Meeting the Challenge of Inclusion
You specialize in Executive Coaching as well as Inclusion programs. What’s the connection?
Its one thing to recruit diverse candidates, but quite another to realize the value they bring. To foster a culture of inclusion, companies need to work on two levels. On the one hand, they need to mentor, challenge, and support diverse candidates as they advance in their careers. Our Executive Coaching speeds this process. On the other hand, they need to build a climate that welcomes change and difference. We do this on an organization-wide basis through our Inclusion campaigns. Inclusion requires both training organizations and coaching individuals, so all employees bring their whole and best selves to work.
Diversity and Inclusion – What’s the difference?
Diversity initiatives usually focus on adequate representation for underrepresented groups. Inclusion starts when those groups are valued and properly utilized. Unfortunately, organizations often confuse increased head counts with evidence they’ve succeeded in creating an inclusive culture. But inclusion is more than a numbers game. It requires an environment where people are actually valued.
You Call Yourselves “The Next Level”: Do You Think You Live Up to That Title?
In the field of diversity, yes. We represent new thinking because we start off by building community and only then co we look at how to leverage differences. Most diversity programs work the opposite way: they start by emphasizing difference and exclusion, hoping that the discussion will cause people to begin to include. The flaw in this thinking is that the more we emphasize difference, the more we move away from each other. That’s why so many people complain they don’t know what to do or how to talk to one another after diversity programs are over. In our work we emphasize points of commonality first. Only then do we teach people to overcome the barriers they put up when they encounter difference.
People preach this all the time. How do you make it real?
It takes training. I can’t really value your difference if I don’t first know how to communicate with you. I can’t connect with you until I’ve discovered what we share in common.
Valuing difference doesn’t just happen. You’ve got to be vigilant. It’s all too easy to slip back into our natural tendency to stick with what’s familiar. That said, one of the worst things you can do is make people aware of barriers without giving them the tools to overcome them. We help people speak up when they’re being excluded or observe exclusion happening. We show them how to be more self-aware in observing their own responses to difference. We show leaders how they impact the dynamics of inclusion in their every day behavior.
Sounds Like Teambuilding
We emphasize inclusion as the basis for all of our teambuilding programs. The way to achieve high performance teamwork is to bond first, and then differentiate. Teams that try to leverage diversity without first connecting around shared experiences move right into what’s called “storm mode”.
In “storm” people withdraw, attack, stereotype, and project onto one another—everything you don’t want to have happen in a diversity initiative. Ironically, the old models of diversity training encouraged groups to go immediately into “storm mode”, and often did damage because of it. All of our programs help folks come together to know and appreciate each other on a deeper level. From this connection, they get the courage to speak up, differ, innovate, and bring their full selves to the team. We do this by looking at the little things we do every day, our “micro” behaviors.
With all the pressures companies are facing now, how do you get them to pay attention?
We make the business case for inclusion by showing how it fuels engagement, innovation, productivity, and success in a global marketplace. The Catalyst Foundation’s most recent research shows that the highest performing companies are those with the greatest levels of diversity at the top. A client shared research with us recently demonstrating that diverse teams outperform homogeneous ones by six-hundred percent. But this can only happen when diverse teams recognize and leverage their diversity instead of rejecting differences.
This is easier said than done. How do you know if what you’re doing is having a real impact?
A slogan in organizations today is “if you want something done, measure it”. We measure all our programs to determine skills improvement. We help clients devise metrics specific to their organization and leadership competencies. For clients doing large-scale initiatives, we frame specific questions to measure changes in employee attitudes and behavior. With some programs, we also do periodic check-ins and group coaching to make sure everyone is taking responsibility for culture change.
What’s the most important challenge you see facing tomorrow’s leaders? Facing corporations?
For individuals, its understanding leadership means creating value beyond you and inspiring others. For corporations, it’s finding ways to truly value and integrate difference so you can thrive in times of rapid change. Business abhors stagnation. If you can’t adapt, you fail. It’s that simple.