When you're at work, you probably think about your colleagues' IQ (Intelligence Quotient), or how traditionally smart they are. You might even think about their EQ (Emotional Quotient), or how well they deal with and respond to emotions when communicating.

With international expansion, there arises another factor to consider — one that might possibly take priority over the other two: CQ (Cultural Quotient), or how one relates and adapts to different cultures while working. It's more than just cultural awareness, it's about embracing challenging situations and different mindsets.

If your business is global and your employees don't have CQ, you're going to find yourself fumbling far more frequently than your CQ-savvy peers. New leaders need to learn to work with people of different cultures, including different backgrounds, ages, titles, and dispositions. As an individual and as a business, you need CQ to collaborate, to innovate, and to connect to our shrinking world.

Book Review: Cultural Intelligence by Julia Middleton

Cultural Intelligence: CQ: The Competitive Edge for Leaders Crossing Borders by Julia MiddletonAfter receiving a copy of Cultural Intelligence by Julia Middleton, I read the book which brands CQ as "the competitive edge for leaders crossing borders." The book is an enlightening and informative read about CQ — what it means, everything it encompasses, and how we can develop ourselves as leaders to make sure our cultural intelligence is ever-evolving. It helps you evaluate where your CQ stands today, and what you can do to increase your own cultural intelligence.

Middleton breaks down CQ into two parts: our core and our flex. Our core is made up of behaviors and beliefs that are so near and dear to us that we refuse to change them for others. Things in our flex are more adaptable when we step into an unfamiliar situation or a different culture. To increase our cultural intelligence, we must individually evaluate both parts of our personality. Both are necessary, and the trick is to find the balance between the two zones.

According to Middleton, cultural intelligence is not something leaders can develop or stretch by attending a class. It's not even something we can hope to gain by reading her book and taking copious notes. Cultural intelligence must be gained by going out into the world, interacting with people outside of our comfort zones, making (sometimes uncomfortable) mistakes, and learning to welcome new possibilities and challenges. It's not about obeying our manners, it's about learning new thought processes and embracing them.

I highly recommend the book for any leader who wants to take a hard look at their own cultural intelligence, and learn how to develop it further — there is always room for improvement.

How to Develop Cultural Intelligence at Work Today

If you want to take Middleton's lessons on cultural intelligence to work with you, here a few business-ready ways to start developing your CQ today:

1. Create a mixed network Do not surround yourself with people from the same background, same team, or same mindset. Purposely keep people in your network from all walks of life. By keeping different cultures close to you — including people of various backgrounds, ages, positions — you will find opportunities to expand your horizons.

Do it today: Befriend the new gal in the office. Grab lunch with a colleague you rarely talk to. Tweet to your followers to find someone who disagrees with one of your many opinions.

2. Take the time to learn from other people Actually sit down and learn about the people around you. Every colleague has had a different experience, and therefore has a different way of perceiving and solving problems. By learning about them, you learn more about their mindset and may learn new ways to approach business.

Do it today: Organize a team-building event for your group to share and learn about what makes each person unique. If colleagues claim they're just "too average/typical/boring" to teach anything, have them talk about their heritage, their culture, their home state, their family, their hobbies, or even their bucket list of dreams for the future.

3. Seek out challenging opinions Human instinct tells us to shut out competing opinions. If they're not with us, they're against us! By operating under that assumption, you're denying a valuable opportunity to grow. Actively seek out colleagues that seem to disagree with everything you say, riling you up and making you so mad that you go home and fume about work for two more hours. After you've cooled down, take each turbulent conversation as an opportunity to learn a different approach to your work.

Do it today: If you have been shutting out That One Colleague that always seems to disagree with your opinions, reevaluate their responses. Go out of your way to ask the dissenter for their feedback on your current project. Challenge yourself to appreciate their opinions instead of resenting their perceived roadblock.

Developing Cultural Intelligence for the Future of Work

As the world gets smaller, leaders must grow. By actively educating yourself and developing your CQ, you will expand your horizons and be known as a better leader for it.

Cultural Intelligence by Julia Middleton is an excellent book that walks through what it means to develop cultural intelligence, gives easy-to-follow resources for evaluating your own CQ, and ultimately leaves you feeling empowered to grow as a leader. If you are interested in continuing to learn more while you wait for your copy of the book, read this article about cultural intelligence over on the Common Purpose website (an organization founded by Julia).

Have you read Cultural Intelligence or other similar books? We'd love to start a conversation about CQ and the business value of cultural intelligence in the comments. Talk to you soon.

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