Buzzing Big on Cultural Intelligence

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When it comes to quality aged care, respecting diversity at MACS is a no brainer. Staff and volunteers of many different cultures speak many different languages to residents home care consumers and their families. The nine-person Board of Directors comes from five dissimilar nationalities— four of the Directors are women.  So MACS necessarily practises high cultural intelligence, and connects into the values, beliefs, attitudes, and body language of other people. Interactions come laced with empathy and understanding.

When genuine acknowledgement, appreciation and interest in diversity exist, mutually respectful and inclusive relationships develop.  Effective communication between parties nourishes sensitive and mindful understandings of cultural difference. Individuals of all cultural orientations, then, have the freedom to express their cultural roots and find some sort of haven from abuse, harassment or unfair criticism. In short, cultural intelligence does the hard yards when it comes to giving others a fair go and the freedom to flourish.

Such relationships can extend beyond individuals to include aspects of special significance to particular cultures. For example, in the case of Indigenous Australians, this includes respecting their history of Australia, which is an alternate perspective to ‘white’ history. It also means respecting guardianship of Wathaurong land in the wider Geelong region and Colac.

If cultural difference is not obvious though, it makes sense that people with high “cultural intelligence” are good at spotting it. They would fine-tune their behaviour accordingly. Whilst this is a key skill when working with culturally diverse groups, it doesn’t mean these people are experts in every culture. Rather, they use observation, compassion and intelligence to read people and situations, and to make informed decisions about why others are acting as they are. There’s no place for making quick judgments or falling back on stereotypes or bias.

Perhaps cultural intelligence is not innate. Some claim that anyone can improve it or genuinely develop it.  But surely it’s not a matter of just wanting to do it, getting the knowledge you need, and working to a plan. There must be a counter argument for those who already walk the talk of cultural intelligence, or those who have practiced it for a very long time.

When it comes to cultural inclusion, Diversity Council Australia partnered with Deakin University on an Australian first research to investigate cultural diversity in ASX Boards. Their findings from over the past decade and released in March 2015 revealed that cultural diversity on ASX boards had significantly increased – by as much as 74% and 61% when it came to chairs and directors from Asian backgrounds, and 16% and 22% for chairs and directors from culturally diverse backgrounds. See more at:—asx-directors-2004-2013.html#sthash.wtVd0Y1h.dpuf They cited potential benefits of cultural inclusion as heightened performance, innovation, engagement and opportunity, well-being, productive conflict, lowered legal risk and low staff turn over.—an-evidence-based-model-of-inclusive-leadership.html

Yet for MACS, one clear advantage of culturally intelligent practice is the success it brings when it comes to leading culturally diverse teams. It builds rapport, the engine room of communication, between the Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, residents, home care consumers and their families. That still spells quality care in anyone’s book. No wonder inclusive workplaces are hailed as high performance cultures.

Other references: Cultural Intelligence, Working Successfully with Diverse Groups, Mind Tools,

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