DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Diversity Day

Written by: on May 10, 2018

One of the best-known episodes of the US television show “The Office” is called “Diversity Day”. The setting is in a “typical” American office workspace, where the staff has to attend a mandatory “diversity sensitivity” event.  Part of the reason that this episode is so memorable for people, is that the basic premise of enforced sensitivity training rings true.

For Michael Scott, the clueless boss in the episode, he ends up inadvertently using racial/ethnic stereotypes to insult and offend the people who are there.  This is the vision that many people hold for what talking about “cultural intelligence” might mean.  The question is asked: “Do we really have to do this?”

In his book Leading With Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success, author David Livermore brings an impassioned presentation for why growing in “cultural intelligence” is so necessary and important in the increasingly interconnected world today.  It goes far beyond attending a “diversity day” event.

Livermore brings his topic to life by using real world examples from people he has met, along with his own personal stories of cultural missteps and mishaps, as well as insightful research.  In laying out the “why” question, Livermore writes, “Although most leaders readily acknowledge the multicultural landscape of today’s leadership journey, many still view it as a ‘nice-to-have’ soft skill rather than a non-negotiable.”[1]  This is a book that seeks to convince the reader not only of the importance of growing in cultural intelligence, but also to give applicable tools and ways of developing it.

Livermore defines cultural intelligence as, “the capability to function effectively across national, ethnic, and organizational cultures”[2], and he goes on to lay out the four “capabilities”, including: drive (motivation), knowledge, strategy and action. Since the idea of leading with cultural intelligence is closely related to my own research area, this is a book that immediately caught my attention.  Of Livermore’s four capabilities, I am most drawn to the first one, which is about “drive”.

For the average business traveler who sees this book in the airport bookstore, or who has it recommended by a work colleague, Livermore’s writing and perspective will make a lot of sense.  However, in my context, which is also increasingly multicultural and interconnected with the wider world, there is much more resistance to reading a book like this, much less to enacting the practices that it describes.

Livermore states that “one of the reasons diversity-training programs often fail”[3]is that people don’t feel motivated by the experience.  They don’t see the benefit.  It can feel like a requirement or even an implicit judgment of them as people.  And this is a real challenge for working within a church, whether it is with staff or lay leaders, or just with members.  As Livermore puts it, “there is a direct correlation between your level of motivation for adapting cross-culturally and your effectiveness.”[4]  Simply put, unless this topic is approached in a careful and strategic way, people will reject it out of hand, or will do it out of obligation, with no real interest or attention.

This is the challenge that leaders will face in taking this information back to their teams or organizations.  When I read Livermore’s description of his own outlook, I see a lot of myself in him. He writes, “I’m very energized by cross-cultural encounters.  Put me in a room full of people and the internationals in the room draw me like a magnet… book me on an international flight and my adrenaline starts pumping… My international work has been well served by my insatiable wanderlust.”[5]  However, many of those on my team or those who I hope to energize or train in my church, do not share this orientation toward cultural differences.

So, a big part of the work, is to frame the questions, and set up the context where people are interested enough, or invited in, or are woo’d into being part of this conversation. One review points out that Livermore “contends that cultural intelligence can be acquired through training and practical experience by anyone who perceives the need and is willing to learn.  Therefore, he believes there is always room for improving upon one’s ability to function across multicultural boundaries.”[6]

Indeed, Livermore writes, “the emphasis of cultural intelligence is that through learning and interventions everyone can become more culturally intelligent.”[7]  When it comes to using this material with my own staff or leaders, this calls to mind what Samuel Chand has written in Leadership Pain.  “Do you want to be a better leader?  Raise the threshold of your pain.  Do you want your church to grow?  Do you want your business to reach higher goals?  Reluctance to face pain is your greatest limitation.  There is no growth without change, no change without loss, and no loss without pain.”[8]

Livermore provides tools that are helpful for me personally as a leader, but also the means to build up and motivate the other leaders that I work with as well.  Even those who are not “naturally” interested in this topic, it is a growth area that may be painful, yet, is also necessary.

The good news, as one review points out, is that this is an exceedingly approachable and practical book. The author, “gives advice for how to develop cultural intelligence.  He proposes that readers be sincere with themselves, evaluate their self-confidence, eat and socialize with people of different cultures, count the benefits of cultural intelligence…”[9]These strategies are not only useful while in cross-cultural settings, but also in preparing for them, and encouraging leaders to try out new practices.

