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Book Review



Review of “The Cross-Cultural Coaching Kaleidoscope. A Systems Approach to Coaching Amongst Different Cultural Influences” by Jennifer Plaister-Ten. London: Karnac Books Ltd., 2016. ISBN 978-1-7804909-6-0

Review written by Art Paton, Senior Manager, Global Quality Learning, Baxter International, Inc. and John B. Lazar, CEO, John B. Lazar & Associates, Inc.

The book includes two parts. The first part introduces the Kaleidoscope Coaching Model. The second part describes Building Cross-Cultural Competencies.

The Kaleidoscope Coaching Model describes elements of culture that are present in the environment within which people live and work, and elements of culture attributable to family and individual perspective. The author shares personal perspectives from her multicultural life experience and how it helped to form her concept of the model. Plaister-Ten makes the point that globalization and a mobile workforce create an environment where cross-cultural competence is required. In addition, the lack of resources on cross-cultural coaching suggested the need for the Kaleidoscope Model, and this book. Several literature sources are cited in Part 1 that help define the need for cross-cultural coaching.

The Kaleidoscope Model includes familiar elements through which culture can be understood. At the center of the model is the cultural self and personality. Surrounding self are values and organization culture. Much of Part 1 explores the tension or balance between the culture of self and the culture of the organization within which the person lives and works. Organization loosely includes family, village, workplace, and nation. Perspectives, or lenses, through which to view aspects of culture, include familiar categories, such as history, legal/political, religion, age, gender, ethnicity, norms and customs. Plaister-Ten explores cultural dimensions of each of these lenses, and their potential influence on interactions between people who have different cultural experience and frameworks. She offers examples of questions that explore facets of each lens. The author offers selected examples of hidden or unconscious influences on decisions, interpretations and conflicts. In each example, when the cultural element is brought into discussion, often changes in decisions, interpretations and conflicts can be made. People experienced with cross-cultural business and personal interactions can confirm this viewpoint.

The author cites cross-cultural coaches who use the model and report that it opens up areas for exploration and discussion when coaching leaders are having difficulty with multicultural staff or leading a team in another country. The book explores further whether the culture of the self can change or adapt contextually. The model suggests that deeper discussions can explore whether a values or customs conflict is actually a barrier or an opportunity to understand. At the end of Part 1, the author provides short summaries of the body of literature used to define the Kaleidoscope Model. Plaister-Ten further refers the reader to her paper in the “International Journal of Evidence-Based Coaching and Mentoring” (Plaister-Ten, 2013).

Part 2 of the book illuminates use of the Kaleidoscope Model to further inform cross-cultural coaches on what to look for when working with people from different cultures. Plaister-Ten explores the known differences between “Western” and “Eastern” cultures and the danger of interpreting “Eastern” behaviors and styles through “Western” cultural lenses and experiences. Most people in business who have worked internationally have some experience with individualism vs. collectivism, or direct communication vs. circular communication. The Kaleidoscope Model suggests taking time to explore other cultural lenses that may influence the experience, such as national values, politics, history, or economics.

Part 2 also discusses the need for coaches to be fully aware of their own cultural bias and framework. The author shares the concept of “Neutral Space” to be created where cultural frameworks are minimized and the coach remains open to cultural dimensions and situations that are very different from their own experience. The author cites statements from other coaches about dealing with their own bias and discovering the cultural norms in other countries. For deeper understanding, a more detailed description of how and why the coaches adapted to another culture is needed. Many practitioners also would appreciate evidence-based cases with improved business outcomes.

Part 2 of the book is offered as a tool for developing cross-cultural coaching competence. The categories and examples provided are more anecdotal and serve to confirm that experience and reflection are required to build competence. Further, the chapters suggest that people who are internationally “curious” and are energized by interacting with new and different environments are more successful as cross-cultural coaches as long as they have thoroughly examined their own cultural framework and its influence on their perspectives and interpretations.

Plaister-Ten describes the need for coaches to embrace the “Both/And” viewpoint to resolve differences between cultural norms and viewpoints. This is helpful, yet does not go into the how and why of building bridges between cultural frameworks as described by other authors in the cross-cultural space. Simple analogies are offered as entry points for discussion of conflicting perspectives. In some instances, the distance between a simple analogy and a critical business conflict is too great to bridge. More concrete examples and business framework examples would be useful.

The final section of Part 2 describes the need to move toward a collective intelligence that guides global interactions through understanding and even appreciation for the differences in cultures and what must be done to ensure people are both aware and adept at navigating these differences. Plaister-Ten further connects purpose-based strategies of leading global companies that embrace a higher level good for society that respects and bridges differences, breaks down stereotypes, and builds cross-cultural competence.

Appendices include a global map showing locations of coaches and clients cited in the research for the model, questions used in the research study, list of people by job title, country of residence and nationality who have explored use of the Kaleidoscope Model and their feedback on using the model.


Plaister-Ten takes a practical approach to the concept of cross-cultural coaching. The issues that make cross-cultural coaching necessary are described as the reason for development of the Kaleidoscope Model. The author also is quite practical in describing the need for practitioners to first be aware of their own cultural framework and the need to adapt or bridge their own framework with the culture of the person or team with whom they work. The chapters in the book offer helpful anecdotes from actual users of the model and other researchers, with conclusions that support the model.

This topic is very current and very important, as more companies work globally and people move to new countries to work and live. In many businesses, the cross-cultural environment exists in every facility and in every team. The Kaleidoscope Model appears to be useful for starting the discussion about elements of culture that affect and influence how people communicate and work together.

This book would be appreciated by experienced cross-cultural coaches as a guide for more diverse exploration of cultural elements informing a cross-cultural perspective or conflict. As the author states and supports with statements from users of the model, experience and reflection are the key steps to understanding. It is hoped that further research and publications include individual and team success and global business improvement cases attributable to cross-cultural competence.


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