Unlocking Cultural Agility with Marco Blankenburgh

The Intersection of Personality and Culture with Corrina Cross

November 15, 2021 KnowledgeWorkx Season 1 Episode 3
Unlocking Cultural Agility with Marco Blankenburgh
The Intersection of Personality and Culture with Corrina Cross
Show Notes Transcript

Join Corrina Cross as she explores how understanding empathy, personality, and intercultural wiring helps managers create powerfully productive teams. 

Corrina is a People Skills Consultant and Lead Facilitator at The People People.  She has been in Dubai for 27 years and in the middle east for many more years. She helps business owners and managers improve teamwork, increase productivity and reduce turnover through learning and development solutions. Her intercultural background inspires and intrigues.  

Examine the depth of self-culture with her as she connects it to everything from corporate teams to mothers-in-law. 

| You will learn about: 

  • How empathy, personality, and cultural agility combine to create effective teams.  
  • How to engage in this new world without borders. 
  • The role that people skills will play in a future alongside Artificial Intelligence. 

Learn more about the work Corrina is doing at http://www.the-people-people.com/ 



 Two Spotlights for Illuminating Human Behavior (http://kwx.fyi/two-spotlights-for-human-behavior) 

 Are You Equipped for Relational Success in a Global World? (http://kwx.fyi/are-you-equipped-for-relational-success) 

 Motivating My Team... "The Inter-Cultural Manager" (http://kwx.fyi/motivating-my-team)  