In all of this, I find a lot that will translate well back to my own setting.  Rather than setting up a “Diversity Day” event, my hope is to use Livermore’s material in a variety of settings, to weave it into the fabric of my community.

[1]David Livermore, Leading With Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success (New York: Amacom, 2015), xiv.

[2]David Livermore, Leading With Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success (New York: Amacom, 2015), 4.

[3]David Livermore, Leading With Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success (New York: Amacom, 2015), 45.

[4]David Livermore, Leading With Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success (New York: Amacom, 2015), 45.

[5]David Livermore, Leading With Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success (New York: Amacom, 2015), 44.

[6]Ugochukwu Elems, “Leading With Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success,” Journal of Applied Christian Leadership 5, no. 1 (Spring, 2011): 103, https://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1116&context=jacl (accessed May 10, 2018).

[7]David Livermore, Leading With Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success (New York: Amacom, 2015), 37.

[8]Samuel R. Chand, Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015), 15.

[9]Dr. Gloria J Miller, review of Leading With Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success, by David Livermore, The Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship 21, no. 1 (January 2016): 87, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/293637344_Book_Review_Leading_with_Cultural_Intelligence_The_Real_Secret_to_Success(accessed May 10, 2018).

About the Author

Dave Watermulder

16 responses to “Diversity Day”

  1. mm M Webb says:

    Dave,
    Great introduction and practical approach to “do we really need this?” Well, if you don’t leave the US, don’t minister to refugees, and you don’t work, play, or socialize with any multicultural people then NO, you don’t really need this book. Archie Bunker re-runs will work just fine!
    Otherwise, Livermore’s book is a cross-cultural survival guide for the Western paradigm that is necessary for anyone engaged in reaching the least and unreached people groups for Christ. Many of them live next door or work side by side with us in the workplace.
    I’m glad to see your desire to “weave it into the fabric” of your community. Jesus knew cultural intelligence when he went into Samaria and asked the woman at the well for a drink of water. He did not try to become Samarian. Instead he met needs, gave truth, hope, comfort, and a plan for eternal life. What a great pattern for us to follow.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

  2. mm Jennifer Williamson says:

    Yes, I do see you as one who is high on motivation in the CQ scale, Dave. That’s awesome. The question of motivating others is more of a challenge. As a seven on the enneagram, my first reaction is to say,” we just need to make it fun!” But there are certainly other approaches. Do you have any concrete ideas yet, as to how you will weave it in?

    • Dave Watermulder says:

      Hi Jen,
      So, I’m also a 7, and I agree with you! Actually, that’s one of the things that I would say: giving people a reason to be there, whether it is fun, or good information, or an existing relationship or something– dragging people into all of this doesn’t seem that effective, so I lean more toward wooing…

  3. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Dave,

    My son just showed me that episode of the Office. I cracked up relentlessly!

    I thought your point of forcing diversity training was well made. Weaving it into the fabric of your community sounds wise. How do you plan on doing that?

    It will be especially interesting for me to hear from you, because you live in such a diverse area, compared to me. My county, on the other hand, is nearly 96% caucasian…

    • Dave Watermulder says:

      Hi Jay,
      Glad you saw that episode and got a kick out of it. I love it! So, yea, what I’m researching and thinking about is definitely not “universal”– in a county like yours, some of this may be fairly different. But I do think that nation-wide, the demographic changes are already becoming clear, and especially in urban and the surrounding suburban areas. In my county, it is 50% white and 50% something else, so the need to engage with this is more pressing. I think in a context like yours, it might be more stealth (like do people come through as migrant or seasonal workers), or maybe it’s just a few percentage points every 10 years on the census, but that will add up when it comes to your grandchildren’s generation. So, helping churches even now to have a biblical view for those who are different, as well as opportunities to engage with people of different cultures (even if it means travel), would be good.

  4. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Hi Dave! This statement is so disappointing “In in my context, which is also increasingly multicultural and interconnected with the wider world, there is much more resistance to reading a book like this, much less to enacting the practices that it describes.”
    Living in the midwest, I want to believe that Californians are open-minded to CQ. How can we as a faith and nation work to integrate CQ? Unfortunately, I see programs like Affirmative Action (which I write about) as being threatening to wealthy, white citizens. Your thoughts?

