|What you don’t know about diversity and inclusion could be limiting your perspective … and career. |
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
– Dr Martin Luther King Jr
We tend to think culture is something that an organization provides for us – it starts at the top, is communicated by HR, and that’s it. Culture is done.
The reality is much different. A culture is comprised of the behaviors a group of people demonstrate; for a strong culture to exist, everyone must engage.
This month I want to talk about a culture of inclusion. February is Black History Month; March is Women’s History Month. Throughout the year, there are many additional celebrations that focus on diversity.
Now, judging from my picture below, it’s pretty clear that I am a white male. Yet, I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve grown from my experiences being surrounded by people with very different backgrounds and experiences than me. Case in point, my two colleagues are female – Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch. Prior to working at Lead Star, I served in the Army and worked in football operations … both male majority organizations. At Lead Star, I’ve had a chance to be exposed to different opinions, new ways of solving problems, and creative ideas around innovation and disruption in the market. I’ve also seen first-hand some of the unique challenges women have as they grow in their careers, as well as some of the unconscious biases that exist related to gender and leadership.
We often talk about diversity and inclusion in business as if it’s just the right thing to do. The fact of the matter there is also a mountain of evidence that shows gender and racial diversity equals higher profits and greater innovation. Hey, there’s a reason why Goldman Sachs recently announced it won’t take all-male boards public.
I believe we all have a responsibility to contribute to a culture where people are treated with respect, dignity, and where others’ ideas are taken seriously and with consideration. Inclusion doesn’t happen without intention – our tendencies are to gravitate towards people who are like us. Yet, here are some ways to help make our environments more accepting and embracing of diversity so that our perspectives can be enhanced and our organizations can thrive.
Read. Educate yourself on the lives of diverse leaders. Books like Personal History by Katharine Graham, the first female CEO, or one of the many books on MLK (I recommend this one), will expose you to leadership styles and perspectives you can grow from.
Challenge your bias. Explore what unconscious bias means and how this could be limiting your perspective. Seek out feedback from others to help uncover your blind spots. For some, that might mean getting away from the office and going out to lunch with someone you normally wouldn’t. Be straight up with them and let them know you would love to learn more about them. Don’t talk about work. Listen and learn.
Be courageous. For some people, it’s not easy to talk about these topics. Be bold and step out front and lead conversations in your workplace. Embrace and celebrate the diversity of the people in your organization. If your workplace is pretty homogenous, get out and get the team involved in efforts that expose them to diversity. Or, start a book club that selects autobiographies and biographies of diverse leaders.
Leave your assumptions at the door. We’ve all heard what assumptions do. Get rid of those by taking part in one of the three ideas above and start building meaningful relationships and conversations. There’s no better time than the present to step up and do something. Make diversity and inclusion your responsibility.