28. June 2012 · Comments Off on Cultural Proficiency: The Essential Elements · Categories: Collaboration, Cultural Proficiency, Leadership · Tags: , , , , ,

Cultural Proficiency: The Essential Elements

The Essential Elements of Cultural Proficiency are just that—ESSENTIAL. The Essential Elements are the standards of behavior and organizational practices that lead to Culturally Proficient organizations. We use the Essential Elements to create rubrics for holding ourselves accountable. Some of the rubrics include: Curriculum and Instruction; Assessment; Family and Community; and Professional Development. One of my favorite rubrics, as I describe below, is Culturally Proficient Level 5 Leaders, where teams have combined the work of Cultural Proficiency and Jim Collins, Good to Great. The Essential Elements form the backbone (standards) for the rubric.

What is Cultural Proficiency?

• It is an inside-out approach
• It is about being aware of how we think and work with others
• It is about being aware of how we react to those different from us
• It is a mind set; a way of being; a paradigm shift for some


• It is the use of specific tools for effectively describing, responding to, and planning for issues that emerge in diverse environments
• It is the policies and practices at the organizational level, and values and behaviors of the leader that enable effective cross cultural interactions among staff, community, and those we serve

The Essential Elements
One of the four tools of Cultural Proficiency is the Essential Elements.

These Essential Elements set the standards for our work both personally and organizationally. The Essential Elements are:

• Name the differences: Assess your own culture.
• Claim the differences: Value diversity.
• Reframe the differences: Manage the dynamics of difference.
• Train about differences: Adapt to diversity.
• Change for differences: Institutionalize cultural knowledge.

Culturally Proficient Level 5 Leadership
Again, one example of how I’ve used the Essential Elements in my work is to create a Culturally Proficient Level 5 Leadership Portrait along with a rubric for Culturally Proficient Level 5 Leaders, combining the work of Cultural Proficiency and the leadership work of Jim Collins, Good to Great. The Leadership Portrait and the rubric guide the behaviors, policies, and practices of individuals and organizations, and also serve as a means of accountability to accelerate the cultural shift to building relationships, valuing others, and individual, team, and organizational success.

Another example of applying the Essential Elements as standards for Culturally Proficient teams is found within our best seller: Culturally Proficient Learning Communities: Confronting Inequities Through Collaborative Curiosity.

Source: Culturally Proficient Learning Communities: Confronting Inequities Through Collaborative Curiosity, Corwin Press Best Seller

To learn more about how to develop Culturally Proficient Level 5 Leaders or Culturally Proficient Learning Communities within your organization, please feel free to email me at ljungwirth@ConveningConversations.com.

28. June 2012 · Comments Off on Reframing Questions for Breakthrough Thinking · Categories: Collaboration, Cultural Proficiency, Leadership · Tags: , , , , ,

Reframing Questions for Breakthrough Thinking

Ever been in a conversation/dialogue/discussion when someone asks a question and it feels like the air has just been sucked out of the room? You can feel the tension–even “cut it with a knife.” Everyone becomes quiet. No one makes eye contact. The elephant in the room stands tall. Someone finally changes the subject. It’s time to ask a breakthrough question! Breakthrough questions are the foundation of Culturally Proficient Learning Communities, communities of practice that invite diverse thinking, engage in difficult conversations, learn from one another, and confront prejudices and inequities on the personal and organizational levels.

Breakthrough Thinking means we are engaged in conversations that are transparent, inclusive, open to diverse perspectives, and move the team beyond barriers to success. Breakthrough thinking transforms beliefs, values, and assumptions. A key skill for Breakthrough Thinkers is how to ask Breakthrough Questions.

Breakthrough Questions are crafted and delivered with specific characteristics, as listed below. Breakthrough Questions:
• Embed and are delivered with a spirit of inquiry and curiosity
• Assume positive intentions and are framed in a positive manner
• Use plural forms, signaling the intention of choice and options
• Use tentative language, conveying the intention of multiple right answers
• Are open ended rather than “yes/no” questions
• Are delivered with an approachable, invitational voice

An example of a Breakthrough Question is:
Given my new learning today (positive intention) and knowing some (plural language) of my beliefs and practices (plural form) may be challenged with my new consciousness, how might (tentative language) I be more open to listening and reframing my thinking as we move forward in this work (positive intentions)?

