Building Cultural Competence in Your Coaching Practice

Building Cultural Competence in Your Coaching Practice 1 Week Ago · 5 min read

Talyaa Vardar

Talyaa Vardar, MA, FCPC, MCC
Executive Coach, Psychologist & Art Therapist

Racial, ethnic, gender, and cultural disparities exist in all aspects of society, but nowhere are the societies or organizations near to embrace these towards creating inclusive cultures. Although people of diverse racial, ethnic, gender and cultural background exist in every community and organization, we often fail to provide a culturally competent environment where differences are seen as not threats but strengths to nurture.

Limited understanding of culture leads to fear-based segregation within societies and organizations.



Cultural competence: A set of congruent behaviours, attitudes and policies that come together as a system, that system, agency or those professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. The word "culture" is used because it implies the integrated pattern of human thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values and institutions of a racial, ethnic, religious or social group. The word competence is used because it implies having a capacity to function effectively.

How is your coaching practice doing?

Understanding clients' diverse cultures — their values, traditions, history and institutions — is not simply political correctness. It is integral to eliminating disparities and providing high-quality coaching. Culture shapes individuals' experiences, perceptions, decisions and how they relate to others. It influences the way your clients respond to your coaching and impacts the results they create. In culturally diverse societies, coaches and other mental health professionals need to build sensitivity toward diverse client populations and work to understand culturally influenced behaviours about working with coaches, therapists, and other mental health practitioners.

At the individual practice level, there are several things coaches can do to adopt a holistic understanding of cultural competence:

1. See diversity as a value. In other words, do not merely tolerate people of differing backgrounds and viewpoints but embrace differences as strengths.

2. Be mindful of potential dynamics when people from different backgrounds interact. Diversity can cause conflict and force individuals out of their comfort zones, but it is merely because of our limited or misunderstanding of the differences.

3. Reflect on your subconscious biases about other cultures and differences you encounter. Do you feel superior or inferior to particular cultures or specific people? Do you feel more privileged or less privileged than particular populations?

Each of us has these blind spots, and reflecting on these differences is helpful in becoming aware of your own.

4. Facilitate a dialogue or conversation about sensitivities. Doing this will help you to collect information about cultures that you are not familiar with.

5. Adopt a learner's mindset. Ask yourself: what can I learn today from these people?

6. Train your ears to hear well. Be respectful to people that use different terminology than yours and speak with an accent.


There is a vast difference between people that merely preaches diversity and the people that live it. Coaches can lead the way in creating more culturally competent societies and eliminating the striking disparities that divide humanity unnecessarily.