-- Brought to you by KnowledgeWorkx.com

i think when we are born in a particular

country and we live there for quite a

number of years

we are like a piece of the jigsaw and we

fit into that jigsaw beautifully and i

think once we leave our original country

and we

the longer we stay away the more our

piece of jigsaw changes so that when we

go back it doesn't fit into that jigsaw


so i feel as though we should create a

new jigsaw called citizens of the world

and each one of us will have a beautiful

piece of the jigsaw that fits in



welcome to the cultural agility podcast

where we explore the stories of some of

the most advanced intercultural

practitioners from around the world

to help you become culturally agile and

succeed in today's culturally complex

world i'm your host marco blankenberg

international director of knowledgebooks

where every day we help individuals and

companies achieve relational success in

that same complex world

welcome everybody to this new episode of

our podcast and i'm very excited today

because a friend colleague partner of

ours has agreed to join us so karina

welcome to this podcast

and in this podcast we're talking about

our intercultural lives but also

our professional lives as well as the

rest of our lives because intercultural

is everywhere so thank you karina for

joining us and i'm looking forward to

this conversation and maybe without me

doing much of an introduction if you

could introduce yourself to our audience


sure thanks marco and uh thank you for

inviting me on to the show

so my name is karina cross and i've been

in the region for well in dubai for 27

years and in the middle east for

many more years than that


i help business owners and managers to

to create basically happy and productive

teams by improving their people skills

so that's in a nutshell

what i do and

you know why i've come across

intercultural intelligence and embraced


that's great wow 27 years in the gulf



how did you arrive into this region

you don't seem to

be one of the gulf nationals

how did you end up in the region

to be honest the first time i came to

the region was at age 13 my father

worked in doha now this is going to show

my age i was living in doha before they

had english-speaking schools so

my sister and brother and i had to do

correspondence course and later we lived

in egypt for five years

so initially i was in the middle east

because of my father and his job

and traveled as a family and then later


decided that i

would explore dubai

and came to take a look at it and as a

lot of people stayed for many years

longer right right so it sounds like you

you've been exposed and lived in quite a

few countries around the region

and i see this often with people who

have had an expat life for such a long

time so i'm curious if if you had to

explain who you are as a as a cultural

human being what would you say how would

you introduce yourself well well i've

caught myself recently saying that i'm

english as in i have a british passport

but i don't feel very british and

i've also said that

i think

when we are born in a particular country

and we live there for quite a number of


we are like a piece of the jigsaw and we

fit into that jigsaw beautifully and i

think once we leave our original country

and we the longer we stay away the more

our piece of jigsaw changes so that when

we go back it doesn't fit into that

jigsaw anymore and of course living in

the uae we cannot become emiratis so we

don't fit into the uae jigsaw um so i

feel as though we should create a new

jigsaw called citizens of the world and

each one of us will have a beautiful

piece of the jigsaw that fits in

perfectly i love that yeah because you

are very much a global citizen knowing

you for all this many years

and i'm curious intercultural was

already important in your life before

you might have been exposed to

intercultural intelligence before you

know being exposed to the language of

the framework and the assessments and

everything so

how did intercultural from what you

remember how did it become part of your

life and where did it feature from


well i suppose by name as you said by

name i came into contact with it about

2010 that's how long well we've known

each other for longer than that but

that's when i became a practitioner and

it was only doing that

practitioner course that i realized oh

my goodness i have experienced

miscommunication from different cultures

for many many years i have

iranian blood in my family they have

iranian members of the family uh but

they you know

moved to england when they were young

and you know my father's half english

half iranian and growing up i just

thought i was in a british family that

you know were born some of them were

born elsewhere and we were

raised as british people i felt that we

were doing british things and behaving

in a british way and i didn't know any

different uh until i came across

intercultural intelligence and i

realized oh my goodness that there was

so much misunderstanding within the


um that from the iranian side there was

a lot of shame and honor

um who treat families differently and


have different

importance on different things

from the innocent skilled culture and so


and and just for our audience you're

alluding to honor shame innocence guilt

which is part of the the three colors of

world view

and and that indicates that that you're

you've incorporated the language of of

the intercultural framework and when you

first got exposed to it you already

mentioned that it's sort of shown a

spotlight on your own

stuff that happened in the family and

what in what other way did ici become

attractive to you


i've always been a people person in fact

i realized that at school i used to look

around the kids in the class and think

why is that guy so loud maybe he's

nervous and he's trying to overcome his

nervousness i was always trying to work

out why people were the way they were

and as you know i think it was 2009 i

became a facilitator for personality

types and uh understanding people at a

different level was so

amazing and such an eye-opener that i

think intercultural intelligence was a

natural progression from there

and you've you've been working with the

intercultural intelligence framework for

many years

and i'm just wondering

how does that impact you personally as


look at the framework you make it part

of you

intellectually but it seems in your case

it's much deeper than that

um so how does it impact you personally


it helps me to understand people and so

i'm constantly thinking not just what

did that person do how did they behave


why would they have behaved in that way

i think well i think i absolutely know

it makes me so understanding of people

in fact to this day friends call me when

they're having a

disagreement with somebody they call me

to help me what do they say your voice

of reason but what they mean is you know

help me look at this from a different


that's beautiful


now one of the things that we advocate

with with our intercultural intelligence

work is this idea that

yes we all might have a nationality we

might have an ethnic background or we

might have a certain racial affiliation

for instance but at the same time we're

saying that every person has their own

unique cultural wiring

you already alluded to

having lived in in multiple countries

having mixed heritage at least from a

nationality point of view in your family

what does that mean to you that every


has their own unique cultural wiring how

