February 9, 2009


Greetings!  It is my sad duty to report that this will be the last post for my CONNECTIONS blogsite.  I have decided to focus my energy on revising my website at www.doctorholmes.netPlease visit the Performance Toolkit on the site to download newsletters and articles with tons of information on multicultural communication, conflict resolution and performance-based diversity interventions.  Also, stop by my other blogsite entitled The Fitness Corner for information on a wide variety of health and fitness topics.  Best Wishes!!!

Enhancing Your Diversity Knowledge

February 3, 2009


In my last post, I introduced the second diversity competency, diversity knowledge.  Individuals with a significant level of diversity knowledge possess information about diverse cultures and groups, including information regarding communication and learning styles.  They understand how various issues of diversity affect the workplace, the work environment and interactions between culturally different persons.  There are many steps you can take to enhance your diversity knowledge:

1.  Take a cultural diversity class.  There are many classes, seminars and workshops that provide information on different cultural groups and/or diversity topics.  You can identify an appropriate class through a local college, community organization or your place of work.

2.  Read a diversity-based book, magazine or article.  Likewise, there are many books, journals and periodicals that provide information on a wide variety of diversity issues, topics and cultural groups.

3.  Share information about your cultural heritage with others.  Revealing information about your cultural background and experiences can be a powerful tool for building stronger relationships.  It helps your colleagues better understand who you are as a human being, and encourages them to be more open about themselves.

4.  Participate in the holiday celebration of a culturally different group.  Whatever your cultural background, you undoubtedly have celebrations, holidays and events specific to your group.  For example, African Americans have Kwanzaa, Latinos celebrate Cinco de Mayo and people of Jewish faith celebrate Hanukkah.  Learn more about the culture and traditions of other groups by participating in one of their celebrations.

5.  Visit a cultural museum.  There are many types of museums you can visit that will provide you with an opportunity to meet a diverse array of individuals, and learn more about the background and experiences of different cultural groups.

6.  Visit a culturally different church.  Attend service at a church with a diverse racial or ethnic composition.  You will have an opportunity to interact with a wide range of individuals in a pleasant social setting. 

7.  Write an article on a diversity topic of interest.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a prolific author.  Just identify an appropriate publication such as your local paper, a website or a newsletter.  Write a brief article that describes a diversity holiday, a cultural practice or lists upcoming diversity events.  It’s a great way to learn and to help others increase their diversity knowledge.

8.  Develop a list of diversity websites and resources.  By doing a little Internet research, you can identify dozens of organizations, websites and companies dedicated to diversity programs and information.  Compile a list of these resources and share it with your colleagues and co-workers.  Type ‘Diversity Resources’ in any Internet browser to get started.

NEXT POST – February 10, 2009

The 8 Competencies of Diversity #3: Multicultural Communication

The 8 Competencies of Diversity #2: Diversity Knowledge

January 27, 2009


In my last 2 posts, I described the first diversity competency, Self-Awareness, which refers to a deep understanding of who you are as a human being including your strengths, weaknesses, values and biases.  The second competency, Diversity Knowledge, refers to developing a greater understanding of those around you.  Specifically, culturally competent individuals possess knowledge of diverse cultures and groups, including information regarding communication and learning styles.  They understand how various issues of diversity affect the workplace, the work environment and interactions between culturally different persons.  This is of particular importance because many of the cross-cultural communication problems we find in organizational life are due to a simple lack of cultural understanding.  Individuals with a significant level of diversity knowledge:

1.  Are able to describe the specific benefits and positive outcomes of creating culturally inclusive work settings.

2.  Are able to define concepts such as diversity, diversity empowerment, and diversity management.

3.  Understand concepts such as racism, sexism, ethnocentrism and sexual harassment, and the impact of these forces within an organization.

4.  Understand how the various dimensions of diversity (e.g., race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, nationality and socioeconomic status) affect individuals and their experiences.

5.  Possess knowledge of diverse cultures and groups including information regarding communication styles and workstyle preferences.

6.  Continuously attempt to increase their knowledge of “the ways we may be different” as well as the “ways we are similar”.

In my next post, I will provide you with specific tips for improving your diversity knowledge.

NEXT POST – February 3, 2009

Enhancing Your Diversity Knowledge

Enhancing Your Self-Awareness

January 20, 2009


In my last post, I introduced the first diversity competency, self-awareness.  Self-awareness refers to a deep understanding of yourself as a human being.  Individuals who are self-aware value diversity, respect differences and attempt to learn about the culturally different.  Such individuals are aware of their personal strengths, weaknesses and styles.  They are also aware of personal biases and prejudices, and actively seek to reduce them.  Most importantly, being self-aware enables you to understand how your actions, values, styles and biases impact those around you, and gives you an indication of what you can do to improve your performance in diverse organizational settings.  So how do we improve our self-awareness?  There are several steps you can take:

1.  Clarify your cultural identity, values and attitudes, and how these impact your interactions with others.  You can do this in a class or workshop on topics such as diversity, multicultural communication and conflict resolution.  Such classes often have self-assessment inventories that can help you better understand your style or behavior (e.g., communication style, conflict resolution style).

