Speak up!” Have you ever heard or said that? Discover how understanding and working with cultural differences takes an emerging leader from being told “Speak up!” to confident influence and impact, unlocking professional and organizational potential.

As a leader or coach, you want the greatest impact for you, your organization and its stakeholders, to maximize income by maintaining your edge and avoiding loss of business, talent, and market share.

Yet the self doubt and even sometimes fear that arises from working in our Volatile, Uncertain, (Culturally) Complex and Ambiguous world can get in your way. Our rapidly changing world can be unnerving for even established leaders, and more so for emerging or new leaders who are still finding their way. When an overnight tweet can affect the stock market and balance of world power that trickles down to your organization, it can be frightening.

the most important resource you have under your control for navigating this complexity is your leadership mindset – the collection of beliefs, values, assumptions and experiences, often unconscious, that inform how you interpret your world and take action.” (1) reports the South China Morning Post.

I believe you can transform from self-doubt to confidence like Sophia and her organization. Let’s take a look at their journey through a Cultural Intelligence lens while you discover what you can apply for even greater impact and income while confidently staying on the cutting edge.

Sophia’s boss saw her potential and told her, “You are not speaking up enough!”  In order to be the leader their organization required to move them forward, she needed to learn to step into her own power and influence, to speak up, and she wanted to do so. And if you have listened to or heard me before, you know when I talk about power that I mean shared power, not power over at the expense of others.

When I asked about her culture, Sophia shared she was raised in the rural US where women were in the background. She observed and internalized this message: women do not speak up. This is not limited to Sophia or women, although the research points to women walking a fine line between speaking up too much and not speaking up enough.

In Native American, some Latino and many Asian cultures that are more elder oriented and hierarchical, you are not to speak until the elders or those with higher position have spoken. In some cultures (including regional, gender or generation specific) when you speak up without waiting for those with higher rank to speak or without someone addressing you, you could be considered rude.(2)

Her organization contracted with me for a CQ Leadership and Executive Coaching breakthrough, to unlock all potential. Let’s look at how Sophia did that, reducing the risk of talent loss and fully benefiting from Sophia’s leadership gifts and strengths. (3)

Changing beliefs and bias and building confidence takes time, support, and accountability, key coaching ingredients. Sophia and her organization were willing to make the commitment it takes.  While Sophia’s boss was encouraging this shift, Sophia went to a deeper level for sustainable change and impact through our coaching. She made the crucial shift in her leadership mindset, paired with behavioral changes.

Sophia’s internal cultural belief and bias change led to her stepping into her own power by speaking up, taking leadership of meetings, and delegating to others more. She also learned to implement our Challenging Communication model with a colleague who was continually interrupting her in meetings.

These changes increased the organization’s effectiveness and thus its profitability because Sophia reduced the amount of time she was spending on conflicts, contributed more in meetings and kept her time and focus on her responsibilities. “These sessions have helped me change who I am,” she said. Change at the being level is sustainable change!

When you follow through with your commitments while making the internal shifts necessary for sustainability, trust increases. Your trust and confidence in yourself as well as others’ trust in you.

If the entire leadership team had been involved in coaching, we would have looked at how the organization was developing talent and onboarding new leaders with increased Cultural Intelligence for even greater results. And Sophia and her organization had other options regarding her speaking up in meetings, including some restructuring of the meetings.

Like Sophia and her organization, are you ready to make sustainable change for greater impact and income, to keep you on the cutting edge? Apply for an Unlock Potential strategy session today and take advantage of one my few openings.

Stay tuned each week to continually increase your cultural intelligence and empathy, so crucial for wholeness and success in our complex world.

To our success-we are in this together!

Marilyn O’Hearne, MA, CQ MCC

Potential Unlocking through CQ Executive, Leadership, Team and Mentor Coaching; Supervision


  1. http://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2116057/why-leaders-need-confidence-uncertain-environments
  2. It is not enough to say “we value respect,” as that can carry different meanings among cultural identities and groups.
  3. “Hearing from diverse perspectives not only contributes to innovation and success (the up to 35% more profitable referenced in the McKinsey report) but also when people feel heard as respected contributors they are more likely to stay: in the family, organization, community. In some direct cultures, if someone is not “jumping in” and speaking up in meetings, they could be labeled “not a contributor” and be passed up for special assignments and promotions, possibly even let go. In indirect, more hierarchical, elder oriented cultures, to speak up before the elders and your organizational seniors have spoken and you are called on would be considered rude and offensive, with the same potential results. Talent loss is expensive!” “Developing a Cultural Mindset for Success,” The Successful Mind, drawn from Breaking Free from Bias.