by Ted Goins • January 30, 2024
When I became president of Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC) in 2010, I was determined to use my position to make a difference. LSC started much of its modern diversity efforts with action, not just words. In 2001, LSC leased-to-purchase an old, for-profit nursing home in the heavily African-American area of east Winston-Salem. Lutheran Home–Winston-Salem served 100% indigent residents, with the majority of residents being persons of color. While LSC had embraced diversity over the years, the Winston project opened eyes and provided opportunities to improve intercultural development.
The LSC Board utilized Charlotte-based Brownicity to provide training at its November 2021 Board retreat. The Brownicity team administered the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a widely used and effective cross-culturally valid assessment for building cultural competence.
Now for the hard reality. When I completed the IDI in 2021, I was a bit let down that I was not as far on the journey as I had perceived. A small consolation was that the board’s group score was almost exactly the same as my individual score.
Another component of the process is a workbook learning plan to help people like me on the journey. I have been fairly dedicated to the process, and committed to taking action steps such as learning about and immersing myself in cultures different from my own. I also sought out to build a friendship with someone whose social and cultural identity is distinctly different from my own. I referred to her as my culture coach. She has been a gift from God.
Two years later, LSC decided to utilize Brownicity and the IDI with our 50-person senior leadership team in September 2023. Dr. Lucretia Berry and her team shared the same training and assessment with the senior leaders. Their work was equally well received by the team as with the board two years earlier.
Dr. Berry offers each participant the opportunity to have a one-on-one debrief of their individual results. I arranged my session with Dr. Berry immediately as I was eager to compare my 2021 results to my 2023 results – probably something few people get a chance to do.
Regarding the capability to shift cultural perspective and appropriately adapt behavior to cultural difference and commonalities, the IDI process explains that it is not unusual for individuals and groups to perceive themselves differently than they actually are. For my 2023 personal score, my perceived and actual scores were more aligned at only 10 points apart, and I had developed into the next stage of cultural competence. In other words, I had grown significantly over two years.
That doesn’t mean I’m a better person, it means I’m at a different place on the journey – and it’s a life-long journey. I have grown from de-emphasizing differences, which can cause people to feel invisible, to understanding and engaging cultural differences and commonalities. My path to growth includes understanding and trying to accept cultural practices that I might not agree with, and making ethical judgments taking cultural differences into account. One example that jumps to mind is the urge to shake hands, when greeting with a handshake is not culturally appropriate in some cultures. Another that’s even harder for me, is my lifelong obsession with being on time. But in some cultures, time is not viewed so quantitatively.
I am sixty-five years old, or young! I feel like I know less and less about a more and more complex world. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Some people call that woke, and use it as an insult. I call that highest praise. And I will keep walking this journey.
About the Intercultural Development Inventory
The IDI is a psychometric instrument based on the Intercultural Development Continuum (IDC). As an assessment tool, the IDI measures an individual’s or group’s progression along a developmental path of increasing complexity in making sense of and responding to cultural differences. The IDI measures both one’s mindset and skillset, which allows individuals and groups to better understand successes and challenges related to their intercultural interactions.
As explained in the video below, the IDI measures placement along the Intercultural Development Continuum (IDC), which describes orientations toward cultural differences ranging from the more monocultural mindsets of Denial and Polarization through the transitional orientation of Minimization to the intercultural mindsets of Acceptance and Adaptation.
To schedule an individual or group assessment and report, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Lutheran Services Carolinas
Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC) is a faith-based health and human services organization serving seniors in North Carolina and children and families in North and South Carolina. LSC has been influenced by our sponsors, the North and South Carolina Synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and by many local DEI efforts from Rotary to the Chamber of Commerce.
In 2003, LSC became active in the creation of the N.C. Synod’s African Descent Strategy Team, which continues to be an important source of support, information, collaboration, and accountability. DEI has been built into the fabric of LSC through its strategic plan. Examples on the journey include: the addition of a Justice organizational value, a diversity education program for all new teammates, and a team that is 50% persons of color. LSC’s Board of Trustees is diverse in most every way, including being 43% persons of color.