Take a lesson from Goldilocks.  You do not want your communication to be too direct (her porridge “too hot”), getting burned (losing business); or too indirect (“too cold”), also risking losing business. How do you discover what is the cultural “just right” level on the Direct Communication directometer with your clients, customers, stakeholders?

My grand-dog Trek, who I am staying with this week, responds to firm, direct commands, like “sit!” (sometimes). But that does not always work with humans!

How one of my coaches almost lost my business: I felt myself squirming in my chair, feeling impatient, my attention drifting, watching the minutes tick away as I listened to my laid back, West Coast coach catch me up on his life and ask about mine in the opening 15 minutes of our coaching session (too “cold” for me!).

“While I care about you and wish you well, our time together is valuable to me, and I want to get right to my coaching goals at the beginning of our sessions, ” I finally told him. We were on different points of the  direct communication directometer, based on our cultures. I chose to speak up rather than fire him.

*Direct Communication Directometer: A term I invented in my Direct Communication class, (so far!) an imaginary device measuring how direct the communication is. This is not a good/bad, right/wrong meter, just a playful way to check-in.

What I learned from my Korean and Japanese clients:  The intent of the meeting is implied within a series of formal greetings, I noticed as I heard my Korean coaching students and mentees coach each other. To ask in an initial meeting, “What do you want from this meeting?” could be considered rude and offensive (too hot!).  It can take several meetings of establishing trust to get to goals. This may vary based on generation, personality, seniority and how much they work with Westerners and can also apply within cultural groups in North America.

Before I started Executive Coaching for a Japanese organization, I asked, “Do you want me to show up my normal Western direct self or adjust my communication to less direct?” Their reply: “We want you to be direct, because our leaders work in a global environment.” If I had not asked, I could have lost business if I was too direct, they were not expecting or wanting that, and I could have been viewed as rude and offensive. Also if I had not asked and decided without communicating to adjust my communication to less direct, that would not have been what they hired me for and again, I could have lost the business.

2 key points:

1. Find out what your client/customer/stakeholder’s cultural preference is on the direct communication directometer: how direct to be in your communication. How?  Ask them as well as learn about their culture.  Find out more when you contact me for a discovery session!

This is also true of corporate culture: check out the preferred direct communication directometer when you join a new team, organization, or begin working with a new client, or are designing a product or service for your market.

2. Saving grace: Besides my own cultural preference for directness, my West Coast coach had, in writing and verbally, invited me to speak up if something was bothering me, which I did. Again this prevented him from losing my business.

Will an indirect communicator speak up, even with this permission?  Possibly not. The wise coach, leader, or business owner will initiate a conversation by asking, “How do you want to start our meetings? How do you establish trust? How will I know if I have crossed a communication line with you?”, etc.

Coaches, reserve your place now for the next “How to Be a Powerful Direct Communicator without Crossing the Line (Into Being Too Directive)” 7 week training (ICF, BCC CCEs)

Leaders, apply for a strategy session to discuss customize a program and/or coaching solution for your organization’s development.

To our success-we are in this together!

Stay tuned till next week for more CQ wisdom!

Marilyn O’Hearne, MA, MCC

Culturally Intelligent Executive, Leadership, Team and Mentor Coaching; Supervision