As an awarded diversity champion, there is one thing I can say about companies and organizations that wanted to become inclusive, diverse, and highly effective.
Diversity is not a noun, it is a 'verb.' Diversity should be celebrated not something to be used as a weapon against lawsuits and the "me-too environment."
While I say 'to be celebrated' I do not mean, the song, dance, festivals, and 'smell-my-shirt' exercises. These are superficial gestures that do not translate to meaningful and profound change in the workplace- a healthy and positive work environment for all.
Diversity should not be a politically correct thing to have, it is present in all humanity, not just for minorities, differently-abled, and those that have visible differences amongst us. Everyone is different and is to be respected and valued as contributing force to the organization and society in general.
While companies and public organizations strive to become the epitome of inclusion, the pendulum has swung far too much. From forced self-identification, joining the bandwagon, creating massive investments when it is not necessary, and using aggressive tactics to win over the majority have become the "self-destruction' tools" so to speak. When it has been distorted that way, it loses its potency for social transformation.
Since the 1960s and 1980s, the proverbial 'glass ceiling' for women leaders especially for the C-suites had been addressed. Yet until now, it is still a huge issue. I don't think there is an actual glass ceiling. I believe that right now, it is about women not trying at all and afraid to take the leadership position and turn it around for their benefit and advantage. Last time I checked, it is as wide open as anyone with the breadth of experience, high-level of education, and tenacious personality that can withstand corporate politics and organizational pressures.
We need to push back on distorted diversity and inclusion. This is not what we want either. We should turn our back against the mob-based bashing and hate-mongering that uses our differences for political ends. Sorry, I am not joining your march.
Let us understand that diversity and inclusion is a verb. It contains specific behaviors, attitudes, and mindsets that needed to be integrated in our everyday conversations and interactions with each other as we make our workplaces the best place to enhance and enrich our professional, hence our personal lives too.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS AND BE PREPARED TO LISTEN
There is no better place than asking employees what would make each one of them feel truly valued, respected, and included in both their work as employees, as part of the team, and as a contributor of the organizational culture.
I worked with a municipal organization as a newcomer immigrant. This was totally an alien culture to me, not just the North American workplace culture, but working in a government organization interfacing with Canadians. It was coming all at once at the same time. It was difficult for the first few years adjusting to myriad of issues, interests, and differences!
If you were the HR personnel in change of inclusion practices, how would you get a newcomer employer to talk openly about themselves and learn more about their co-workers in an atmosphere of respect and trust and vice-versa? How would you create the conditions and situations where it is safe and friendly but genuine?
COMMIT TO MAKING INCLUSION AN EVERYDAY PRACTICE
In the news, we hear about lawsuits and counter-lawsuits of many types and of various situations involving diversity and inclusion. It is time to turn the issue around- from reactive work to proactive, preventative, relationship-building work which for most part, is what really about. There is no short cut.
From accommodation, we should move towards real integration towards healthy, inclusive, and innovative communities of work. The accommodation era is over. Special treatments and accommodation arrangements do not actually reflect the kinds of changes that needed to happen in the organization to embed inclusion. These artificial stop-gap measures increase the antagonism and defensiveness instead build cooperation from those employees that became disadvantaged because of it. There is not a lot of resources to go around in the first place.
Instead of pitting groups over the other, companies should invest in everyday culture work that involves not only building camaraderie and collegial atmosphere but by picking up on ways to incorporate diverse voices in issues that affect employees at all levels of organization.
IT SHOULD RESULT TO OUTSTANDING BOTTOM-LINE RESULTS
Diverse and inclusive organizations are leaders and trailblazers in their own right. They have turned the potent bomb of diversity to work for themselves. They celebrated it and rejoice in its fullest expression which leads to more innovation and cutting-edge work. The best minds are harnessed and harvest as a policy, not an exception.
True diversity and inclusion work starts in knowing the long-term business value of these efforts and why it should be a recipe for success for all organizations, for now and for the near future.
What is communication without strategic purpose?
It is like a cymbal being beaten incessantly without rhyme or reason.
It is the spam you don't want to receive.
It is the advertising in the television that you want to skip when it's on.
It is your company newsletter that is telling all the good news but not taking time to consider what bad news needs to be communicated too!
It is the talking without the regard for the needs of listeners.
It is empowering to talk and communicate in itself without the higher purpose of fulfilling one's life mission or organizational mandate.
Stop wasting your resources on one-way communication. It is good to build skills on communication but without alignment to the strategic objectives, it becomes a self-development crusade. It is just 'good-to-have.'
