How-Leaders-Can-Improve-Intercultural-Competence-In-Their-Organization-with-Dan-Garcia - Meeting Leadership Podcast Episode Image

Intercultural competence is a set of skills that leaders can use to ensure appropriate and effective interaction with people of other cultures.

We covered why intercultural competence is important back in episode #039.  In that episode was professional competence expert Dan Garcia, who returns to shed more light on the subject.

In episode #065 of the Meeting Leadership Podcast, we discuss how you can instill intercultural competence in your meetings and organization.  A lot of ground was covered in this our longest episode to date, and here are a few of the highlights:

  • Using diagnostic tools for self-assessment
  • Understanding cultural nuances
  • Adjusting to your audience
  • Asking the right questions about intercultural competence
  • Adapting behavior and shifting perspective

To contact Dan Garcia, visit:

Dan Garcia

Dan Garcia - Meeting Leadership Podcast - Effective Meetings

Dan García is the COO of Principia Assessments Ltd. He is a Certified Association Executive with an education in Business Administration and Project Management.

Dan was formerly a Senior Advisor and Director of Integration at the Legal Education Society of Alberta. There, he handled the efficient and effective management of human, financial, physical, technological, and knowledge-based resources, as well as managing social capital through branding, communications, and community engagement initiatives.

Dan is currently a Board Member of the Canadian Society of Association Executives.

You Can get in touch with Dan Garcia at –

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00:00 – Show Opening

Are you a professional who wants to become a more effective leader? Then get ready for daily tips from the coach with the experience and inspiration to help you succeed in any leadership situation. You’re listening to the Meeting Leadership Podcast with Gordon Sheppard

00:27 – Start Here- Podcast content starts here!

Welcome to another episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast. My name is Gordon Sheppard and I just want to say thank you so much for taking time out of your valuable day to join me here on the podcast to pick up another practical tip, to pick up another strategy, something that you can take out today, put into action, become a stronger leader, and learn how to run outstanding meetings. Thank you so, so much.

00:52 – For leaders who embrace diversity – Improving intercultural competence

And if you’re the type of leader who embraces diversity, you’re going to get a lot of value out of today’s episode because today we’re going to talk about how leaders can improve intercultural competence in their organization. And before we go any further, let me take a moment to read the intercultural competence definition according to Wikipedia. It says, “intercultural competence is a range of cognitive affective and behavioral skills that lead to effective and appropriate communication with people of other cultures.”

01:06 – What is Intercultural Competence?

Gordon Sheppard: So if you think about it, if you’re the leader who can get this right, if you’re the leader who can lead their team with the most sensitivity in terms of intercultural issues, then there’s a good chance that your team is going to function at the highest possible level. And one of the best ways to learn about this topic is from expert Dan Garcia. Now Dan is the chief operating officer of Principia Assessments and they do all kinds of evidence-based work to help organizations really grow their overall competencies and become much, much stronger.

01:41 – About Dan Garcia –

Gordon Sheppard: Now many of you will remember Dan from episode 39 on the podcast and it was called Why Intercultural Competence is Critical for All Leaders. And that was part one of a two part series. 

01:58 – Why Intercultural Competence Is Critical For All Leaders Part 1 with Dan Garcia –

And if you want to catch up with that one, you’ll go to And of course once you understand the why, then you can get into the how. And that is exactly what we’re going to do in this episode. So without waiting any longer, here’s the interview with Dan Garcia.

02:28 – Welcome back, Dan Garcia!

Gordon Sheppard: Dan Garcia, welcome back to the show.

Dan Garcia: Thanks for coming back again, Gordon.

Gordon Sheppard: You knocked it out of the park in episode 39 and I think leaders that have taken that one in are definitely chomping at the bit to hear about you today. Now there’s some people that might be new to you and they’ll want to know more about you. So take a moment to tell us about yourself.

02:42 – Dan Garcia on Principia Assessments and professional competence

Dan Garcia: Sure. My name is Dan Garcia and I’m the chief operating officer at Principia Assessments. And we work in a lot of different areas, particularly in complex challenges in the area of professional competence. One of the key areas in professional competence that we’re focusing in right now is intercultural competence. So, the ability to shift perspectives and adapt behavior to cultural commonalities and differences.

