I was recently transported back a few years while listening to a podcast. I found myself remembering the early days of my marriage when my wife and I began discussing family and holiday plans. These conversations always started off as excited discussions because we both love the holidays and our families. I hate to say, however, the actual execution never went quite as smoothly as either of us imagined. This could very easily be a blog about how things never work out as planned…but it is not. Surprising, this message is actually about diversity and inclusion.
What my wife and I began to discover the more time we spent together is that the expectations we separately held regarding the holidays and family came from different worldviews and experiences. Let’s consider a holiday like Thanksgiving. As we would envision our upcoming celebration of Thanksgiving, we would both automatically assume we were thinking the same thing—because hey, everyone knows how to properly enjoy Thanksgiving. Yet, something as simple as what you plan to eat for your holiday meal and how it is prepared can become a point of hot contention…perhaps even leading you to say regretful things like, “that is not how my mom made it.” (Ouch)
Thankfully, the two of us have evolved to create our own version of the holidays we share today because of committed conversations over time. And you know, those gatherings are so much better than either of our individual experiences ever were. We have made a commitment to find ways to include elements of ourselves and our family influences in each holiday. And, we still leave space for creating new traditions. I’m guessing you may be asking what any of this has to do with diversity and inclusion in your particular organization, right?
Can people find a meaningful representation of themselves and their culture in your organization?
It may be high time you really commit to looking for ways to deliberately include different kinds of people at all levels of your organization. Being inclusive means more than allowing others unlike yourself to be physically present. It also entails welcoming their varied and rich experiences and backgrounds to such a degree that they truly see themselves as celebrated for their uniqueness, yet embraced as a valued part of the whole.
We can go through the motions of welcoming and encouraging people who are not like us to be part of our lives and work. Yet, until we are committed to melding their lives and gifts into the heartbeat of our organizations, diversity exists only on the surface. Without a deeper commitment, none of us receives the full long-term benefits that come from actually making diversity an organizational imperative. A Leader Worth Following has the emotional intelligence and empathy necessary to see the full value of every person and intentionally finds ways to stitch who they are and what they represent into the very fabric of the organization.
Here a few things to consider as you view your own journey and begin to shape or refine the direction of your team:
- Start with you – Take the time to really get to know yourself. Do you have a realistic view of your own biases and preferences? Are you comfortable seeking regular feedback from others?
- Find the gaps – What voices am I missing in my life? What voices are we missing around our leadership table?
- Build a diverse team – Like does not necessarily equal trust. We all have affinity for certain people that make us feel comfortable. How do we make ourselves more uncomfortable more often so others might have the chance to feel more comfortable?
- Build a resilient team – Can your team have hard conversations? So often we just focus on getting along—but that does not necessarily build a diverse, resilient, and trusting team. Can we have the uncomfortable conversations we may need to have in the spirit of building a safe place for all?
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If these points resonate and you’d like to take a deep dive into how to identify and fuel your personal leadership strengths, please join us for our upcoming Milestone Leadership Intensive. Details of our flagship program are here, and our team is always happy to answer any questions you may have about our training.
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Written by: Alex Cornett, Partner – Milestone Leadership