Source: Culturally Proficient Learning Communities: Confronting Inequities Through Collaborative Curiosity, Corwin Press Best Seller

To begin or sustain your work in Cultural Proficiency, or to learn how to craft and deliver breakthrough questions, to reframe the conversation, to achieve collaborative team and organizational goals, please email me at ljungwirth@ConveningConversations.com.

Trust, Transparency, Inclusion in a Culture of Excellence. Living these elements builds ownership, not buy-in…a big difference when you desire engagement, excellence, and sustainability of innovation and change.

Some Benefits of Trust
• Infuses systems with positive energy
• Makes for more adaptive, agile organizations
• Makes one more competitive–one can more quickly engage in change. Without trust, people usually hunker down and do things “by the book” and resist any change from the status quo, even if they know what they are doing is not getting the desired results.
• Utilizes resources to the greatest advantage–for the good of the whole

A Common Understanding
Trust may be different things to different people. Having a common language and understanding of trust is essential in building and sustaining trust. Megan Tschannen-Moran, in Trust Matters: Leadership in Successful Schools, identifies five elements of trust through a meta-analysis of the trust research. These five elements are:

• Benevolence
• Honesty
• Openness
• Competence
• Reliability

What’s going on when we’re in a trusting relationship? We have a willingness to be vulnerable. When we are in a trusting relationship, we are in a situation of interdependence; we are dependent on someone else to come through the way we need them to support us. No one can accomplish systems transformation work alone. When we’re doing solo activities, trust is not relevant. When we become interdependent, we’re paying attention to: Are these people I can trust? We base the answer to this question on the five areas listed above and in more detail below.

Benevolence: The Bedrock of Trust and Relationships

– Unfailing good will: they will not do me dirty, even if they can enhance their own outcomes. They won’t try to get ahead at my expense.
– Empathy and caring
– Offering encouragement-bolstering other’s courage
– Expressing appreciation and acknowledgment
– Being fair
– If life is not fair and out of one’s control, then being responsive to another’s hurt, and their knowing they can count on you


– Telling the truth
– Integrity: unity and alignment between words and deeds
– Self-awareness and consciousness: not deluding oneself
– Authenticity: not just playing a role–know what you stand for–adhering to guiding principles
– Accepting responsibility: don’t blame others–use an inside out approach for how am I contributing to the current situation

These first two dimensions of trust count the most. If these two elements of trust are violated, trust is severely and negatively impacted. The next three elements of trust are extensions of benevolence and honesty.

– Open communication
– Transparency
– Sharing important information–hidden agendas erode trust
– Sharing power
– Delegation
– Shared decision-making–extends trust. People who don’t extend trust, destroy trust

– Keeping promises
– Honoring agreements
– Being consistent
– Predictability–living out of core values/principles–knowing what you stand for
– Diligence
– Dedication
* these are all indicators of benevolence

– Inspiring a shared vision
– Co-creating possibilities
– Striving for results
– Problem solving
– Conflict resolution
– Elevate energy
– Collective Efficacy–collectively and interdependently need to believe that you can do this work

If you compromise these last three elements of trust, you may or may not have problems sustaining trust. Struggles in openness, reliability, and competence may result through possible over-commitment, lack of confidence, and/or communication mix-ups.

As a coach, leader, and/or colleague, paraphrasing and asking clarifying and/or reflective questions in these five areas of trust helps to diagnose levels of trust and intervene before trust is broken (i.e. If a person is over-committed, asking “What might be some possible resources that could support you and your work?” If a person lacks competence, asking “What new learning might support you in increasing your craftsmanship/expertise in this area?” If a person is unreliable, asking “What might be some reasons for your challenges in meeting all of your commitments?”

If there are some INCIDENCES of mess-ups, trust is probably not compromised.
A PATTERN of mess-ups becomes indicators of a lack of benevolence, honesty, competence, openness, and/or reliability. Providing non-judgmental feedback in the form of data rather than judgment, and asking reflective questions to understand what is behind the mess-ups, are important leadership, collaborative, and/or coaching functions.

For more information, training and/or a self and organizational assessment based on these five elements of trust, please email me at: ljungwirth@ConveningConversations.com.

Another excellent resource on trust is Stephen Covey’s The Speed of Trust. I’ll save that for another blog.