I was having trouble finding what I was looking for on recent visit to a Target store, so I asked a woman stocking the shelves for help. She also couldn’t find the elusive item, then asked a number of her colleagues for their assistance.
It’s a normal scene in customer service, except there was one difference. She was only speaking English with me—all conversations with her fellow Target employees were in Spanish.
When the topic of cultural agility comes up, most people assume it is only needed to work across national borders. “Intranational” cultural differences are seen as the domain of “diversity,” where managers are trained to include everyone’s different viewpoints to make a stronger team.
This experience at my local hometown Target highlights the significant cultural borders that managers and business leaders must skillfully navigate in order to lead high performing teams. These are the same cultural agility skills whether the team is spread around the world or around the store.