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7 Steps to Becoming a Culturally Competent Leader and Better Supporting Workplace Diversity

September 21, 2022
By: Patrick Bosworth in the Great Leaders category.

Workplace diversity matters. A recent study by Zippia found that companies with a diverse workforce performed 15 to 21% better than competitors and that 67% of job seekers consider diversity when deciding where to apply.

Attracting diverse candidates for jobs isn’t enough to make your company diverse. You also need to retain talented employees by fostering a positive working environment.

As a leader, you set the tone for your team, and that means you need to know how to positively interact with people from different backgrounds than your own. Following these seven tips will help you become a culturally competent leader, benefiting your team, company, and even yourself.

1. Understand What a Culturally Competent Manager Is

You can’t aspire to be something if you don’t fully understand what it entails. “Culturally competent” has become a widely used phrase, but there are misconceptions about its meaning. Being culturally competent doesn’t simply mean tolerating others. Instead, a culturally competent manager treats people of all races, cultures, religions, abilities, and orientations respectfully. A culturally competent leader sees the value of diverse perspectives and acts in ways that are fair to the entire team.

2. Identify Your Own Biases

Your own biases may stand in your way of becoming a culturally competent leader. Take some time to reflect on where those biases lie. Uncover where your feelings stem from. Did your family harbor these beliefs? Have the depictions of race, gender, orientation, and religion in media influenced your perception of others? Are past experiences affecting your current perceptions?

After you pinpoint your biases and explore their roots, identify ways that your feelings and thoughts may negatively impact your team. Compile a list of concrete examples. As you interact with others, notice when your biases threaten to skew your response.

3. Build Diverse Relationships

A culturally competent manager is constantly learning about people who are different from them. Allow yourself the opportunity to learn and grow by breaking out of your usual social circle. Follow and interact with people of different backgrounds on social media. At networking events, strike up conversations with a diverse range of people. Seek out mentors of varying races, ages, faiths, and orientations.

4. Accept That You’ll Make Mistakes and Take Responsibility When You Do

Even if you come to work every day with the mindset of a culturally competent leader, you will make mistakes along the way. Be ready to stumble. Embrace the discomfort instead of trying to deflect it. Admit your mistakes aloud. Apologize and speak openly about privilege and racism when warranted. Then, commit to doing better in the future and provide examples of how you will avoid making the same mistake again.

5. Seek Everyone’s Input

A culturally competent leader ensures that everyone feels heard and seen. Acquire input from many different voices when creating strategies and solving problems. Match the preferred communication styles of team members. For example, send a reserved member of the team an email asking for an opinion rather than calling on them to speak in a meeting.

6. Solicit Feedback Regularly

Have subordinates evaluate your cultural competency regularly. An easy way to do this is to create an anonymous quarterly survey with questions related to your cultural competency and workplace morale. Use the data to uncover your strengths and weaknesses. Then, set goals to improve over the next three months.

7. Hire a Coach

A business executive coach can help you become a culturally competent manager. As an objective third party, a coach can recognize biases that you may not see. They can help you set short- and long-term goals related to improving cultural competency and fostering workplace diversity. Then, your coach can hold you accountable and keep you focused. To learn more about executive coaching, contact Leadership Choice via email or by phone at (800) 232-9022 today.

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