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Home » Inclusivity in the Workplace » Cultural intelligence: a valuable tool that can foster inclusion effectively

Keyla Waslawksi

Senior Vice President, Cultural Intelligence Centre

Differences in beliefs, values and behaviours can cause misunderstandings and conflict. Without the right tools and mental models, it can be challenging to reap the benefits of diversity.

Many of us have heard that diversity leads to creativity, innovation and better overall outcomes for teams and organisations. However, that isn’t always the case. Homogenous teams often outperform diverse ones.

What is truly inclusive behaviour?

We often thrive when we feel that we belong — without having to compromise our own uniqueness. In short: we are motivated and perform better if we feel included. But promoting inclusive behaviour is easier said than done.

Applying the research-based cultural intelligence framework allows us to navigate this tricky terrain. Cultural intelligence (CQ) is the ability to relate and work effectively with people who are different from us. Its basic principle can be explained using the analogy of the ‘Golden’ vs. the ‘Platinum’ rule.

Whereas the ‘Golden Rule’ states that we should treat others the way we want to be treated, the ‘Platinum Rule’ recognises the importance of treating others the way they want to be treated. This is the route to true inclusion.

We often thrive when we feel that we belong — without having to compromise our own uniqueness.

Elements of cultural intelligence

CQ includes four important elements: Drive (motivation); Knowledge (understanding); Strategy (planning/awareness); and Action (behavioural flexibility).

By developing their CQ muscles, diverse leaders, teams and employees can learn to become more motivated, knowledgeable, strategic and ultimately adaptable in their interactions with each other. If you are a leader or anyone who wants to help foster inclusion in their own spheres of influence, the following tips can help you get there.

  • Recognise that diversity alone is not enough. Take a closer look at your teams; how effective or in sync are they?
  • Benchmark the CQ of your employees, but don’t stop there; focus next on development.
  • Utilise training programmes that focus on practical strategies and application — not simply understanding and awareness.
  • Invest in the professional development of your employees and don’t hire for ‘fit.’ Instead, hire to ‘add’ whatever is missing from your team.
  • Reward culturally intelligent behaviour. Praise positive actions and promote curiosity.
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