Cultural Efficacy—Evidence Based Practice
By Diane P. Zimmerman, Ph.D.

Wednesday November 18, 2020, 4-5 p.m. PT

As a 1998 Fielding graduate, I applied theory to my teachings about practice-based coaching. The work of Albert Bandura (1986 & 1993) served as a foundation for explorations into efficacy. Bandura found that the more goal-driven, the firmer the commitment to follow through—two important coaching outcomes. In other words, efficacy promotes successful action.  By exploring efficacy relationships with others, I found a pathway to cultural efficacy and a way to build joint positive futures. I define cultural efficacy as the capability to effectively learn from situations involving cultural diversity.

While teaching a coaching session a few years ago, my paraphrasing was challenged by a different ethnicity participant. Without realizing, I used a paraphrase that others interpreted as a put-down.  In an attempt to interpret emotion, I stated, “So you are confused…”  Others in the audience felt that using the word “confused” conferred a lesser status—less capable—on the person I was coaching. While that was not my intent, it made sense. Fortunately, our relationship was trusting, and my unconscious bias surfaced. The gift of a paraphrase is that the person being coached can correct any misrepresentation, which is how we came to forge the following contract for cultural efficacy.

  • A coach understands that one’s interpretations of emotions are culturally bound.
  • A coach recognizes and attends to the emotional message in a paraphrase.
  • A coach recognizes that seeking to apprehend culture (ethnicity) is significant for understanding another person.
  • A coach respects values, beliefs, and taboos and realizes that these are powerful filters that shape practice.
  • A coach attends to as well as works to eliminate personal biases, prejudices, and discriminatory practices.
  • A coach changes his/her behavior in service of the coachee.

As I write this now, several years later, I realize that my paraphrase, while well intended, could be considered a micro-aggression.  And with that said, I am forever grateful that we took the time to check out each other’s assumptions. I offer this now as a way to open dialogue about issues that are important to coaches.  Drawing inspiration from Edgar Schein (2013), I offer cultural efficacy in the context of humble inquiry. “Humble inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”  And I would add an interest in the common good of community at large.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory.    Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning.      Educational Psychologist, 28, 117-148.

Schein, E. (2013). Humble inquiry: The gentle art of asking instead of telling. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-  Koehler.