Remember, the film 'Dead Poets Society', where the teacher played by Robin Williams told the students to stand on their desks and ask them what they can see. This is where the famous line was quoted, Carpe Diem.
What do you see when things are upside down? Can you create something out of the vantage point?
I bet you can.
The road to value is paved with good intentions but a lot fall short of the actual desired outcomes.
For the performance-driven, short-term minded-organizations where quarterly performance is greatly prized and rewarded, the tendency is to have a tunnel vision, sort of blinders that tend to decrease the ability of management to think strategically, out of the comfort zone.
The value proposition is central to all high-performing organizations where resources are scare, the competition is tight, and the regulations/standards are getting higher and higher, both from internal as well as external sources.
Creating and maintaining the outstanding value provided to customers, consumers, target groups, clients, or stakeholder is a lofty but also an imperative to have. This what separate healthy and successful organizations from the pretenders and apathetic ones.
Executives and managers should ask themselves, what ever I am doing, will this add, expand, and increase value for the organization or not?
If you can trace your work to the overall organizational goals and objectives, the organization has equipped such alignment to happen. This alignment does not come by accident or any of the good coincidences. It is intentionally designed to focus all the resources to its desired outcomes.
Value leads to more excellence, efficiency, and effectiveness. Without clear, compelling, and solid value for the organization, for society, and for its target audience, the organization has lost 'its touch with reality' might be just cruising along, waiting for obsolescence.
When people I met asked, are you concentrating on business growth strategy? I always say, not necessarily.
See, a lot of people confuse business strategy with business growth. Well, there is no way but advancing and moving up, right? But there are many complex questions around growth and strategy that need to be unpacked. It is not a simple proposition at all.
For now, the concept of business strategy is fundamental to any well-functioning organization, whether you are nonbusiness or a business entity. But it does not mean that it is about growth.
What is growth by the way? It is a fundamental question that the organization needs to ask. Where are you growing from? What does growth mean to you? It is bigger, better, more revenues, customers, worldwide distribution, becoming a business empire with acquisitions, etc. What does 'growth' mean to your stakeholders-shareholder, partners, customers, staff/employees? From where do you have to grow from? Where- is a good question to ask.
A colleague of mine who sits with me in a nonprofit advisory committee told her husband that they don't need to buy five more cows in order to grow. They run a cow/milk businesses as a family and that they founded it from the bottom up. Having five more cows do not constitute growth, to her it is just more work.
Correctly put, having more, bigger, better do not constitute growth at all. What are you actually sacrificing in order to get 'bigger, better, having more'? It is definitely a zer0-sum game because there is a question of scarce resources, time, energies, and attention.
What kind of growth are you pursuing? There is a myth that you have to grow superfast, big, and outdo all the competition at the same time. Peter Drucker, the best management strategist of all time, said that a growth policy has to distinguish between healthy growth, fat, and cancer. They are all growth but the last two are negative, deleterious growth.
Being obese as an organization is a temptation to have but not sustainable in the long run. More organizations are being 'fat' that actually not having real growth experience in their midst. The fat has to be trimmed off to pursue real growth objectives.
What economies, cities, and organizations need is sustainable long-term growth strategy, that consider the changes in the environment, their unique strengths, and the growth opportunity present in those areas.
For marketing your products and services, there are a few words for you, brave souls.
To be relentless in your belief that your product/service has a great value to offer. You have to believe it wholeheartedly in order that the buyer will not only know that you are truthful but you take great pride in what you do and the products that you market.
To be relentless that in our everyday work, you believe that there are many people that can benefit from your products/services that will improve their lives, whether professional, personal, economic, healthy, spiritual, or a combination of these.
If you don't believe in your own products and services, no one else will be convinced of its benefits, potency, relevancy, utility, and ease of use (other features!).
To be relentless is to provide outstanding customer service, before the sale, into the sale, and after-sales, building relationship so that the customer's needs are addressed and that they know they can count on you for help any time, whether they decide to buy from you or not.
For the best doctor, dentist, foot massage therapist, baker, lawyer, accountants- we go by the word-of-mouth and referrals from people we trust-our families, friends, and co-workers.
Referrals come from delighted clients and customers who are eager to spread the word because they were helped, their problems solved/alleviated, and their needs met. In other words, delighting the customer in your everyday work (not just when you are out there and banging the pavement) is paramount.
Whether you are on the phone, meeting new people, writing an email, in the subway or bus, queuing for that coffee, these are opportunities to market your products/services in a positive way- by telling them exactly why you love your own products/services.