Gordon Sheppard: Well and that’s why this episode is called, How Leaders Can Improve Intercultural Competence in their organization. I mean it’s just great to have you back on expert wise and really give the folks some practical things that they can take away. And what’s the first thing that you want to tell leaders when it comes to the practical aspect of tackling this issue?

03:28 – Start with an assessment – Using diagnostic tools

Dan Garcia: Use the diagnostic tool. It’s crazy, right now we use diagnostic tools for all kinds of things. We get blood tests to understand our health. We track our steps. We have gauges in our cars. But when it comes to professional competence, we’re pretty much mostly winging it.

04:23 – Start by asking the right questions

Dan Garcia: Now consider this scenario: If someone wants to be a better runner, should just give them the training plan that has them run a 5K tomorrow? The intervention might be useful, but only if it’s appropriate for that runners current state of development. Are they already a competitive athlete? Or just starting out? Knowing matters. Now, while an improvement plan might be helpful for some, for others it could be useless or worse, harmful. So before anybody invests their limited resources, their time, energy, and money, it’s worthwhile to start with an assessment. Now, leaders that want to make some meaningful progress in developing their organization’s intercultural competence need to start by asking the real questions. For example, what do we know about the range of differences in our group? How do we value and engage these differences? How do our people perceive and respond to differences and commonality? What culturally-influenced conflict and communication styles do we use? And what should we focus on right now? Many leaders struggle to answer these five crucial questions but with the right tools, taking the next step is easier than you think.

05:00 – The example of the oil field executive

Gordon Sheppard: Well and what you’re talking about really makes me think about an example of an oil field executive that I ran into in Alberta. This fella came from El Salvador and he came as a new immigrant to Canada, highly competent, all kinds of degrees, really, really good at his work. And in my area when I help people deal with meetings and some of this aspect, he was talking about the difference in coming to meetings in Canada when he first got started here professionally and versus in El Salvador. And he would say this, he would say, “In El Salvador, if I walk into a meeting and I see a woman there and I don’t kiss her on both cheeks and tell her that she looks great, I get in trouble. But if I come to Canada and I’m in a meeting and I actually walk up to a woman and I try to kiss her on both cheeks and tell her she looks great, they’re going to call the police.” Is this the kind of thing that we’re getting at with your tool and your assessment?

05:51 – Motives and intentions cannot be assumed – Effective self-assessment

Dan Garcia: Absolutely. It’s trying to understand that people’s actions and the way they operate in the world is not necessarily something that we can assume that their motives or intention is clear to us, especially when we have cultural differences. See typically when we’re trying to understand how people deal with things and trying to assess intercultural competence, we often rely on self-assessment. Now the most common form, in large part, is because it’s the easiest. The problem is that it’s also notoriously ineffective. People are terrible at self-assessing, especially in this area. And there is both general and specific research that confirms this. So using an instrument is really critical in terms of getting some objective, validated data to give you a point of start and some understanding so you can measure progress, know where you’re going, and know when you’ve reached your milestones.

Gordon Sheppard: Yeah but you know what? I get along with everybody, according to me.

06:49 – Getting along with people is different than understanding cultural nuances – Adjusting to your audience

Dan Garcia: Now getting along with everybody is different than understanding those cultural nuances and taking into account how you say things or, whether it’s verbal, nonverbal, paraverbal, all those types of things that really come into play when you’re communicating with somebody, how it’s being received by your audience. It’s easy to assume, “Well, that’s what it means to me, so that’s what it must mean to somebody else.” It’s like thinking that what I, the strategies that I use in communicating with people is going to work for everybody else. It’s not like that. And that’s because all these different facets of our culture really come into play. And first of all, in the way we perceive differences, and also the way we adapt to them. If we are not even perceiving those differences, there’s no way for us to adapt them. And as soon as that’s happening, there’s an immediate barrier in terms of reaching your audience. Whether it’s an a sales position, you’re dealing with customers that are foreign-trained or foreign-born, whether you’re dealing with multiple generations in one office, it’s all about adjusting to your audience. And that comes from more of the sales principle than it is about intercultural competence, but it comes into play so strongly in all their interactions. You can be standing in the lineup at Tim Horton’s and it’s easy to see how close or how far apart people stand from each other. That is culturally influenced, many times.

08:24 – The example of personal space

 Dan Garcia: For example, I was talking to somebody recently who is from China and she was explaining to me there’s no understanding of personal space, it’s easy to talk you three inches from somebody else’s face. Where people, for example in North America, may feel like that’s violation of personal space.