important is that for you

it's extremely important because

people are so often clumped together and

described as you know british people are

like that

indians are like that germans are like

that whatever um whatever the topic

they're talking about and

years ago

that was not the case and now it's

really not the case because just because

that person has a german passport or

whatever it is

doesn't identify them at all and so it's

so important

that we understand that person and his

or her individual culture


it just brings to mind now that

with us you know working remotely


it's even more important or it's more

challenging put it that way it's so

important for us to understand the

individual culture of everybody we're

working with but now it's more difficult

to do that and so people should really

you know look at the way they're wording

their emails or you know how they behave

on zoom chords um to get to know and

understand that individual fully it's

fascinating you mentioned that because

i've heard people say exactly the

opposites like now we're all on zoom

we're not in each other's space anymore

so we need to pay less attention to this

intercultural stuff wow you're saying

the opposite apparently yeah whether

it's personalities or cultures i think

now it's so important that we look for

those little differences because people

need to feel they still need to feel

heard they still need to feel as though

they belong and

so i'm helping clients to

look at how emails are written look how

whatsapp messages are written look how

willing people are to

open the camera open the camera turn the

camera on

be visible not be visible

how they interact in a zoom meeting so

it's really helping them to look at

those micro messages to understand their

their employees better

very important and almost sounds like a

new skill set that we need to learn at a

more fine-tuned level

yeah and and in that sense uh you you

work as a facilitator consultant advisor

tell me a little bit more about what you

do from a professional point of view

well i deliver a range of people skills

and so when a client i often work with

large corporates and in recent times

it's more business owners as well who

are wanting to build stronger teams and

understand their employees better and so

i usually listen to their challenge and

once they tell me where they're facing

the challenges then i can identify is it

because the personalities are clashing

is it because there are so many cultures

and they don't all understand each other

is it about

the communication are they giving

feedback in a way that's respected or

you know received in the right way so i

kind of make a cocktail


to really what i call hit the nail on

the head and deliver

the right program or the right training

to to meet their needs

and obviously as you do that

every opportunity to deliver those

services starts with a conversation

and you sort of alluded to it earlier on

but i'm curious how how would you use


cultural agility your intercultural

intelligence in in engaging with the

client what's different what what are

you listening for what type of questions

are you asking how does it help you

engage the client well to start with i


moodles of empathy

so i think

that also if you add empathy plus

the knowledge of personality types and

the knowledge of intercultural

intelligence it really helps me to stand

in the shoes of the client


i actually believe that

people who are

cultural learners like myself because

you know as well as i do there are

people who have lived overseas for many

many years but they still

are not cultural learners they still

believe that their culture is better

than others so for somebody like myself

who's very open i think we


differences and we adapt and adjust the

way we communicate with people without

even realizing it anymore i think we


chameleons but not in a in a fake way

but just

something inside us helps us to relate

to those individuals in a way that

is respectful

in their culture does that make sense oh

totally and i love that combination that

you mentioned empathy

deeper understanding of personality

behavioral styles as well as an

understanding of the intercultural

wiring of the person in front of you i

think that's a that's a huge a powerful

way to to shine light on the

relationship on the issues that the

client is facing so i love that

could you maybe give one example of how

that plays out in which way does ici

make a difference in your work and what

you do with clients


one answer that immediately springs to

mind is that there is no


and whether it's a training company that

comes to me asking me to put a course

together or a client coming to me

i think initially they think oh here we

go because i ask so many questions to

really dig deep and understand what are

the challenges that they actually are

facing so that i can deliver the right


i've worked a lot with engineers

predominantly from the western world


do business with people in the oil and

gas you know clients in the oil and gas

industry that are very much from the

middle east


it's so wonderful to see the penny drop

when you when their minds open

and they realize oh my goodness how i've

been communicating with my clients how

i've been behaving with my clients how

i've been tapping my watch and saying

it's time you know for the meeting to

start or the meeting to end

it's so wonderful for those

aha moments and then to realize just how

how differently they could have done

things and what better response they

could have got and one thing i tell all

my clients all my participants when it

comes to personalities or intercultural

intelligence is there is no right or

wrong there is only different and if we

start by opening our minds to there

isn't a right way or a wrong way there's

my way there's your way but you know

they're just different ways of doing

things yeah yeah

it's um it's fascinating to hear you

connect your life story

to how you make that valuable in your

professional life as well

what about but your your

circle i mean we all have been in

various versions of lockdown so

human connect is limited but can you use

ici cultural agility with friends and

family as well you mentioned earlier on

that sometimes people call you to

shed more intercultural light on issues

they're facing but

almost created the impression that that

was like professional advice but does it

happen in any circle of friends

neighborhood whatever do you have an

example of that well actually this is

probably an unusual example and i was

even thinking of not writing a book

about it but i i was shocked to think

that i don't think anybody has looked at

this topic in this way and i'll share

with you that a friend of mine had big

problems with

uh mother-in-law

and you know you hear mother-in-law

jokes all over the world it's you know

every nationality every culture you know

makes fun of mothers-in-law at some

stage and i

as i was helping her to understand the

mother-in-law's point of view and to

look at differences i realized that

actually this is intercultural

intelligence because

it's a cultural issue i don't think

anybody has connected the dots and

thought a mother-in-law issue is

actually a cultural issue because the

mother and the the son have the mother

has raised the son in her family where

these are our traditions this is the way

we do things and the new wife has been

raised by her parents and that's the way

they do things and then you join forces

and all of a sudden there's a clash

