How do you build a Culturally Intelligent Organization? Part 2: Champions Drive Change

By Kristin Ekkens, Director, Corporate Partnerships

Back in September 2017 we published an article How do you build a culturally intelligent organization. We provided steps on how to start a movement, to create enough momentum that it becomes a “pull” rather than a “push” system. We suggested that when starting a CQ movement, you need to infuse cultural intelligence into your process from the start. Key steps include:

  • Determine your and your senior leadership’s motivation (Drive)
  • Understand the culture and climate of the organization (Knowledge)
  • Identify key influencers (Strategy)
  • Take action by defining and communicating the business case, key drivers, project scope, and projected impact (Action)
  • And lastly, begin to build your network of champions

Let’s dive deeper into creating champions. A CQ Champion is someone who understands and applies CQ, is a role model to those around him/her/them, and encourages and influences others to work more effectively across cultures. This may be an official or unofficial role. Champions are essential to becoming a more culturally intelligent organization. Champions provide the energy and momentum behind making CQ a sustainable movement. Champions create a space for voices throughout the organization to be heard and ideas to be implemented. Champions are the ones who make large scale projects possible.

I recently returned from a trip to the Middle East. Partnering with a major airline of 45,000 employees, we CQ certified 20 in-house trainers and developed an implementation plan to train 12,000 cabin crew over the next 2 years. The 20 trainers came from all different backgrounds but almost all were facilitators and/or key influencers at some level within the organization. I was impressed by their high standards of excellence in everything they do. They applied that same level of excellence, hard work, and exceptional customer service that one receives in flight to creating a plan of action for building a culturally intelligent organization.

During our full-day strategy session, we divided into 4 work groups to focus on key areas for driving change:

Each group began brainstorming using design thinking principles. Then, the work groups created a project plan with deadlines and established accountability using a RACI model (who is responsible, accountable, needs to be consulted, and who must be kept informed). Our client partner determined the following key take-aways from our strategy session:

  • Adopt Cultural Intelligence as a core competency rather than just a standalone training session.
  • Leaders at all levels to make CQ a priority if it is going to be a guiding characteristic throughout cabin services.
  • Use organizational culture and needs analysis to contextualize training workshops.
  • Certified trainers to champion and continue to reinforce change post launch.

After the train-the-trainer, our client partner interviewed the newly certified facilitators. Below are the questions and a sampling of the responses from the trainers.

What is special about Cultural Intelligence?

  • The best part about Cultural Intelligence is knowing the difference between Cultural Awareness and Cultural Intelligence.
  • It’s a unique way to understand behaviors and to increase empathy.
  • Cultural Intelligence gives you a wake-up call to be more tuned into one another’s cultural beliefs.
  • Instead of categorizing people by nationality or gender, it teaches us to understand individual based on cultural value system. It is amazing how people from the same culture and educational background can behave in totally different manner.

What is one lesson you’ve taken away?

  • The concept of how to come up with a strategy to check if my assumptions are accurate. It is important not to stereotype. All this can help me understand the values of other cultures and not to judge others based on their actions.
  • I realized that cultural intelligence has a broader spectrum which is not limited to race, which is one of the biggest misconceptions that hinder people from wanting to learn more about the subject.
  • I have learned that ‘self-efficacy’ is about having the confidence to influence tough situations even when you don’t have all the answers and to not give up every time you fall.

Why does this course matter to you?

  • I am now more effective with diversity compared to a few months ago.
  • This course is of paramount importance to me personally. I would instill my children and family members to be more aware of different cultures because of the learnings from this course.
  • I truly believe CQ can really make people change the way they look at each other. The more people understand CQ, the easier it becomes to work with each other.
  • This course has exposed me to yet another unseen reality and an area that is seldom given importance by many individuals.
  • In order to be a more effective instructor, I need to have a better knowledge and understanding of cultural intelligence in order to reach my maximum potential.

What is one key lesson or point that is significant for you personally?

  • Without me realizing, I did categorize people in the past and that perception reflected in a way I interacted. But now, this awareness will help me not to judge people and to have an open mind towards situation.
  • From the ratings I received from my peers and from the overall learnings from the course, I realized that it takes all the 4 capabilities to be used together into practice.
  • The fact that I did not score very high when it came to CQ knowledge and CQ strategy was a wake-up call for me.

Why does this matter NOW?

  • This is where the real practice starts. Sitting in a class and listening to the trainers for 3 days is just a drop in the ocean. The movement has to be kept alive by actually practicing what you preach. 
  • An organization that is Culturally Intelligent, is viewed as being socially adept, transformative and broad minded.
  • Due to the growing complexities in the business world, a major part involves dealing with people.
  • Looking at the current situation around the world, I believe ‘Cultural Intelligence’ matters more NOW than any other time in history.
  • CQ helps reduce the stress level, increases the team efficiency and also promotes healthy working environment.
  • We work with diverse cultures and we are constantly growing. It’s the right time to introduce CQ to our crew members. It should not be restricted only to crew but CQ training should be gradually introduced to all our stakeholders.

Your CQ champions will help drive the behavior changes needed for developing a culturally intelligent organization! Contact us to learn more about driving behavior change in your organization.

CQ is an ongoing education

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