating values. In addition to helping lead cross-culture teams, knowing how to take advantage of cultural differences to extract stronger values is crucial.

Decide Your Perspective and Mindset Toward Cultural Differences

If executives hire diverse members not because they truly believe in this value, it’s difficult to make good use of the employment. Executives have to be honest with themselves and make decisions that respond to their perspectives and values. When executives’ perspectives, values, mindset, decisions, and actions are aligned, it becomes easier to drive positive changes with a deeper impact.

Build Teams Into One Force

Executives have to get all people really onboard and work for the same goals. Employees do not give their utmost if they cannot connect themselves to the company goals. So how may executives make all teams fully understand these shared goals, communicate, feel belonged, and see benefits on their side? This starts with executives appreciating differences, which directly gives everyone a chance to know each other in an open and safe environment and create values together for the same goals.

Look Forward to a Co-creation Future

People perform better when in momentum. Besides staying momentum, executives tend to create ideal outcomes when they believe and look forward to positive results you are creating with all teams.

The Model Insideout

There is a well-spread saying: after three coaching sessions, everything goes to life coaching. I agree with this. It is important to focus on the clients themselves. And, it is always amazing to see how much clients can create when they increase awareness, see deeper, challenge themselves, and apply what they learn.

Even though the topics cut in are usually very business-driven, I still see the deep value when the executives accept, appreciate, and learn more about their true selves. The general process is as below. I also provide simple examples after explaining some stages in coaching. Once again, each coaching conversation is unique. As a coach, I follow clients’ individual flows.

Insideout Model: From Leader’s Awareness to Innovative Actions

InsideOut Research Paper Coaching Model
Diagram 1

Be Aware: Awareness is the first step of all magic. Having awareness helps the clients know where and who they are. It also helps clean out the stack of information that buries the more critical ones underneath. Knowing this helps the clients know where the starting point is and where they truly want to go. Afterward, the clients can design the strategy to reach whichever goal they set. Furthermore, awareness evoking may happen at any point or even throughout the whole coaching session.

For example, the real topic is seldom brought up at the start of a session. Supporting the executives to figure out topics underneath is where the journey starts.

Align: After the clients acquire a new level of awareness, it’s a good time to also make sure the awareness is aligned with their goals and the values they mentioned. Even after the clients say the session’s goal is achieved, I would also double-check if the result is aligned with the awareness, values, and beliefs which they shared earlier. This helps clients find the real answer for them and own the decision.

For example, one time a Taiwanese executive realized his conclusion towards Japanese managers came from previous work history instead of the reality of the current situation. After some questions helped him to see the relationship between this conclusion and what he had shared about cooperation for innovation, he saw possible solutions that he did not think about before.

Achieve: This represents when the clients discover the answer to the questions they raised up earlier or when they achieve session goals. And, usually at this moment, I tend to invite clients to see what they achieve and acknowledge their efforts.

Accept: During the session, the client may see parts of themselves that they were not aware of or may even revisit parts of themselves that they already knew. Clients may not like every part; however, an open invitation for them to see if they accept where and who they are right now may help them own and understand their decisions in the future. Sometimes, this type of introspection serves simply to reconfirm their acceptance of previous decisions. In the process of deciding if they accept such decisions, clients would align outcome, behavior, or perception with their values, expectation, belief, rules, and identity. This may evoke more awareness and/or help the client digest awareness and know themselves more. This step also foments a stronger sense of ownership.

For example, sometimes it is difficult for some executives to fully admit some true opinions or feelings that are different from what they think is better for the company. However, when they accept this is what they feel or see, they waste less time disguising. Rather, they spend efforts to look internally and come up with solutions to the root cause.

Appreciate: It is a beautiful part of coaching. Clients gain energy and support themselves more when they recognize themselves. This energy from appreciation not only helps them be grateful but also values other team members.        

Architect: This depends on clients and how they want to use their learning in the session. They may want to create something, change current systems, or even go deeper to work on identity rebuilding.

For example, the goal of a session is to clarify mental hurdles that hold clients back from converting the company’s biggest potential into reality. After the goal is achieved, the clients may want to apply what they learn and establish a new structure from board meeting discussion to a goal-setting system.

Adjust: In the architect process of forging a new identity, habit, system, and so on, the clients may want to adjust the way they realize their goals or may even adjust the content of their goals. Moreover, external influences may change along the way. The situation and stakeholders may differ from the time we had a coaching session. Having the flexibility and readiness for any adjustment is important in change management, regarding changes in people or environment.

The box and words in lavender blue show the areas that sometimes clients may not want to go. Even though I see value in visiting those areas, I respect clients’ decisions. The whole process is dynamic instead of a linear process.

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