Please join us at the 6th Annual Cultural Proficiency Institute, August 1-2, 2012, at the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance. I will be presenting Culturally Proficient Learning Communities: Confronting Inequities Through Collaborative Curiosity. This will be a hands-on, interactive session that provides insights into how to reframe learning community conversations that are stuck or shut down, when the team wants to ignore the elephant in the room. Learn to craft Breakthrough Questions that open the conversation for new possibilities! Below are some of my thoughts/insights about What is Cultural Proficiency, and the Four Tools that support individuals and organizations to ground their work with (1) Guiding Principals, the values that support culturally proficient organizations; (2) the Essential Elements, standards for behaviors, policies, and practices; (3) the Continuum, a tool for describing harmful and positive behaviors within organizations; and (4) Barriers to be aware of when moving a culture and an organization forward in their Cultural Proficiency journey.

• 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


Cultural Proficiency—Guiding Principles
The Guiding Principles are the core values–the foundation upon which cultural proficiency is built.
• Culture is a predominant force; you cannot NOT be influenced by culture.
• People are served in varying degrees by the dominant culture.
• People have group and individual identities.
• There is diversity within and between cultures.
• The unique cultural needs may not be met, but must be respected.

Cultural Proficiency—The Essential Elements
The Essential Elements set the standards that guide our work.
• 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.

Cultural Proficiency—Continuum
Six points along the Cultural Proficiency Continuum indicate unique ways of perceiving and responding to differences and to assess the current state of one’s culture.


Some questions I might ask myself for each point along the Continuum include:

Cultural Destructiveness – In what ways am I and/or the organization seeking to eliminate the cultures of “others” in all aspects of the school and in relationship with their communities?

Cultural Incapacity – In what ways am I and/or the organization trivializing other cultures and seeking to make the culture of others appear to be wrong?

Cultural Blindness – In what ways am I and/or the organization not seeing or pretending not to see or acknowledge the culture of others, choosing to ignore the experiences of cultural groups within the school and community?

Cultural Precompetence – In what ways am I and/or the organization increasingly aware of what is known about working in diverse settings and identifying the needs of those whom we serve? It is at this key level of development that we and the school as an organization can move in a positive, constructive direction or we can vacillate, stop and possibly regress.

Cultural Competence – In what ways am I and/or the organization manifesting personal values and behaviors and the school’s policies and practices in a manner that is inclusive with cultures that are new or different from us and the school?

Cultural Proficiency – In what ways am I and/or the organization advocating for life-long learning for the purpose of being increasingly effective in serving the educational needs of cultural groups? In what ways are we and the school serving as instruments for holding the vision for creating a socially just democracy?

Cultural Proficiency—The Barriers
• The presumption of entitlement and unearned privilege
• Systems of oppression and privilege, perpetuating the domination/victimization of individuals and groups
• Unawareness of the need to adapt
• Resistance to change, not recognizing need to change/adapt, believing only others need to adapt to you

Source: Culturally Proficient Learning Communities: Confronting Inequities Through Collaborative Curiosity, by Delores Lindsey, Linda Jungwirth, Jarvis Pahl, and Randall Lindsey (A Corwin Press Best Seller)
To begin or sustain your work in Cultural Proficiency, 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.

07. April 2012 · Comments Off on Facilitating and Developing Collaborative Groups Through Adaptive Organizations · Categories: Collaboration, Cultural Proficiency, Leadership · Tags: , , , , ,

What does it mean to be a professional learning community? How do we develop the knowledge and skills to support professional communities who are actively learning—shifting to shared leadership, supportive organizational structures and resources, and shared professional practices? Professional learning communities can quickly move from being functional to dysfunctional depending on the knowledge and skills of the group members. The purpose of professional learning communities is to deepen the members’ understanding of concepts that promote, improve, and sustain an organization’s mission and vision, to develop skills that improve one’s professional practices, and sometimes to meet mandates for organizational restructuring.

If we shift our perspective from just the name, professional learning communities, to a new identify, a true sense of being, we become professional communities—learning. Professional communities—learning are dynamic groups that are continually seeking to clarify their identify in an ever changing environment, exploring and making visible their values, beliefs, and assumptions both personally and as the professional community—learning. In some of our organizations, developing learning communities calls for an extreme paradigm shift in how we lead and how we interact with each other. Broadening leadership and moving to shared decision-making many times require new skills, understanding of new concepts, new beliefs and values, and changes in our professional behaviors. Examining our beliefs, our values, our assumptions that drive our behaviors is not a common practice, yet this is the foundation for effective professional communities—learning.

Sustaining and growing organizations requires a clarification of identify that truly meets the changing needs of the environment and those whom we serve as clients. Who is our client? Who do we serve? How is our client base changing? What are their needs? How is our environment changing as we move deeper into the 21st century? Sometimes our changing client base and changing environment require a change in form, how we are structured to meet the changing needs of our client-base or our environment. Sometimes that change in form is to become the professional community—learning. Our change in identity may be from being isolated and autonomous in our working environment to being collaborative and sharing practices and knowledge with our colleagues. Garmston and Wellman, in their book, The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups, name this ability to clarify one’s identify and to be flexible in changing form to address changes in the environment, adaptivity.

As a National Training Associate for Adaptive Schools: Facilitating and Developing Collaborative Groups, let me distinguish “adaptivity” from someone/something as “having adapted.” Having adapted to a changing environment conveys finality. We’ve changed. We’re done. The monarch butterfly is adapted to an environment rich with the milkweed plant. If the milkweed were no longer present, the monarch butterfly would most likely perish. The butterfly has adapted to the environment, but does not have the immediate capability to be adaptive, changing form, to meet a rapidly changing environment. The American school system adapted to the economic pressures of the industrial revolution, shifting from a rural educational system, where students learned in diverse, multi-age learning environments, to where students learned in homogeneous environments, to accept directives, and to be passive learners doing what they were told. The “product” was a workforce to supply factories. Today’s businesses require a different kind of workforce, one that can think critically, solve problems, and work collaboratively. Our schools “adapted” to the economic demands of the industrial revolution. They are not “adaptive” in meeting the changing needs of today’s students and the demands of the global societies of the 21st century.

As we become adaptive organizations, organizations that continually clarify their identity and are flexible in changing form when required by the changing environment, we learn or bring to consciousness distinctions in our language and intentionality in our behaviors. Developing skillful group members that can each take responsibility for facilitating and developing collaborative groups is key to supporting adaptive organizations. The Adaptive Schools Foundations Institute provides training in (a) how to facilitate effective, efficient professional communities-learning, (b) how to be a skillful group member, and (c) how to develop as a powerful, collaborative group that is adaptive, dynamically changing as needed given the rapid changes in today’s world.

For more information, training and/or a self and organizational assessment for group development, please email me at: ljungwirth@ConveningConversations.com.