As long-held predictions of a more diverse society are coming to fruition, we are experiencing both the opportunities and challenges of a fairly monumental shift in society. While often unsettling to experience, denial, polarization, minimization, acceptance, and adaptation are natural reactions during a transition from a monocultural to an intercultural worldview. As recent events taking place world-wide make clear, these reactions are observable in the actions of individuals, institutions, and governments.
Handled correctly, the outcome of these changes will be an expanded, more prosperous consumer base and a wider array of talent to help meet organizational goals. Promoting cultural competency - behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together to enable individuals and organizations to work effectively in cross-cultural situations – is critical to allow your team and organization to meet the demands of a diverse market.
It will take strong leadership from management as well as individual influencers and change agents to help companies successfully navigate the cultural competency continuum and adapt to a culture that respects and celebrates everyone’s needs and contributions.
Inclusion Begins with I
However, it’s important to remember that we are all at varying stages of this journey.
Before you can be an effective agent for change, it’s imperative that you take an honest, objective look at your cultural competence.
In 2003, Mary-Frances Winters, the Founder and CEO of The Winters Group, wrote an excellent book entitled "Inclusion Starts with I." The book offered eight steps along the personal journey to Inclusion. The book influenced my four steps on Leading Inclusively, or culturally competent leadership.
4 Steps to Developing Cultural Competence
1. Consciously consider your core beliefs. The actions, values, and beliefs you demonstrate to those around you impact the way they view and experience you. These beliefs are so ingrained they are often unconscious. Exercises like Owning Your Brand (OYB) help you consciously discover and exhibit your most cherished values, a necessary first step if you wish to recognize and influence the beliefs of others.
2. Acknowledge your preferences and biases. Working with a team of like-minded people may feel comfortable because it’s human nature to seek out those who are similar to ourselves. But left unexamined, this kind of unconscious bias leads to environments lacking the diversity of perspectives necessary to thrive in the 21st-century marketplace. Exercises like Your Idea Network (YIN), illustrated in the cover photo, help you identify potential blinders in your perspective, and susceptibility to groupthink. If future sustainability and growth is part of your business strategy, it’s worth venturing out of your comfort zone to examine any actions or policies that may be inhibiting efforts to create an inclusive culture.
3. Align D&I with your overall business strategy. The mandate for inclusivity has evolved along with the marketplace and workforce. Tools such as The Business-Aligned Diversity & Inclusion Planning Model help you created D&I initiatives and actions that are aligned to organizational goals to enhance buy-in, assist in obtaining resources and measure favorable business results. Successful D&I initiatives support overall growth when aligned with efforts to attract and retain the best possible talent from a diverse pool of applicants; provide trusted products and services to an ever-widening consumer base, and cultivate brand loyalty by being inclusive and respected in the community.
4. Seek out authentic interactions. Have confidence that you can find similarities in people you perceive as different than yourself. Use these similarities as a bridge to acknowledge and understand differences that make a difference in how others view themselves and give their life meaning. Assessments such as LIFO® - Life Orientation helps you understand your strengths, the strengths of others and achieve congruence in intentions-behavior-impact. Listening to the perspectives and experiences of people you perceive as dissimilar to yourself with a respectfully curious and open mind and being willing to share your perspective in an authentic voice can help bridge superficial differences and forge true alliances.
To jump-start your self-reflection, I urge you to click here to complete the Leading Inclusively assessment right now. It measures four attributes essential for high performing teams and organizations: Awareness, Engagement, Empowerment, and Achievement.
When you are done, be sure to click here and register for The Master Class Part III - Leading with the Hands, a free workshop being held Wednesday, August 22, 2018, from 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM PDT. Both the assessment and the workshop are designed to prepare you to become an effective agent for change. Participating will help you further develop your strengths, work on your areas of discomfort, and discover pragmatic strategies to promote effective and measurable D&I policies and procedures that support your organization’s overall business objectives.