CQ - Have you heard about it?

The following blog post was contributed by Csilla Fodor from AFS Hungary. Find out more about Csilla, and enjoy her blog post:

I wish I could have been an AFS student myself! I started to learn about AFS as Hosting Coordinator and after 3 years at this position I switched and continued working at the office as Organizational Development Coordinator, which I really enjoyed. I just realized last year, when I turned 30, that I felt like a teenager, really young and was surpirsed at the number of candles. Volunteers keep me young, and AFS is the best face lifting ever. I am a Qualified Trainer for the AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program and a member of the European Pool of Trainers at EFIL. I took up the role of the ICL responsible of AFS Hungary that now I am transmitting to my successor as I have decided to leave AFS as staff in the middle of June and experience what life brings to my way as a free lance trainer and coach. This bio is not a farewell, but a big step as a volunteer. I would like to remain an active member of this wonderful organization and will contribute to the organization with articles
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Urgent need for Cultural Intelligence among leaders around the world

Do me a favor and read this, please...

On a snowy Saturday morning in February my fiancé asks me to do a favor for him. With a huge smile on his face he hands over a book to me. 200 pages. He immediately explains that he is traveling to London on Monday for a three-day meeting, should read this as preraration material but has no time at all before the trip. Having nothing more important for the weekend than reading an unknown book on a misterious topic, I take up the challenge and decide to read the book, take notes and give a sum-up to him at the end. (Yes, in my culture, it is ok to do this in a close relationship.)


Good bargain, indeed


10 minutes reading and I am sure I made the best bargain ever. My fiancé does the washing-up instead of me for 3 months and I read a book that interests me in return. The book he gave me is: Cultural Intelligence – The competitive edge for leaders crossing borders written by Julia Middleton in 2014. Great topic for an AFS-er. Let’s see what it offers.

Julia Middleton is the CEO of Common Purpose, an NGO offering leadership training and courses in a unique setting, by using unusual, brilliant methods all around the world. In their most popular program about leadership, they invite NGO and for-profit business leaders for a long-term training course and take participants to other organizations in both sectors to learn about different realities, challenges, leadership styles, approaches and also to share experiences, best practices, ideas… Similar to AFS, isn’t it?

Julia wrote this book as an output of several dozens of interviews she made with leaders all around the globe both in the for-profit and the NGO sector. The aim of the book is to call attention to considering cultural intelligence as a key to successful, multicultural business and cooperation around the globe.


CQ – Cultural Intelligence in business


According to Julia, cultural intelligence is the natural evolution from the notions of IQ (Intelligence Quotient – by Alfred Binet) and EQ (Emotional Intelligence – by Daniel Goleman). CQ (Cultural Intelligence – by Bill George) is an essential ingredient for leaders, and crucial to the success of the organizations they lead. Leaders with a high IQ can cope with a vast amount of complicated information, leaders with a high EQ understand people, but often the ones they understand are people who are similar to them. These leaders recognize that they have to go beyond understanding people ‘like me’ to engage with people who aren’t like them at all.

Julia explains that in this interconnected world around us, we need something more than EQ: It is increasingly important to be able to communicate – fully – with people from different cultures. Not only different countries, but different cultures.

I find this inspiring. CQ is more than bridging national borders and developing capability to operate globally. It is about crossing all kinds of cultural borders, learning to operate effectively in unfamiliar surroundings and finding a way to break down barriers.


AFSers = high CQ


I believe that this statement above is true.

While reading this book about CQ I kept on comparing Julia’s examples and my AFS experience with AFS alumni and exchange students who enjoyed their exchange. I was amazed by the effect of AFS programs. There are thousands of leaders all around the world who struggle to interact with other cultures, and many people are unable to break down cultural barriers, meanwhile we provide opportunities to students to learn and experience a different culture for a longer period. Our participants unconsciously create their second skin by knowing, feeling and understanding another culture. I think this is brilliant. We at AFS, provide a good basis for these youngsters to become a culturally intelligent leaders in the future. In my eyes, AFS programs are not ‘only’ a lifelong experience but also a long term training course for successful future leaders.


Have you ever though of going on exchange, Julia?


Although I enjoyed the book, I wish Julia could have gone on exchange with AFS. I am sure she would have done less interviews with leaders all around the world. The book on CQ is about the essence of our programs from an adult’s point of view. Therefore sophisticated, boring sometimes and soooo obvious for an AFSer.

AFSers should write books too. We have great knowledge on intercultural learning, cultural differences, diversity… among many others.

In the past few years, I had a feeling that we at AFS Hungary are so busy with our own programs, innovations and strategies that we don’t take a look at the reality outside. We are not only providing exchange opportunities and recruiting for both hosting and sending programs, but we also make it unnecessary for our students to ’live’ a 200 pages long book about CQ, as it is in their nature after an exchange with AFS. We give much more than an exchange, and all our volunteers should know and communicate this.

I like this book, even though I had a proud smile throughout the whole weekend I spent reading it, realizing that AFSers are experts on the topic that Julia just started to tackle and is still uncertain about after writing 200 pages.


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