    • Dave Watermulder says:

      Hi Jean,
      Yes! This is my ongoing struggle… Our larger county and area are super diverse, but the neighborhood around our church is less so. Anyway, California people are definitely used to more diversity in general, but my church is one of those “long-established congregations”, i.e.: people have been here a while and aren’t sure where things are heading… Race is always a hard topic, even for Californians, but that’s why it takes a clear vision, and some pastoral love, to help people step into the conversation. It helps that much of our growth in young families are non-white, which has people saying, “if that’s how our future will look, then I can embrace it”. So, that’s my approach.

  5. Great first blog of the summer quarter Dave! I have to start by including a wonderful image of what you described at the beginning of your blog. You can find it by clicking the following link: https://images.rapgenius.com/c2a8cf7d9720c8b36329a982692e5323.470x308x1.jpg The Office is my all time favorite show, so you had me hooked when you started talking about Diversity Day 🙂 . Unlike Michael Scott, your statement, “unless this topic is approached in a careful and strategic way, people will reject it out of hand, or will do it out of obligation, with no real interest or attention.” is so very true. I love that you are interested in other cultures and I’m sure your comfortablity and passion is contagious to others. I grew up as a minority compared to the many Asian cultures represented in my high school in west LA, which forced me to also be very comfortable with diversity, which is what I miss most living in the overly white Pacific NW.

    • Dave Watermulder says:

      Totally, Jake,
      I think the more you grow up with it (i.e.: for you in LA), the more it is the norm or something you embrace naturally. The challenge in the Pacific NW and other places, is that culture is changing all around us, so how can people respond faithfully, even if it isn’t what they are used to.

  6. Chris Pritchett says:

    Excellent post, Dave! I appreciated how you used the book to reflect on your current context and the need to experience personal discomfort in order to grow in this area. This resonated as being very similar to my experience: “For the average business traveler who sees this book in the airport bookstore, or who has it recommended by a work colleague, Livermore’s writing and perspective will make a lot of sense. However, in my context, which is also increasingly multicultural and interconnected with the wider world, there is much more resistance to reading a book like this, much less to enacting the practices that it describes.”

  7. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Dave, I think you would do an excellent diversity day. I also think you would do a great “prison Mike.” Your post makes me ask this question, is CQ better learned by reading about it or immersion or mentoring?

    Drive is crucial, but can you really measure drive without immersion?

    • Dave Watermulder says:

      Kyle,
      I see you are a true Office fan. Nice! Yea, I think immersion is the best way (this is what Jake was reflecting on about growing up as a minority in LA). Along with that, the more ties that bind us across those ethnic lines are important– i.e.: same church, same school, same sports teams, same neighborhoods, etc. But even an experience of overseas short term mission can be helpful and eye-opening (it’s one of the best reasons to go– very selfish, but true!). I think there are a lot of creative options for ways to do this, but it takes consistent clear leadership to say: this is important for us, we will focus on it together.

  8. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Dave, your title drew me in. After watching ‘Diversity Day’ for the first time I was appalled. Then we watched it again and I rolled laughing. I guess the reality is Michael Scott is just flagrantly crossing the line but he is also doing what many people are thinking but are unwilling to say. Anyway, I appreciate your bringing this in to your post as it reveals truth about our contexts today. Many don’t want to deal with the changing culture and it is a hard sell to our churches. I’d like to hear more about how you are approaching it in your context and how it is received.

    • Dave Watermulder says:

      Thanks Trisha. Yea, once you get into the Office, you can see the genius of Michael Scott!
      For my setting, my approach has been long-term and also practical. Long-term in the sense of knowing that this isn’t easy to “figure out”, and it will take a while. It took almost 5 years to get my Elders to agree that our church should even aspire to become more multicultural. It was only when I showed them the data that it was already happening, that they embraced it and said, “oh yea, that’s important”. On the practical side, we’ve done all kinds of things… 1) an event “hearing the stories of immigrants”, featuring people in our church who come from other countries, sharing their stories. 2) special food and culture nights to highlight the places where some of our newer members have come from. 3) seeking more diversity in our leadership (i.e.: Elders and Deacons) as well as in up front leadership on a Sunday. 4) praying regularly for specific countries and cultures during worship, also for race relations in our country (i.e.: after Charlottesville). 5) focusing on this topic in our leaders meetings, new members classes and committees as well…

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