Part 6 of the Navigating DEI in the Workplace Series
Greetings to my fellow explorers of workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). We are on part 6 of exploring best workplace practices in navigating DEI with compassion. If you have been feeling lost and found your way to this blog, congrats, you are making progress. If you have not done so already, go back and read posts one through five and get yourself up to speed. With this blog, I want to help ensure you have the courage to start implementing those navigation skills. The word for today is “practice.”
Let me warn you, practice isn’t necessarily going to lead to perfection, but practicing is the best way to develop your workplace DEI skills. Yes, there is something to be said about good trial and error. Some of you may be thinking, “But Glen, they will cancel me if I make a mistake.” Look, I am not encouraging you to be reckless. I wouldn’t tell you to be reckless if we were working on land navigation and compass skills. I wouldn’t suggest you jump into the pool’s deep end without any swimming lesson. However, practicing workplace DEI is the best way to increase our level of cultural competency.
You Need Self-Awareness to Increase Cultural Competency
Self-awareness is a big part of growth when your organization and team build their cultural competence capacity. In a post by Merideth Betz, Psychologists Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund proposed this definition of self-awareness.
“Self-awareness is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don’t align with your internal standards. If you’re highly self-aware, you can objectively evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, align your behavior with your values, and understand correctly how others perceive you.”
Highly self-aware people can objectively interpret their actions, feelings, and thoughts. Cultural competency is about building capacity and skills. It is not about being perfect or properly politically correct. Think of it this way, a robot or a computer can play Mozart perfectly, but they will never match the passion and nuance of a virtuoso. We are humans, and we do human stuff.
How Can I Practice DEI at Work
Here are a few tips to help you practice without fear of being canceled.
Tip#1: Set some well-defined goals for the area in which you need to improve. For example, If your goal is to use more gender-inclusive language to avoid stereotyping people in the workplace, choose a well-defined area or context to test yourself in, just as if you were going to try to navigate the forest. See how well you do; test yourself on how well you can map out your choice of words. Try this by setting one or two goals for your team and holding each other accountable.
Tip #2: Spend some time wandering outside of your comfort zone. Hang around new people and places. The goal is to listen and observe. Get uncomfortable and take some reasonable risks. Here are some ideas:
- Go to a festival or meeting hosted by a group that is culturally different from yours.
- Make a note of similarities and differences that you observe.
- Don’t try and take over or influence what is taking place, but observe, be curious and learn.
When learning land navigation, your instructor may ask you to note any interesting landmarks, waterways, hills, or big boulders. With DEI navigation, make notes of your bias, blind spots, or things that might hinder or aid your cultural immersion.
Tip #3: Think about your background and when you first learned or claimed your cultural identity. Consider when you first realized you were a woman, queer, black, or a Texan. How did that feel? How did your family members and friends talk about people who were different? Was it positive? Were the conversations based on equality, fear, subjugation, or something else? Understanding our personal landscapes and history can inform where we are in the present. Knowing the path you took in life, good, bad, or indifferent, will come in handy as you map your path forward. But only if you take the time to analyze that past pathway.
Tip #4: Get messy and take some risks. If the navigation exercise becomes too easy, you’re ready to explore a larger patch of land where you can do it all over again. In the world of DEI, you are building your cultural competency. As you start your journey, ensure you get a baseline assessment of your progress. Nothing is more frustrating for individuals in organizations than “jumping through hoops” and not seeing results. DEI is not about hoopla. It is about tangible skills connected to your organization’s goals.
Don’t forget that I am a Qualified Administrator (QA) for the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), an essential tool in helping organizations measure the success of their approach to diversity and inclusion.
The Intercultural Development Inventory® (IDI®) is the premier, cross-cultural assessment of intercultural competence that is used by thousands of individuals and organizations to build intercultural competence to achieve international and domestic diversity and inclusion goals and outcomes. IDI research in organizations and educational institutions confirms two central findings when using the IDI:
- Interculturally competent behavior occurs at a level supported by the individual’s or group’s underlying orientation as assessed by the IDI
- Training and leadership development efforts at building intercultural competence are more successful when they are based on the individual’s or group’s underlying developmental orientation as assessed by the IDI
In contrast to many “personal characteristic” instruments, the IDI is a cross-culturally valid, reliable and generalizable measure of intercultural competence along the validated Intercultural Development Continuum® (adapted, based on IDI research, from the DMIS theory developed by Milton Bennett). Further, the IDI has been demonstrated through research to have high predictive validity to both bottomline cross-cultural outcomes in organizations and intercultural goal accomplishments in education
Eventually, your mapping skills can become so good that you’ll be able to walk into a completely new landscape (cultural paradigm) and map your pathway with reasonable accuracy, comfort, and ease.
In This Series
Part 1: Finding the Light
Part 2: Connect the Dots
Part 3: Learn to Read the Room
Part 4: Look at the Big Picture
Part 5: Pay Attention to Boundaries
Part 6: Practice Your Skills
Part 7: Pay Attention
Part 8: Celebrate the Small Things
Part 9: Take Risks and Up Your Game
Part 10: Get Lost in the Familiar
Part 11: Practice Emotional Control
Part 12: Learn How to Recover from Mistakes