{in the 21st Century Global Marketplace}

 Better Business Relationships

Better Business Relationships

Article by Heather Rebecca Wilson
Photo Credit: Dasha & Mari
Magazine: Issue #26

While everyone has been obsessing over knowing their ideal client inside and out, I’ve noticed that in a great deal of my interactions with other “global" entrepreneurs, many of us don’t know ourselves inside and out. When we can’t see ourselves clearly, or have a 360 degree view of our identity, this often leads to cringe-worthy moments when a well-intended comment actually has a negative impact on someone and can unnecessarily put the brakes on an exciting business deal or relationship.

“Cultural Competence” is the ability to work effectively across differences with curiosity, humility, respect, empathy, and without judgment. Unless you’re planning to only work with people who are exactly like you, whether it's joint venture partners, team members, or even clients, without this 360 degree view of your identity, your ability as an entrepreneur to lead others and transform the world with your unique message is on shaky ground at best.

"Cultural Humility" is an orientation that first and foremost, recognizes the inherent power balances that exist in our everyday lives and requires a commitment to ongoing self-reflection in order understand the experience of others. Your ability to navigate an increasingly uncertain, complex, and yet collaborative world is key to your success or failure in the global marketplace of the 21st century. Your ideal client might be just like you, or so you may think! Some dimensions of identity are invisible. So, how does one become culturally competent or humble? And what is identity exactly?

Identity is how you see yourself, how others see you (in the world of social psychology this is referred to as your “social identity), and your reaction to that outside perception. We are all born innocent. Identities develop over a lifetime. Additionally, they can be extremely complex and fluid. So, identity is the dynamic relationship between these elements and can be pretty darn complicated.

Your “social identity” refers to your membership in certain social groups and the implications of belonging to these groups. Social groups are defined by gender, age, ethnicity, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Examples of this might be your place of work, a religious or spiritual community you are a part of, or a private club that you or your family belongs to.

Here’s the kicker: our self-identification with a particular social group may have no influence on how we are categorized by others. We are constantly evaluated by others in ways that make sense to them, not necessarily to us. This is a bitter pill to swallow for most everyone, but it is a reality that one must acknowledge to have an honest conversation about the role of identity in our global community.

Take some time to reflect on the following and make a new plan to up your game in this area:

Success Strategy #1: Know how you self-identify among the different dimensions of identity and how this affects the person you are today. These dimensions include but are not limited to: age, body size/shape, sexual orientation/questioning, family structure, socioeconomic status, language of origin, ability, sex, religion, race, and ethnicity (connected to race, but different; involves cultures, traditions, and geographical location). How have your identity related experiences colored the way you see the world? What are your core values? In what areas are you in the minority? In what areas have you benefited from majority privilege? Where might you have some blind spots? 

Success Strategy #2: Effective leaders understand that success is built on relationships. Make a concerted effort to educate yourself about how others who identify differently than you may perceive you and why that is. There are many resources available, especially on the internet. Educating yourself about the experiences and perspectives of others is YOUR responsibility. Lack of knowledge or awareness of the experiences of those who are not like you can often be misinterpreted as a lack of caring or worse, prejudice.


Success Strategy #3: Never assume. There is a time for asking questions and a time for just listening. Be discerning. Be present. Be patient. 

Success Strategy #4: Have a growth mindset as you embark on the cultural competence and humility journey. Know that you will make mistakes on a regular basis and be OK with that. If you do offend someone, hear them out when he or she wants to talk about it, make a heartfelt apology, and a genuine effort to do better in the future.

Success Strategy #5: Be open and honest about this new endeavor you are undertaking to become more culturally competent and humble. Let others know that this is important to you and that you’re interested in connecting with likeminded people for inspiration, support, and accountability. Start conversations. Be visible. Be vulnerable. 

Cultural competence and humility will help you navigate and stay relevant in this new world where consumers and potential creative partners are increasingly diverse, savvy, and in search of authentic connections with other people who “get it” and “get them”


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