Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

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cultural value orientations communicating across cultures

CQ Communication & Decision-making Cultural Value Orientations

Introduction:

In this second blog post discussing the ten cultural value orientations of Cultural Intelligence (CQ)1Go to https://senduwiki.org/_media/summary_of_the_10_cultural_value_orientations_in_the_cq_assessment.docx to see a summary of all 10 CQ cultural value orientations., I will focus on the values related to communication and decision-making. It is important for the cross-cultural worker to understand these different values in order to avoid misunderstanding and offense. In order to help you, I offer an example in each value orientation pair. I’m sure you can come up with examples from your ministry context.

Again, I’ve included a discussion question after each summary of the three identity related cultural value orientations. Please share your comments. I would enjoy hearing your thoughts.

Low-Context/Direct and High-Context/Indirect:

Communication styles differ in important ways between low-context and high-context cultures. In low-context settings, the relationship between people is a small factor in many conversations. For instance, the length of the line at a checkout counter is more important than the relationship one has with the cashier when deciding where to line up. People speak directly and frankly, and value clarity in others. Meeting agendas in low-context settings are usually brief and to the point. The chairperson who moves the discussion along quickly to reach decisions is admired.

cultural value orientations

CQ Identity-Related Cultural Value Orientations

Introduction:

Cultural knowledge is essential for missionaries as we make disciples in a multicultural world. SEND U is now using the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Assessment tool in our prefield training and lifelong development of cultural understanding. The CQ assessment identifies ten cultural value orientations framed in contrasting pairs that present a continuum of possible orientations.

But here a warning is necessary. Do not use these cultural value orientations to form stereotypes about particular cultures because cultures change. Globalization accelerates that change and has created a blend of global culture and local cultures often referred to as “glocal.” Don’t be surprised if an individual behaves with one orientation among internationals and a different orientation among his/her local culture.

I have written a brief summary of the ten cultural value orientations on the SEND U wiki. In three posts on this blog, I will discuss the ten orientations grouped as orientations related to:

  1. identity
  2. communication and decision-making
  3. time and planning

I’ve included a discussion question after each summary of the three identity related cultural value orientations. Please share your comments.

a challenging climb

Both invitation and challenge needed

A disciple-making culture?

In the past few years, we have talked a lot about changing our organizational culture. Back when SEND U (our training department) was being launched, we wanted to establish a coaching culture in our organization, meaning coaching will become a pervasive method of supervision, leadership development, and membership development. I think we have made a lot of progress in establishing that culture. In more recent years, we have talked about creating a culture of collaboration, intentionality, and accountability. Many missionaries long to break away from a highly individualistic orientation and work on stronger teams. But we are an organization that describes itself as a global movement of Jesus followers making disciples among the unreached.1https://send.org/about. If this is to be true, then we need to have a disciple-making culture within the organization. What does it take to create a disciple-making culture?

Can we put too much emphasis on healthy teams?

Sometimes it seems as if most of my conversations with other missionaries are about teaming. To some extent that might be because I am facilitating two training courses for team leaders right now, and am preparing again to teach on teaming in our upcoming pre-field training. But the conversations go beyond interactions with my students. Missionaries tell me about their frustrations and joys with their previous and current teams. They share their dreams and desires for future teams. They compare their teams with teams of which they have heard in our areas. Particularly for our first-term missionaries, the quality of the teaming experience seems to be a major criterion for deciding where they will serve and whether they will continue to serve in a particular location.

As mission leaders, we can easily come to the conclusion that forming and nurturing healthy teams should be one of our top priorities to attract new workers and help current workers to flourish. There is no question that there is much that we can learn and improve in our mission teams. I am passionate about strengthening our mission teams and training team leaders.

But we also need to recognize that too much emphasis on teaming can be unhealthy. Dick Brogden in his Global Trends presentation at a recent Leadership Connexion workshop noted that teams can become the new missionary compounds.

Are multicultural teams more innovative?

In theory, a multicultural team should have many more creative ideas than a team made up those of all one culture. But in reality, multicultural teams are often stuck in even deeper ruts of tradition than mono-cultural teams, because so much of their energy is devoted to keeping the peace and learning how to communicate. Rather than coming with a fresh new strategy, the team just continues to do what they have always done because the “way we have always done it” is the least risky and requires the least amount of explanation.

Driven by Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity by [Livermore, David]

In his book, Driven by Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity, David Livermore of the Cultural Intelligence Center helps us understand what team leaders and team members on diverse teams need to do to create a climate and a process for true innovation. 

As Livermore says, multicultural teams are not automatically more innovative.

Multi-tasking is a cultural trait

Over the past few weeks, I have been listening to a fascinating series of lectures by Dr. David Livermore of the Cultural Intelligence Center.  I purchased the lectures on Audible as part of one of “The Great Courses” that they offer. This course is 12 hours long and is entitled “Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are.” I would highly recommend the course in learning more about other cultures and as part of learning to work in other cultures and on multicultural teams.

In one of the lectures, Dr. Livermore talked about how different cultures view time. Besides contrasting a value on punctuality with a value on relationships, he talked about monochronic and polychronic cultures.

Missionary, know thyself!

I vividly remember the moment I understood that culture permeates all of life. I’d already been a missionary for a few years, and I was reading “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down,” the true story of an epileptic Hmong girl and the cultural tug-of-war over her medical care. The author casually mentioned that in the girl’s Hmong household, family photographs “hung close to the ceiling, to show respect.”

“My gracious,” I thought, glancing at my own eye-level art, “culture even affects where you hang your pictures.” (Check out these “Fantastic tips for perfectly placed art;” surely nearer the ceiling would be easier!)

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