Are You a Consumer or an Actor? Strengthen Your Organization with Cultural Competency

Cultural Competency, DEI, nonprofits, Organizational Development, Reflection
cultural competency, dei strategy development, Diversity Equity And Inclusion, growthmindset, learning and development, organizational development, personal commitment

As an executive coach focusing on diversity, I often encounter well-meaning clients committed to social justice, building their cultural competencies, and creating more inclusive and equitable policies in their organizations. Yet, some report frustrations at not seeing the changes they were expecting. After all, they have committed to reading all the latest DEI books, participating in discussion groups, and recommending podcasts to their friends and family. Only to be faced with the question of why this is not sticking.


As their coach, I am interested in understanding more about their thought process and actions before, during, and after engaging in these learning opportunities. When building cultural competencies and strengthening our DEI strategies, we must consider how we approach learning. 


Pausing long enough to ask, “Am I consuming information or acting on it?”


Too often, organizations and individuals take a “consumer” approach, thinking they can download the knowledge via their favorite learning channel. But the reality is that developing cultural competence is an ongoing process that requires leaders and employees to be “actors” in utilizing the knowledge gained. We build knowledge and develop skills through ongoing practice by taking responsibility for our learning and growth. This practice allows us to navigate increasingly diverse workplaces more effectively.


A Quick Word on Cultural Competency


Cultural competency is the ability to effectively interact with people from different cultures, backgrounds, and points of view. It requires a deep understanding of the values, beliefs, customs, behaviors, and language of our own and others’ backgrounds. Cultural competency helps us bridge cultural differences to understand each other better and work together more effectively.


What’s the difference between “consumers” of culture and “actors”?


I have noticed that consumers of culture often passively absorb information while actors purposefully seek to put their learnings into action. Consumers look at culture-related goals and attempt to understand them, while actors have an attitude of intentionality, deeply considering their goals and why they are worth pursuing.


“Actors” working to deepen their cultural competencies engage in regular practices to:


  • Set clear goals, and commit to making them a reality.
  • Focus on asking, “what is my intention? How does this tie to my goal?” and use this inquiry to guide their steps towards social change.
  • Develop a plan of action with achievable goals and timelines.
  • Measure progress. Regularly assessing how far their efforts have come and making adjustments where necessary.
  • Cultivate an attitude of openness and curiosity to help bridge cultural differences and better understand other perspectives.
  • Remain mindful that this is an ongoing process – and utilize their learnings as they strive for excellence in their DEI practices.


In other words, “actors” see doing the work as more than just consuming information. They know why learning about a particular topic is important to them and make plans to do something with their learning. They recognize that by implementing these strategies, they will move closer to the results they desire to increase their capacity to navigate across cultural differences.


What strategies do you think are most effective for developing cultural competency in the workplace? How have you seen these strategies successfully implemented in a work environment?

If you are looking for one on one or team coaching on building cultural competencies, schedule a free consultation with us today!


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