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Unlocking Your Superpower: Cultivating Cultural Intelligence


February 29, 2024

You have a superpower and it may not be what you’re thinking…

… it’s your cultural intelligence; your ability to effectively and respectfully interact with people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

So many of you are already taking important action to flex your leadership style, communication approach, and business practices to accommodate diverse cultural norms and preferences.

Yet, at its core, achieving true Cultural Intelligence means going beyond HOW you approach situations to WHY it’s important to approach them differently. True Cultural Intelligence involves understanding cultural norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors to model sincerely authentic, genuine, inclusive leadership.

And Cultural Intelligence isn’t just for global businesses. Just look within your team, your company, your community. The diversity of age, gender, culture, race is omnipresent. And when we can embrace our differences, it can make a huge impact not only on retention, collaboration and teamwork, but also on the bottom line. A 2021 study by Deloitte found that organizations with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative and agile and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

Our work in Cultural Intelligence is some of my favorite leadership development content simply because it inspires participants to look at their world differently, question traditional ways of thinking and explore the boundless potential of their team, by applying four elements of cultural inclusion: curiosity, a learning mindset, creating a plan and taking action.  Let’s look at each element individually.

  • Curiosity is your willingness to explore different perspectives, experience culturally diverse situations and engage with diverse people.  Ask yourself: In team meetings and throughout the work day, how likely am I to actively seek interaction with different people to open my mind to diverse perspectives? I encourage you to identify someone on your team or in your company who differs from you and get to know them.
  • Learning mindset centers around your desire to build knowledge and understanding of other’s similarities, differences, values and norms. Ask yourself: How often do I go beyond task to make meaningful connections with my team and co-workers; to actively observe how they operate, seek their perspective and try to put myself in their shoes? Consider the projects you’re working on. Which one could be most enhanced from seeking alternative points of view and experiences?
  • Creating a plan is a continuous commitment to build awareness, plan approaches and create opportunities, mindsets and practices to continually foster a strong foundation of inclusion and respect. Consider a time when you may have failed to make a connection with someone. How likely are you to step up and try again? When you were successful at doing so, what made you successful?
  • Taking action is being intentional about embracing differences and fostering inclusion by adapting your behavior and communication to promote a sense of welcome and belonging. How often do you model this behavior on your team? Who does this well? What can you learn from them?

Fostering an inclusive culture is not always intuitive. Many go to work each day, simply laser-focused on getting the job done. But when we pause long enough to invite, consider and integrate various perspectives and experiences into our work, the overall quality is exponentially higher, the camaraderie stronger and the experience, more enjoyable. We all have this superpower inside. Let it continue to develop for the betterment of you, your team, your organization and all around you.