6 Stages of Cultural Mastery

What do you really understand about the people you work with?


Ricardo Gonzalez 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 books and training courses, Ricardo helps people and organizations develop healthy cross-cultural relationships to improve communication and teamwork. In this inside glimpse of his course, The Six Stages of Cultural Mastery, Ricardo leads us through the critical steps to establish authentic relationships with our colleagues who may come from a variety of cultures.

While Ricardo’s expertise is focused on the Latino community, the Six Stages of Cultural Mastery can be applied to any culture, any organization that wants to improve its communications, employee engagement, team building, and the ability to attract and retain talent.

The Six Stages of Cultural Mastery are first, education. What do I know about the people I'm working with?

We do something with our clients. Obviously, Bilingual America is very Latino-centric in what we're doing. But how many states are in Mexico? No one knows. No one knows.

Then I'll show a picture of former President Bush and President Obama, obviously the present and previous presidents, right? Everybody knows who these two guys are.

Then the next thing I'll show them is the pictures of the present and previous president of Mexico. What's their name? The most frequent answer I get is Vicente Fox, who was third back in line. Nobody knows their name, and they're working with Mexicans every day.

So the first stage of cultural mastery is education. I have leaders come up to me, "I've been working with Mexicans for 10 years, 15 years. I am amazed. I know nothing about them or their country." I said, "No, because we're task-driven. We're getting them to do the things we need them to do." So that's the first stage.

The second stage of cultural mastery is engagement, and this is not just engagement at work. This is engagement with the people. This is engagement with the community. I have a PhD in Mexican Studies, and I wanted to learn the Mexican people. I'm Puerto Rican background. So I knew we have all these Mexicans, I really need to learn Mexican. So I went and I literally got a PhD in Mexican Studies.

I bought a pool table, and I learned to play pool so well that I can go to Mexican pool halls on Friday and Saturday night. That's where I learned so much with these guys. So that's the second stage of cultural mastery. By the way, we have to get some education first, because then I engage with the people, and I have nothing to talk about and I don't know anything about them.

So then from that, I move into empathy. I can't care about people I don't engage with. I can't care about people I don't know anything about. I can say I do, but I really don't.

Then from empathy we move to excitement. So that's the fourth stage. So we have education, then we have engagement, then we have empathy, and then we have excitement, because once I care, now I can start getting excited about the potential. I never get excited about something until I care about something.

Then from excitement, when I get excited, I see the potential, and then I move to the fifth stage, which is empowerment. Now I'm excited, I'm empathetic, I'm engaged, I'm educated. How do I empower?

Then the sixth stage of cultural mastery is endearment. We actually love each other. Love is we sacrifice for one another for the common good.

If we would take these Six Stages of Cultural Mastery and apply them, for example, to our country and to our communities and certainly our companies, we would be living today in a different world than what we live in, because right now we are living in a very divided, very polarized world, and it's very concerning.

What I love about the Six Stages of Cultural Mastery is it creates the balanced leader. You'll notice that three of them are proactive, tangible things that we do, and three of them are emotive. Education, engagement, empowerment, things we do. But empathy, excitement, endearment, it's internal. It's the perfect balance between the heart of the leader and the action of the leader.

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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