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Enhance Team Dynamics Through Cultural Awareness

The Cultural Orientations Framework assessment empowers dental leaders to foster unity in diversity, optimize team performance, and leverage diverse cultural perspectives.


When working with teams, various tools can be employed based on context, specific issues, and individuals involved. These tools include experiential activities, action learning team projects, group discussions, video recordings of team activities followed by feedback exchanges, individual reflections, peer coaching, and group facilitation.

This article focuses on a deductive technique that emphasizes the use of the Cultural Orientations Framework™ (COF) assessment to raise awareness about cultural orientations exhibited in team member actions. It encourages them to consider alternative cultural perspectives when they could be beneficial. While other cultural assessment tools exist, they primarily focus on establishing country cultural profiles and comparing individual preferences with national cultures. In contrast, the COF promotes personal growth by learning from cultural differences.

Dental leaders can use this conceptual framework to help teams enhance their versatility, creativity, and effectiveness. The COF helps harness cultural differences to build unity in diversity, as opposed to traditional binary and static intercultural approaches that may inadvertently reinforce stereotypes.

Dimensions of Culture

The COF assessment evaluates two aspects for each of the cultural dimensions:

  1. Your orientation is neither inherently good nor bad; it simply reflects your preference, represented by a position on a horizontal axis for each dimension. All orientations have their merits but can sometimes be either overused or underused.
  2. For each possible orientation, an ability can be represented by a position on a vertical axis, indicating how capable you are in using that specific orientation.

The results are based on self-assessment and serve as a valuable foundation for a meaningful conversation. The focus is not on the results but on the productive exchange that promotes self-awareness and opens new possibilities for the participants.

The COF assessment compiles individual results into a histogram. This enables team members to visualize their profile for each cultural dimension, providing insights into how their scores compare with the rest of the team.

For example, a dental team known for its exceptional performance initiated a team coaching process. The Control-Humility dimension results revealed a strong preference for control, reflecting team members’ beliefs that they were in charge of their destiny. However, they realized that humility was less prominent, indicating their high-performing pace may not be sustainable in the long term. Consequently, they implemented new technologies and team coaching in addition to reducing their workload, which enabled them to sustain their collective high performance.


Cultural Orientations

Following are seven cultural orientations that can be used to examine aspects of team dynamics, emphasizing how diverse perspectives can lead to exceptional collaboration and success.

  1. Power and Responsibility Spectrum. Understanding power, responsibility, control, harmony, and humility within a team is enlightening. Team members bring diverse perspectives:
  • Control: Some drive innovation
  • Harmony: Others foster cohesion
  • Humility: Some teach resilience
  1. Time Management Approaches. Effective time management is crucial for teamwork. Understanding diverse perspectives is a game-changer. Different approaches include:
  • Scarce time: “Time is money”
  • Plentiful time: Value creativity and flexibility
  • Monochronic focus: Prefer focus and attention to detail
  • Polychronic perspective: Embrace multitasking

By recognizing these, teams can collaborate better and achieve goals more efficiently.

  1. Identity and Purpose Perspectives. Diverse perspectives can lead to extraordinary collaboration. Being vs doing and individualism vs collectivism are two core concepts.
  • Being vs doing: Personal growth vs achievements
  • Individualism vs collectivism: Individual attributes vs group success
  1. Organizational Arrangements. Organizational structures affect teamwork. Key dimensions include hierarchy vs equality, universalism vs particularism, stability vs change, and competitive vs collaborative.
  • Hierarchy vs equality: Structured roles vs equity
  • Universalism vs particularism: Consistency vs customization
  • Stability vs change: Order vs dynamism
  • Competitive vs collaborative: Competition vs collaboration
  1. Notions of Territory and Boundaries. Different perspectives on territory and boundaries matter. A protective approach prioritizes self-preservation and autonomy, while a sharing perspective emphasizes transparency, trust, and stronger team connections.
  2. Communication Diversity. Effective communication is crucial for teamwork. Understanding diverse communication patterns is essential. High-context vs low-context, direct vs indirect, affective vs neutral, and formal vs informal are the main communication styles.
  • High-context vs low-context: Implicit vs explicit communication
  • Direct vs indirect: Clarity vs maintaining relationships
  • Affective vs neutral: Emotional vs objective
  • Formal vs informal: Protocol vs casual approach
  1. Unlocking Team Potential: Modes of Thinking. Different thinking styles drive innovation. To solve problems, understand deductive vs inductive and analytical vs systemic thinking:
  • Deductive vs inductive: Concepts vs real-world experiences
  • Analytical vs systemic: Breaking down problems vs assembling elements

Cultural diversity can manifest explicitly in the team, leading to different communication patterns. Conversely, it can also exist implicitly, where underutilized cultural orientations are potentially present, even in teams that may seem outwardly homogeneous and one-sided, favoring particularist perspectives over universalist ones. Navigating the diverse spectrum of team dynamics is crucial for exceptional collaboration and success. Embracing these differences unlocks innovative solutions, adaptability, balance, cohesion, effective communication, and holistic problem-solving, unleashing your team’s full potential.

From Front Office Magazine. November/December 2023; 1(2):12-13

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