I am often asked how organizations can strengthen their culture in terms of cultural agility and that is a bit of putting the cart before the horse. The key element is to strengthen the skill of cultural agility. That will build the organization from the inside out and the result will be a better more skilled group of people who can deal with culture across the world and also will have a more robust organizational culture oversight. The six skills for cultural agility are the following: Awareness, attuned, adapting, authentic, acquiring knowledge, and assessing.
Awareness. The first question there is, “Are you aware of your own cultural biases?
Attuned. Are you able to hear and acknowledge the cultural nuances that are going on around you?
Third is adapting and that is adapting your communication and behavior in subtle and even overt ways in order to be better received and to create a better relationship with the people who you want to be working with.
Fourth is authentic. While you are making these adaptations, while you are listening and everything like that it is important to be true to yourself. Be who you are as a person in order to be able to invite the other person to be who they are as a person. We are not talking about putting something onto ourselves when we are talking about adapting.
The next one is acquiring knowledge. Now, this is typically the only one that is looked at as far as cultural is concerned, sort of cultural savvy. And of course this happens with travel, reading, conversations. This is an important part of the equation but it is not the whole thing. Really this is part of the set of skills.
The last one is assessing. Assessing how we are doing now, what is our next way to grow as far as cultural agility is concerned, how can we better do this? United Airlines had a great example. I fly a lot as a global consultant and as a result I have a fairly elite status and I received a survey checking in on how they were doing and one of the questions in that survey was if I had been treated in a culturally relevant manner. I was shocked that in an organization that is looking at moving people from one place to the other that they are asking their customers to assess their cultural agility on an ongoing basis. That is how you strengthen the skills and a result of that is a culture where people are working better together. They are able to communicate better with each other. They are able to have more of a whole systems approach to the business as a whole which is a level of ownership and engagement that most companies can only dream of.