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

Become a Better Listener: Part 1

October 15, 2008


Greetings, in my last post, I described the 4 barriers to effective listening.  These include the following:

1.  A natural tendency to want to speak first and focus on our own agenda.

2.  Negative perceptions regarding the speaker and/or topic.

3.  Our ability to think much faster than someone can speak.

4.  Emotional, external, internal and cultural noise.

Fortunately listening is not as difficult as we sometimes make it out to be.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that there are two aspects of effective listening.  The first, and most obvious, is that listening involves understanding the message being sent by your communication partner in the way that they intend.  The second, and frequently neglected aspect, is that effective listening involves the articulation of your understanding to your communication partner.  In other words, you demonstrate to that person that you clearly understand his or her message.  There are six steps that you can take to improve your listening in both areas.  Here is the first, and arguably most important step:

Use active listening on a regular basis.  Active listening consists of the listener’s attempt to give back (or reflect) what has been stated by the speaker.  If you are going to effectively reflect the feelings and content of the speaker’s message, then you really have to pay attention.  You can apply active listening by using a one sentence reflective statement that paraphrases what the speaker has said.  A good reflective statement includes two parts: an affective element and a content element.  The affective element identifies the feelings of your communication partner.  The content element describes why the person feels this way.  For example, if you are talking with a colleague who is upset because of a significant policy change at work you might say, “It sounds like you are really frustrated because the new policy is going to make it harder to do your job.”  Make it easier to use a reflective statement by applying a sentence prefix such as, “What I hear you saying is…” or “Sounds like you…”

NEXT POST – October 20, 2008

Become a Better Listener: Part 2