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