2.  Formally seek feedback on your performance and develop a plan for addressing problem areas.  This is one of the best ways to enhance your self-awareness.  Just make sure you solicit feedback from someone you trust that has had a chance to observe your behavior.  You can also participate in a 360-degree feedback process, which is becoming more common in today’s workplace.  It will provide you with the opportunity to receive structured feedback from a variety of individuals who have a chance to interact with you on a regular basis.

3.  Identify your biases/stereotypes and create a plan for reducing them.  This is not easy for most of us to do.  No one wants to think of themselves as biased, but the fact is we all have biases and stereotypes.  The first step in reducing their impact is to be honest with yourself about it.  Identify your biases/stereotypes and try to understand where they come from.  You should also try to clarify how they impact your interactions with others (e.g., colleagues, customers, employees).  There is a very helpful tool for identifying hidden bias called an Implicit Association Test.  These tests are designed to help us identify biases that may negatively impact our interactions with others.  You can learn more about Implicit Association Tests and actually take one on line by visiting the Project Implicit website (the assessments are free and completely confidential). 

4.  Pay close attention to your daily actions and ask yourself, “How does my behavior impact the people around me?”  This is probably the easiest step, but it is also one of the most important you can take on an ongoing basis.  Always strive to understand how you are impacting those around you.  And remember, the best way to gain this understanding is to be empathetic and to try to understand others!

NEXT POST – January 27, 2009

The 8 Competencies of Diversity #2 – Diversity Knowledge

The 8 Competencies of Diversity #1 – Self-Awareness

January 13, 2009


Perhaps the greatest knowledge one can possess is knowledge of self.  To truly be in touch with our feelings, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, strengths and weaknesses represents a cognitive, psychological and spiritual state relatively few of us ever attain.  But to perform at our highest level, we must be in close connection with who we are as human beings and how we impact others.  Culturally competent individuals value diversity, respect differences and attempt to learn about the culturally different.  Such individuals are keenly aware of their biases and prejudices, and are committed to reducing them.  Specifically, self-aware individuals:

1.  Are cognizant of their values, beliefs, communication styles and work style preferences, and how these can impact interactions with others.

2.  Are aware of their biases, prejudices and stereotypes and how these impact their interactions with others, especially those who are culturally different.

3.  Value diversity and respect cultural differences as assets in the group, team, organization and community.

4.  Respect and learn from what others have to say, even when it goes against their values, beliefs or ideas.

5.  Truly accept the fact that not everyone has to think, act or look a certain way to be valuable or successful in the organization.

6.  Regularly evaluate their strengths and weaknesses vis-à-vis the diversity competencies and create plans for self-improvement.

In my next post, I will provide you with specific suggestions for improving your self-awareness.

NEXT POST – January 20, 2009

Enhancing Your Self-Awareness

The 8 Competencies of Diversity

January 6, 2009


As a performance consultant, I have had the pleasure of facilitating hundreds of training classes on a variety of diversity and multicultural communication topics.  I have also had the opportunity to participate as a student in numerous diversity education programs.  While these programs are quite interesting and informative, they typically share a common weakness.  The facilitators of these sessions usually have difficulty making the connection between diversity and organizational performance.  This is unfortunate because diversity is a very important consideration when it comes to enhancing performance in today’s organizations.  Just as there are specific skill sets when it comes to performing well as a doctor, lawyer, engineer, accountant, teacher and truck driver, there are a specific set of competences that allow us to perform well in culturally diverse settings.  Without these skills and abilities, our chance of success greatly diminishes.  Specifically, the core diversity competencies include the following:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Diversity Knowledge
  3. Multicultural Communication
  4. Conflict Management
  5. Empowering Environments
  6. Professional Development
  7. Coaching and Mentoring (for managers)
  8. Recruitment and Selection (for managers)

In the coming weeks, I will describe each of these competencies in detail and I will provide you with specific tips, tools and resources you can use to enhance your performance in each competency area. 

NEXT POST – January 13, 2008

The 8 Competencies of Diversity: Self-Awareness

How to Communicate When Your Values are Different: Part 2

December 24, 2008


In my last post, I described three steps we can take to improve our interaction with people who have values different from our own: (1) focus on ‘business issues’ rather than ‘personal issues’; (2) clarify the value differences and (3) be empathetic and genuinely try to understand the other person.  Here are 2 additional steps that will improve your interactions:

1.  Be accepting of the other person.  Acceptance refers to a willingness to support and validate the other person, to have positive regard, and to remain non-judgmental, even in circumstances where you do not agree.  This is much easier said than done because we all have a tendency to judge others. And we often do so based on how much that person’s values are similar to our own. This is the essence of ethnocentrism.  The problem is, if you approach value differences in this way, you will be unsuccessful in addressing the issues you have with the other person.  It is imperative that you are willing to accept another individual’s right to be different. You don’t have to agree with the person’s way of thinking or doing things. Remember, acceptance does not mean agreement.  It means you accept the individual’s right to his or her own beliefs.

