Workplaces today are becoming increasingly more diverse, and globalization is creating business opportunities all over the world. To ensure the greatest chance for success, it’s important that leadership understands and embraces social and cultural differences so they can avoid misunderstandings and create productive and profitable workplaces.
On a recent episode of Influencers Radio with Jack Mize, Luiza Dreasher, Ph.D. author of “Mastering Cultural Differences: Strategies for Leading a Global Workforce,” discussed how organizations can create environments where individuals from diverse cultures feel included and can thrive.
According to Dr. Dreasher, diversity is now a fact of business, and the same strategies that worked in a monocultural environment no longer apply to today’s multicultural organizations. She warns that ignoring the many social and cultural differences in the workplace can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunication, biased thinking, attrition, missed business opportunities, and even lawsuits. Without even knowing it, a handshake, a little joke, or a tone of voice can offend a client or send the wrong message to an employee.
During the interview, Dr. Dreasher explained why it’s so important for leaders today to develop their cultural competence skills. “I define cultural competence as a set of abilities that allows you to manage your interactions with culturally diverse employees or clients much more efficiently. cultural competence has three dimensions, so to speak. The first one is self-awareness. The journey towards cultural competence starts within. In other words, you have to identify what are your biases, stereotypes, and privileges, and how these elements impact your interactions with others. The second dimension is other awareness. That is, you need knowledge and information about different groups. You need to learn about their values, their cultural orientation, and the issues and barriers they are facing within an organization. Other awareness, as I call it, prevents you from offending someone inadvertently, or misunderstanding someone’s behavior. The last aspect of cultural competence is that you need to develop your ability to adjust your behavior to the cultural orientation of others. In other words, you need to be able to become very good at code-switching. When you are able to do that, you show your employees, clients, and colleagues they matter in a way that shows respect. When I talk about cultural competence, I always think of a couple of pictures I saw that really stick with me. One of them is when President Obama visited with Emperor Akihito, and he did the 90-degree bow. He was criticized for it, but the reality is he adjusted his behavior accordingly. It was the right thing to do because he was meeting the Emperor. Another example that I always use in my cultural competence workshops is the one when President Bush was holding hands with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. It was the right thing to do. Saudi Arabia is a high-contact culture. It is appropriate in that context for them to hold hands. Those are just examples of skilled ways to adjust your behavior. So lastly, ‘How do you develop cultural competence?’ You need to increase your comfort level in working with differences. But this is something that takes time, and it takes daily, persistent effort on your part. So I always tell my audiences to think of cultural competence as a developmental journey.”
As the President and CEO of Mastering Cultural Differences, Luiza designs and implements customized programs for organizations to help them address the incredible challenges of increasingly diverse workplaces and to create a company culture where all individuals feel valued, respected, included, and that they belong.
When an organization builds a team that can understand social and cultural differences and has the skills to work effectively across those differences, chances are the business will be able to form more productive relationships with diverse clients and colleagues and even help the company expand into diverse markets.
To listen to the full episode, visit https://influencersradio.com/luiza-dreasher
To learn more about Dr. Luiza Dreasher and her training solutions for culturally diverse organizations, visit: https://www.masteringculturaldifferences.com
“Mastering Cultural Differences: Strategies for Leading a Global Workforce” is available in Kindle and Paperback editions on Amazon at https://amazon.com/dp/B0921Z29C9