Cultural Mastery: What's Inside of You?

How aware are you of your cultural biases?


When it comes to cultural mastery, individuals must first examine and understand their own biases – of which they may be completely unaware - before they can increase their cultural IQ, according to cultural expert Ricardo Gonzalez. In this video, Ricardo recalls a very frank, personal story that illustrates this principle and the risks that our own internal biases can have on our lives and careers.

Ricardo is the founder and CEO of Bilingual America, a nationally respected cultural and language-training institute established in 1992. As the developer of cultural mastery training courses, books and workshops, Ricardo helps individuals and organizations develop healthy cross-cultural relationships to improve communication and teamwork. A core principle of Ricardo’s training is that individuals must first understand themselves before they can increase their cultural IQ. “Whatever is inside of you,” says Ricardo, “will at some point come out.”

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So I was invited to do a teaching seminar for a group of owners of companies, construction companies, and this was up in Baltimore, Maryland. About a week before the conference, the Executive Director of the organization calls me up and he says, "Hey, do you play golf?" And at the time, I was living in Atlanta, so a lot of golf courses, you know, and so I was playing a lot of golf at the time. And I said, "Yeah, I play golf," and he said, "Well, how good are you?" I said, "I'm actually pretty good. You know, I'm not Chi-Chi Rodriguez, but I'm a pretty good amateur golfer."

So he says, "What's your handicap?" I tell him my handicap, and he says, "Well, I'll tell you what. Why don't you come up a day early? We've got a scramble. I'd like you to team up with me and we'll play together."

So I go up a day early and I get there and two things I learned very quickly. Number one, they were playing for a lot of money, and number two, the Executive Director was Type A. This guy wanted to win. So I was part of his winning strategy, right? So he was convinced that I was the Latino golf phenom.

So we get to the first hole and we tee off, and I had birdie on the first hole. So we walk away, he's happy, I'm happy, everybody's, you know, wonderful. And then we get to the second hole and I parred the second hole. You know, it's still good. I'm an amateur, right?

So then we move on to the third hole. Well, I bogeyed the third hole. And just as we were walking off the green, he says to me, "You okay?" I said, "Yeah." But you could just sense this little bit of, you know, apprehension on his part.

So we get to the fourth hole and I double bogeyed the fourth hole. And when we're walking off the green, he says to me, "I thought you were good."

Now what happens to an amateur golfer when you start to feel pressure? So we get to the fifth hole. I'll never forget it. To this day, I have the vision of exactly where this hole is. There's woods off to the right and off to the left. It's a par four. So I tee off and where does the ball go? Of course it goes out into the woods, right?

So I'm lying 5 in the fairway, and I'm still about 80 yards away. So I probably took out a nine iron or something like that, and I'm hitting my fifth shot on a par four. The ball pops up into the air and it kind of goes off to the right, and it hits a cement cart path. It bounces up in the air, probably 20, 25 feet, and it goes off into the woods.

This guy's off to my left, like 15, 20 feet, right, and he lost it. He screamed at me and he said, "Why in the blankety-blank-blank-blank don't you go back to Puerto Rico and steal hubcaps?" And I thought, "Oh my."

So I just kind of gathered myself. I looked at the guy and I said, "You're going to be at my conference tomorrow, right?" He said, "Yeah, absolutely. I wouldn't miss it for the world." I said, "That's probably a good thing." And that was it.

So there's something that we teach people that we're working with, as it relates to cultural mastery and that's this: whatever's inside of you, whatever -- at some place and for some reason, at some time pressure builds, you may lose it. And whatever's inside, it's going to come out. The danger is, is that today's world, it can destroy your career.

We're living in very precarious times as it relates to the way that we're managing culture, and there's a big, big downside for people who don't do the internal work. I think, as leaders, we have to face this honestly.

Ricardo González

Ricardo González is the founder and CEO of Bilingual America, a nationally respected cultural and language training institute established in 1992. He is the developer of several corporate training courses including Success with Hispan...

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