because there's it's our way of doing

things even if they're the same

nationality and they've lived in the

same country for years because it's it's

the way

they have been you know even traditions

christmas do you celebrate on 24th or

the 25th do you open all the presents at

the same time or do you open a present

every day for the next week so it's

quite fascinating and i actually helped



understand not only

is your mother-in-law challenge actually

a cultural issue but i also help them

understand shame and honor as well

because they had a few different

cultures going on in there so yeah and

the funny thing is the mother-in-law is

also a friend of mine and sometime later

the mother-in-law started telling me

about shame and honor this thing called

shame on honor and

i was the one that explained it in the

first place so yeah

it crops up in unusual places marco but

it's always useful it's fascinating i

love it

yeah it's um it's true when you think

about either two homes coming together

with mother-in-law proverbially

typically in the middle

but also when you have generations

coming together we've had people talking

you know about generational differences

and how helpful it is to even use

the framework that we have to explain

some of those differences it creates a

different conversation around old and


and finding that that happens across the

world actually yeah now you've been in

the ici space now for

10 years plus right that's 2009 yeah

it's it's that long already

so as you know we we have both ici


cultural agility development that you

also provide yourself as a practitioner

but we also have certifications for

people who really want to get into it

either as a trainer or as a coach or as



somebody listening to this conversation

with your you know 11 years plus

knowledge of the subject but a lifetime

of experience in being an intercultural


somebody's considering you know stepping

into this what would you say to them why

why should they even consider it

well it opens up a whole new world um

i'm actually coaching a gentleman at the

moment who's spanish uh living in spain

and he has been doing work lately since

lockdown with a lot of people in latin

america so yes they speak spanish but

boy do they have different cultures so

so now that the world is opening up and

okay here in the uae we do work with all

different nationalities or different

cultures on a regular basis it's nothing

new for us but even people who are you

know living in manchester and they've

never left manchester now that the world

has opened up to be dealing with people

from all over the world so easily just

literally clicking on a zoom call i

think it's

so important

to understand where the other person is

coming from in order to build stronger


and i'm actually shocked at how long it

has taken companies here in the middle

east to

get on board with intercultural

intelligence training you know that you

it's been going for many years but the

real interest has only happened in in

recent years so

now it's only going to

life is changing so rapidly that i think

it's it's important for those who care

about their employees

and care about the people that they're

working with whether they're coaching

and they've got clients to

truly understand

where people are coming from

because you can take as much artificial

intelligence as you can but people's


are never going to go away well

certainly not in the near future you you

need to i think it's more important

to work in

parallel with artificial intelligence

than less important i actually think and

and some of the early signs are there

that artificial intelligence pushes us

human beings or requires from us to to

reach a new level yeah because the

mundane is going to be taken by

artificial intelligence machine learning

which means we will have to be an awful

lot better at


complex problem solving collaboration

negotiating with each other about your

idea versus my idea or a joint idea so

all these human skills will will have to

keep up so to speak with the machines

and that requires us to work together as

you said the world is opening up we're

working together with everybody

even remotely so doing all of that

in a culturally savvy way is i see it

happening all around me so yeah now we

we've just come through

first year of of a crisis that we've

never seen in a few generations

2021 q1 is almost over we're stepping

into the next uh part of the year

is there anything to be excited about

anything that you look forward to in

this year well i'm always excited about

things i have a natural

excitement for life but what's something

that just came to my mind is that now

we are all working remotely and dealing

with people in all over or different

parts of the world i'm actually

collaborating with somebody in toronto

that's nine hours behind

and new zealand that's nine hours ahead

and so my days are spreading and

the thought that just came to my mind

now you know the charity msf medicine

frontier which is you know doctors

without borders

well i think we have a world without

borders now um


you know i'm communicating with these

guys in toronto and guys in new zealand

there's no passport there's no visa

there's no travel there's no waiting in

immigration however much i love love

love travel but now we have life without

borders and let me tell you life without

borders we need to understand each other

absolutely i agree yeah working across

time zones has become so normal you know

the time zone calculators and where

daylight savings is kicking in and where

not is a continuous part of our calendar

screen so yeah and in terms of your

personal work where do you see the

opportunities and to to have an impact

in people's lives in this year

well i'm developing my own programs for

years i have been working with

corporates and you know creating the

perfect remedy to solve their challenges

i will continue to do that and behind

the scenes i'm creating my own programs

all for people to understand

their clients their their employees

better to be able to

be more productive and also

happier i think one thing that this last

year has shown a light on is that life's

too short

and you know we can be happy at work can

be doing work that plays to our

strengths so the more

we understand

our clients and our colleagues the

happier we can all be and the more

productive we can be

so yeah and also my individual programs

will then they're all to do with people

skills including intercultural

intelligence and they will be

obviously available to anybody on the


wonderful yeah it definitely is a world

without borders

and uh we've enjoyed working with you

over all these years and seen

the places that you've had an impact in

people's lives and in teams and in

companies lives so it's beautiful to see

how that has been unfolding so thank you

for your willingness to share your story

today and uh i hope people will look you

up as well we will have karina's details

available as well on the podcast channel

and thank you guys for listening in

more stories to come from our

intercultural global network beautiful

people that are involved in fascinating

work all around the globe so look out

for for additional stories of people

in a global world

without borders according to corina and

a world where intercultural intelligence

is making a difference in people's lives

thank you for listening guys see you

next time fantastic bye-bye

thank you so much for joining us for

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