Gordon Sheppard:    This is absolutely true in my own experience. I can hear the way that you’re able to illustrate this for people and for the leaders who are listening to this right now, the value in is super, super high and you can hear, worth an investment not only in listening to you on this podcast, but probably in reaching out to you in some capacity.

Gordon Sheppard:    So Dan if anybody needs to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to do that?

09:04 – Contacting Dan Garcia –

Dan Garcia: Through our website, that’s probably the best. It’s knowprincipia.Com. There’s many ways to connect with us through there and of course you can get in touch with me, send me some information, happy to go for a coffee and talk about this. This is such a critical information.But if I could give your leaders just one tip, is use a tool that is designed to assess intercultural competence. That is one of the most critical things and there is a great resources where they can do their own research and find out what’s best. It’s a report called “Assessing Intercultural Competence in Higher Education.” Now, they did a study on a lot of different instruments, there are a couple of instruments of those that we actually regularly use, particularly the intercultural development inventory.

09:26 – Using tools to adapt behavior and shift perspectives

Dan Garcia: That’s an excellent tool in terms of helping people, first of all create that cultural self-awareness and get started in terms of understanding how to adapt their behavior and shift perspectives. But there are Lots of tools out there, it’s trying to understand what’s the right thing for your context. The problem is though it’s that you need to make sure that whatever tool you decide to use, it’s actually practical. Now that same report that I just mentioned, it does propose this really, really great assessment scheme or model if you had limitless resources. The problem is in practicality, you need to do something that is easy to administer for your internal team and anybody else who’s participating in this process because there is some fatigue and if you aren’t sure about what context that you have and what people are actually ready for and probably the change management, that readiness piece in terms of being able to start any diversity and inclusion initiatives, you need to know where to start and then you can select the tool.

11:42 – Getting a feel for your current state is critical

Dan Garcia: We are very cautious about just implementing any tool for any of our clients. We always start asking, “What is your current situation?” And we go through a needs and readiness assessment and really a more fulsome context assessment.

Gordon Sheppard: This makes total sense. Select the right tool, work with an expert, and there’s a good chance that you’re going to turn your intercultural competence journey into something that will ultimately be profitable for your entire organization. Dan, thank you so much for your expertise. Thanks for being on the show, really appreciate it.

Dan Garcia: Thanks for having me Gordon, it was a real pleasure.

Gordon Sheppard: Now one of my biggest takeaways from listening to that interview is to imagine that somebody might go out and try to run a marathon without first assessing where they are at. You can see that by choosing the right instrument, the right approach, working with the right expert, getting a feel for your current state is absolutely critical when it comes to measuring and taking advantage of intercultural competence.

12:14 – Why Intercultural Competence Is Critical For All Leaders Part 1 with Dan Garcia –

Gordon Sheppard:    And with that in mind, don’t hesitate to reach out to Dan Garcia, and you’ll find his contact information right here in the show notes. And also don’t forget to check out episode 39 on the podcast and there you’ll hear Dan Garcia talk about why intercultural competence is critical for all leaders. And you can get that episode on your favorite podcast app or by visiting

12:32 – Meeting Leadership Academy –

Gordon Sheppard:    And I also want to let you know that this episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast is brought to you by the Meeting Leadership Academy. If you want practical skills, things that you can apply right away to become a stronger leader, things that you can apply right away to have outstanding meetings, then check out the great live and online training options by visiting And as always, thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you tomorrow on the Meeting Leadership Podcast.

13:01 – Podcast Outro

Thanks for listening to the Meeting Leadership Podcast. Be sure to subscribe for more strategies to help you become an outstanding leader. And don’t forget to write a review so we can bring you fresh content every day. We’ll see you tomorrow, right here on the Meeting Leadership Podcast.

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Gordon Sheppard

Gordon Sheppard

Gord is on a mission to change the world, one meeting at a time. Over his 25+ years in business Gord has run or participated in more than 2000 meetings! Not only is Gord the CEO of Business Expert Solutions Inc. (owner/operator of Meeting Leadership Inc), but he is also a Facilitator, Trainer, Business Consultant, Author, Speaker and Podcaster who helps leaders learn how to have great meetings, so they can build outstanding organizations and serve their clients at the highest possible level.

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