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Building Knowledge to Bridge Gaps: 3 Ways to Use Cultural Intelligence to Improve DEI

Updated: Jan 15

I had the pleasure of speaking with Lori McDaniels, a cultural intelligence facilitator, for an episode of our livestream video series, Better Humans at Work (BH@W). We had a great conversation about how to build cultural intelligence in order to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in organizations. 

Lori has over 20 years of experience in corporate project management and enterprise training. She pivoted to DEI training recently in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, using her skills as a coach and facilitator to help others build cultural intelligence. 

Lori and I had a great conversation about what cultural intelligence (CQ) is, how it relates to DEI in organizations, and how to use CQ data to cultivate inclusion.  

What is cultural intelligence?

Cultural intelligence (CQ) is a set of skills that show how well you can adapt in cross-cultural interactions. In other words, CQ outlines how well you are able to adapt and flex your skills in the moment with those who may differ from you in many ways, including race, gender, age, disability status, or caregiver status. 

Often at the root of barriers to DEI in an organization is a lack of cross-cultural communication skills. This “invisible fog” can be hard to identify but is often always present in organizations, leading to anything from interpersonal disagreements to a lack of cohesion in work teams to organizational legal issues. 

How can cultural intelligence improve the workplace? 

Cultural intelligence can be assessed either by individuals for themselves or by those around them using 360-style feedback. This combination of both self- and other-rated assessment allows for a complete picture, often showing that there is a gap between where one thinks they fall and where they actually fall in the eyes of others. 

If an organization is facing challenges around a particular individual, assessing CQ can allow the organization to provide the individual with feedback on where they may need to improve in their interactions with those who differ from them.  

How can you use data to improve cultural intelligence? 

Using the data from an assessment of CQ, individuals can be provided with a development plan for improving their cultural intelligence across four dimensions: 

  1. Drive: one’s interest in multicultural interaction 

  2. Knowledge: one’s understanding of different cultures 

  3. Strategy: the degree to which one plans ahead for cross-cultural experiences 

  4. Action: the degree to one which develops and acts in a flexible and elastic manner in cross-cultural interactions 

Based on one’s results assessing these four dimensions, a development plan can be put in place. To ensure success, organizations and individuals must take a long-term mindset to grow. Further, organizations should go beyond training to include coaching and structure in development plans to be sure that the plans are sustainable, and individuals are held accountable.  

What are three ways to cultivate CQ in organizations? 
  1. Remember that building CQ is a process and it requires grace. This grace is important to hold for yourself and for the process of growth, for yourself and for others. 

  2. Invest in and reward cross-cultural skill-building. At the organizational level, invest in coaching and training in order to build the necessary skills and avoid the negative repercussions of not having them. 

  3. Embrace the discomfort. It is important to view CQ as a skill to be built and a growth area for the organization, knowing that building the skills can be uncomfortable at times but that is part of the process. 

If you’re interested in learning more about cultural intelligence, connect with Lori via her website and take the assessment of your own CQ. 


Want to build your organization’s DEI capabilities? Contact Mattingly Solutions today to learn how we can partner to advance your DEI goals. Together. 


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