(An excerpt from Diversity Appreciation@Work, by: Bob Schout, PowerSkills Training & Development, Inc.)

Culture and diversity impacts everything…everything! Culture and diversity-related issues impact communications, listening, understanding of messages and intentions, passion for positions, defensiveness when hearing certain words, assuming implications, building and healing relationships, coaching, mentoring, supervising………everything!

So many professionals talk the talk in support of cultural and diversity appreciation, but never ask themselves some very key questions, the answers to which clarify the value they give to culture and diversity at work, and the hidden issues they really have with culture and diversity at work.

Let’s differentiate the terms “diversity” and “culture. “Diversity” refers to unique, and sometimes shared, characteristics and traits that can reflect and refer to who a person is, where they come from, how they affiliate, and how they define themselves. “Culture” refers to the set of beliefs, associations, affinities, values, perspectives, habits and/or behaviors with which a person associates and aligns her/himself.

Leaders at all levels demonstrate true, authentic, leadership when they move beyond simple cultural platitudes or attend diversity-training seminars. They demonstrate leadership when they actively and regularly demonstrate appreciation for, advocate for, and are allies to culture and people who represent all forms of diversity. In doing so, they are role models who promote the value of people at work and values that are espoused in the workplace. They demonstrate that their perception and perspectives extend beyond the typical roles, responsibilities and work tasks of the people with whom they work. They can see uniqueness and value experience and the perspectives of others.

In order, however, to constantly become such a leader, a professional must first engage in an honest, humble and authentic self-assessment pertaining to their actual, inner viewpoints, feelings and perspectives.  Here are 10 provocative questions that a leader can ask her/himself, and use to stimulate conversations with leaders at all levels within their team or organization.

  1. What does culture mean to you and what forms of diversity are represented in your workplace or through work partnerships (e.g., both visible and invisible)?
  2. Is culture important to you personally and in within the workplace? Why…or why not?
  3. How do you show respect and dignity for a client-customer-partner-peer’s culture and diversity represented within your work place culture?
  4. How do you hope or expect others to show respect and dignity for your culture and diversity?
  5. How have others shown ignorance, indifference, insensitivity to, or out-right oppression towards your cultural identification or diversity characteristics, in the workplace? What have you said or done in response, and if you were silent…why?
  6. What examples of transactional challenges, team complications, communication or relationship misunderstandings have occurred at work because of diversity-related or culturally-related dynamics?
  7. Do you think that a cultural conversation has nothing to do with you? Why or why not?
  8. Do you get “tired” of having cultural conversations, or believe that you are “blamed” as a person who does not represent the culture of others?
  9. Do you regularly feel confused when others say that people ‘like you’ have privilege or power; and are you open to truly hearing and considering why they consider you to have privilege and power?
  10. How do you demonstrate that you can be, or are, a cultural ally and advocate at work, and actually appreciate diversity as a professional (not simply acknowledging it or addressing it as a matter of ‘business’)?

Take some time, now, to reflect upon your answers and how your beliefs and perspectives color your viewpoints, behaviors and interactions…..because they do! Don’t simply read and engage in some momentary mental gymnastics of thought suppression, emotional avoidance, rationalization, denial or intellectualization. Those forms of mental gymnastics speak volumes about a person’s limited leadership abilities and immature ‘professionalism’. Listen to yourself (your answers) and create a meaningful development and business transaction/action plan both of which demonstrates (proves) your appreciation for diversity at work.

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