• Timothy Osborn

Strengthening Engagement

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

How cultural competence empowers the workforce to engage.

Cultural Competence Defined:

Building strong teams that empower innovation, success, and peak performance occurs when individuals effectively engage as team members. One of the greatest challenges to team building is developing an organizational culture that embraces and acknowledges the importance of cultural competence, cultural sensitivity, and cultural awareness.

Cultural competence can be defined as "the ability to understand, communicate, and effectively interact with people across cultures. Cultural competence encompasses being aware of one's own world view, developing positive attitudes towards cultural differences, gaining knowledge of different cultural practices, and world views." (Ethics Community Council of Victoria, 2006)(1).

Teamwork is dreamwork when the dream includes and embraces the cultural differences of all team members, customers, and organizational participants. Navigating cultural differences can make or break any team effort. Cultural competence is a skill, when developed, that empowers the workforce to engage with authenticity and trust. Each of us bring to the table our truth and our own differing cultural beliefs. Effective teams function well when they have developed the cultural competency skills needed to recognize cultural differences and employ developed professional behaviors that promotes meaningful engagement. The effort of such professionalism will result in trust and mutual respect. Cultural competence includes being aware of one's own world view while maintaining positive attitudes towards others who possess a different cultural dynamic. In essence cultural competence is learning how to navigate, embrace, empower, and engage across cultural differences building a foundation for the heart and soul of effective teams.

Tips for strengthening cultural competence in your organization:

  1. Organizations should employ professionals who are open to developing their knowledge and understanding of different cultural groups; and, who embrace diversity within the organization.

  2. Organizations should explore the impact of their own cultural dynamics and purposefully build a culturally competent approach for strengthening the awareness of cultural values and beliefs.

  3. Organizations should reflect on how their own values and how they impact the workforce, customers, stakeholders and organizational participants. Reviews should regularly occur to identify and address any cultural bias concerns that may arise but not be readily known.

  4. Organizations should avoid stereotyping individuals from certain cultures or ethnicities, and routinely assess the workplace to remove any cultural barriers.

  5. Organizations should develop written policies and ethical practices that develop cultural competence and promote cultural awareness, cultural sensitivity, and empowerment/engagement within collaborative teams.

Three Elements of a Strong Organizational Cultural Program

  1. Cultural Diversity - Organizational policies should embrace and promote cultural diversity as part of any diversity or inclusion program. Policies and best practices should include embracing individuals across cultural dynamics and avoid discrimination, cultural bias, promote cultural awareness, and seek to build trust while and understanding promoting engagement with team members across all cultural spectrums.

  2. Cultural Competence - Organizations should place specific effort building cultural competence as a skill. Specific training programs and educational opportunities should be offered that empower the workplace to learn, cultivate, develop, and utilize cultural competence as a backbone to team building efforts. Cultural inclusion should be the norm and honoring cultural needs for team members, customers, stakeholders, and organizational participants should be the standard.

  3. Cultural Awareness - Promoting cultural awareness is a key element to building trust and respect among the workforce and specifically among team members. Cultural awareness includes being aware of cultural preferences, seeking clarification when misunderstandings arise, honoring the cultural wishes of others, and developing a specific code of conduct that includes cultural competency dynamics.

Eight Questions to Help Identify Cultural Considerations in Healthcare Settings

A recommended book for reading and education regarding cultural competence is "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" by Anne Fadiman (Fadiman, 1997). The book addresses cultural obstacles that existed in the care of a little girl name Lia Lee. The reflections discussed in the book reviews challenges faced by the Lee family as they sought medical care for their young daughter who suffered from debilitating epilepsy. The author addresses how cultural differences and a lack of cultural competence by healthcare professionals contributed to the many complications faced meeting the needs for young Lia Lee and the Lee family.

The book further introduces the reader to eight questions that can be used to help identify cultural beliefs and preferences. The eight suggested questions are employed when problems, concerns or barriers arise where cultural differences may be the root cause:

(1) What do you call the problem? Are there any cultural beliefs that need to be known?

(2) What do you think has caused the problem?

(3) Why do you think it started when it did?

(4) What do you think the sickness does? How does it work?

(5) How severe is the sickness? Will it have a short or long course?

(6) What kind of treatment do you think the patient should receive? What are the most important results you hope she receives from this treatment?

(7) What are the chief problems the sickness has caused?

(8) What do you fear most about the sickness?

Organizations can utilize or modify these questions to be industry specific where needed. The eight questions help to create a best practice model for addressing cultural considerations when problems, obstacles or concerns arise. If your organization is considering a cultural competence program review, please do not hesitate to contact us to learn more.


(1). Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (2006), Cultural Competence Guidelines and Protocols. https://silo.tips/download/cultural-competence-guidelines-and-protocols

(2). Fadiman, A. (1997). The spirit catches you and you fall down: A Hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Chapter 17 p. 274-277

Copyright 2020 - The Osborn Group, LLC - All rights reserved. Sharing is permitted and appreciated. About the Author - Timothy G. Osborn is the Senior Management Consultant/Founder - CEO at The Osborn Group, LLC where "We build top talented teams to create next level solutions and practical strategies that inspire, nurture and empower leading companies in their pursuit to deliver exceptional experiences and achieve peak performance while maximizing profitability. We put the wow in business! ™"

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