2.  Find some common ground between yourself and the other person.  A final step you can take to improve communication across value differences is to actively seek common ground between yourself and your speaking partner. We have a tendency to focus on our differences when more often than not, we have a great deal in common.  Identify those similarities and use this common ground to enhance and develop your professional relationship.  By connecting with the other person on this level, you will greatly increase your chances of effectively dealing with any value differences you may have.

NEXT POST – January 6, 2009

Have a Wonderful and Safe Holiday Season!!!

How to Communicate When Your Values are Different: Part 1

December 22, 2008


We’ve all had the experience of interacting with someone who has different values or beliefs. These differences can create communication problems, but there are several steps we can take to improve our relationships with people who have values different from our own.  Here are the first three:

1.  Focus on ‘business issues’ rather than ‘personal issues’. In my travels as a consultant, one of the most common causes of workplace conflict pertains to value differences. People have deeply held beliefs about a variety of topics and sometimes, are happy to share those beliefs. Of course, conflict can occur with those who have different belief systems. These conflicts can often be prevented if people focus on work issues and not issues of a more personal nature.  This is easier said than done because we bring who we are to our jobs. However, you can minimize conflict by limiting discussion of personal issues and by focusing your conversations on the business at hand.

2.  Clarify the value differences.  If the value differences you have with a colleague are having an impact on communication, clarify these differences and how they are affecting your interactions. In other words, be clear about how and why the value differences are creating problems. Come to a mutually satisfying agreement on how you will manage these differences by describing what each of you will do to improve the situation.

3.  Be empathetic and genuinely try to understand the other person.  When value differences arise, it is important that you make a sincere effort to understand where the other person is coming from.  Empathy can be described as stepping into another person’s shoes and experiencing the world from his or her perspective.  You don’t have to agree with the other person’s beliefs, but you should try to understand them (and help the person understand your beliefs as well).

NEXT POST – December 24, 2008

How to Communicate When Your Values are Different: Part 2

Working with Persons with Disabilities: Part 2

December 17, 2008


Greetings, in my last post, I described two steps we can take to improve our communication effectiveness with people who have a disability: (1) work to dispel the “myths” that many of us have about persons with disabilities; and (2) when interacting with persons with disabilities, the most important thing to do is to be yourself.  Here are 3 additional actions that will improve your communication effectiveness:

1.  Never treat a person with a disability like a child or a “cripple”.  Don’t hover over them as if you are waiting for something to happen (e.g., for the person to fall).  Most people will find this very annoying, and it is usually unnecessary.  While this sounds obvious, many of us unconsciously behave in a patronizing manner out of a sincere desire to be helpful and supportive.  While our intentions may be honorable, we must be aware of how our behaviors may be perceived by a person with a disability.

2.  When it appears that a physically challenged person needs help, offer your assistance but don’t insist.  Simply ask, “How can I help?”  The person will appreciate your willingness to assist, but allow him or her to make independent decisions.  If the person requests your assistance, do what you can to help.

3.  If a person with a physical disability does fall, don’t panic.  Wait for a cue from the person (unless he/she is seriously injured, in which case you must act).  He or she will often be capable of getting up without assistance and may prefer to do so.  Once again, let the person make an independent decision about how (if at all) you may assist.

NEXT POST – December 22, 2008

How to Communicate When Your Values are Different: Part 1

Working with Persons with Disabilities: Part 1

December 12, 2008


According to the 2000 Census, about 49.7 million Americans live with some form of disability that impairs a major life function (about 19.3% of the population).  Over 20 million American families have at least one member with a disability.  This includes sensory disabilities involving sight and hearing, as well as physical, mental and emotional conditions.  Because of this, coming into contact with someone who has a disability is more likely today than ever before.  This can make some of us feel uncomfortable or awkward because we don’t always know what to say or how to behave.  To get off on the right foot and improve your communication effectiveness, keep the following in mind:

1.  Work to dispel the “myths” that many of us have about persons with disabilities.  For example, one myth is that such persons are unable to lead normal lives.  Another myth is that persons with disabilities can only perform menial tasks and entry level jobs.  Yet another myth is that employees with disabilities create safety risks, increase costs and are less productive.  Myths such as these have led to significant employment discrimination.  That was the primary reason for the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.    The fact is, persons with disabilities are successfully employed at all levels in virtually every field.  A review of numerous studies shows persons with disabilities have better safety records than other employees, are equally productive and do not generally cause increases in health care costs.  The managers of employees with disabilities report that they are no harder to work with than other employees and often rate them as harder workers who are more reliable and punctual.  Therefore, you should never assume that a person who is challenged in some way is unable to perform up to the level of other individuals.   

2.  When interacting with persons with disabilities, the most important thing to do is to be yourself.  Do not feel like you must act in any particular way to make the person comfortable.  Also, don’t let the fact that the person has a disability prevent you from interacting with them.  Most persons with disabilities want to be treated like anyone else.  Not like they have a handicap that prevents them from being a “normal” person.

NEXT POST – December 17, 2008

Working with Persons with Disabilities: Part 2