Understanding cultural values and behaviors is an important aspect of effective management, leadership and teamwork. In the absence of cultural understanding, it is possible that unconscious biases and behaviors may hold you back from achieving greater effectiveness. By broadening your understanding of culture, and how it influences thoughts and behaviors, you become equipped to critically assess your own cultural competencies and gain opportunities to improve working relationships.
The first step in building cultural competencies is to understand one’s self in relation to cultural differences and similarities and to gain a greater understanding of the impact of culture on communication, engagement and performance. The goal is to see the potential to leverage strengths and create teams that think more broadly and achieve outstanding results through collaboration and energy. Achieving this goal is a primary element to creating an environment that is inclusive where others can give their best. Wouldn’t it be great to have an organization that encourages 100 percent from everyone 100 percent of the time?
I am not talking about merely managing the multicultural diversity of teams, but rather focusing on how to empower individuals through inclusive behavior that encourages engagement and contribution.
Multiple perspectives and talents can create a more productive and powerful outcome.
Let’s start with examining what culture is:
Culture is the sharing of knowledge and meaning that influences beliefs and “A group’s culture is the set of characteristics that distinguish its members from another group,” Philippe Rosinski said.
Culture includes language, class, race, ethnic background, religion and many other aspects of diversity that are taught and shared by a group
Culture influences the way we see the world as well as the way we think and behave. It is exhibited in language, forms of self-expression and the way in which we perceive, interpret and understand the world. It influences our value system, our social lives and how we interact with others. Many things filter how we see the world, primarily culture, as well as gender, education, age and experience. Cultural competence is the ability to understand and interact effectively with people who differ from you in an effort to provide respect and preserve dignity.
What is your own cultural identity?
What influence does your cultural prefer- ence have on how you think and act? It includes the culture of an organization, and subcultures within that organization such as different groups, geographic location and job functions. Consistency is important across an organizational culture, but also between the various cultures within an organization. For instance, an office in the South may have different cultural norms than an office in the West.
Rather than assigning a negative judgment on a particular cultural difference, when conflicts arise, you can determine ways to leverage strengths within the differences that will contribute to desired goals. Through thoughtful examination, we can begin to understand our own cultural identity in order to gain greater understanding on how to work better together. We want to avoid creating cultural mistrust, which creates tension, nervousness and awkwardness that can have an impact on communication and performance.
Consider a time when you felt out of place or you felt at a disadvantage and were highly stressed or nervous. What steps did you take to perform optimally and remain focused on your goals in that situation? What advice would you give to someone in a similar situation?
Taking an informal cultural self-assessment can help bring awareness to better working relationships. Consider your answers to the following:
- I seek to understand my own and another’s experiences, values and filters in assessing
- I challenge my assumptions, biases and stereotypes and base my decision on facts and not on opinion.
- I am aware of my body language and non-verbal communication.
- I ask questions that encourage participation and communication.
- I look for ways to collaborate and leverage talent and skills.
- When obstacles are perceived, I seek feedback and multiple perspectives.
- I help identify commonality and common goals when conflicts arise.
Broadening your awareness of how culture impacts your actions and interactions is an important step to maximizing relationships, performance and desired outcomes. Everyone has unique characteristics and wants to be appreciated for their talents and skills that contribute to the common goal.