What are “Microinequities” and how did you become interested in them?
Quite simply, microinequities are the small things people experience that make them feel discounted and unimportant. These accumulate, causing people to shut down and actively disengage.
Although originally coined by Mary Rowe at MIT, I first heard the term some 15 years ago when Brigid Moynahan and I were doing an organizational intervention in an IT organization. Brigid used the term in relation to some team dynamics we were seeing, and it immediately resonated with me. I’d previously talked a lot about PDD, the “Persistent Daily acts of Disrespect” many African Americans describe as part of their experience in organizations, and microinequities broadened that idea, making it universal.
In recent years, we’ve broadened our programs to also discuss micro-affirmations, the many small ways we value and include people, in addition to discussing microinequities. When you combine both the positive and the negative behaviors, the result is a program that resonates with every person we’ve offered it to on a deeply spiritual level. We call the program Count Me In®.
How do you see Count Me In® differing from other diversity training programs?
CMI® taps into the human potential for interconnectedness and commonality. Every participant immediately recognizes that acts of inclusion and exclusion are a universal point of commonality, reaching across race, gender, age, every factor that separates us from one another.
What kind of reactions do you get from people?
It’s a delight to present Count Me In®, because people absolutely love it. It’s inspiring to look across a diverse room and all kind of people nodding their heads at the same time about the same thing. This program promotes connectedness, which really transforms a team’s culture. Click HERE to see CMI® Quotes.
What are the biggest challenges corporations face today?
Finding the time and resources to train and educate all members of the organization as leaders and advocates for inclusion, because it’s imperative that all people feel empowered. Both our experience and the current research indicate that increasing engagement, innovation, and productivity are all tied to increasing inclusion. Click HERE to link to metrics page.
How do you make the Business case for this?
Too many businesses are stuck on the notion that focusing on Diversity and Inclusion is separate from achieving bottom line business results. In reality, you can’t achieve one without the other. In our work we present what we call “winning equations” that support the promotion of micro-affirmations. These equations are based on 35 years of research by the Gallup organization demonstrating that engagement, innovation, productivity, and success are all impacted by our ability to foster inclusion in a global context.
How do you measure success?
We measure the success of our programs by integrating questions into diversity scorecards or employee morale surveys. Of course, we also collect feedback after every workshop, not just about whether employees liked the program, but also what skill level and attitude shifts were achieved. The overwhelming majority of participants indicate improved awareness and inclusion skills. Click HERE to link to metrics page.
In other interviews you’ve said people automatically wall out differences and value the similar. What are some simple ways to avoid this?
We’ve been acculturated to affiliate with that which is similar to us. So the most critical skill a person can have in any interpersonal relationship is the ability to be aware of these tendencies. When you’re aware of the lens you’re looking through, you can expand your perspective by being open to new possibilities. You can hear and learn from others experiences, and benefit from skill sets different from your own.
As an African-American male, do you have a particular perspective on why companies should invest in inclusion?
Members of minority groups vote with their pocketbooks, and they know the real story when it comes to inclusion. We talk to each other all the time about which places are welcoming and which places are not. I remember years ago when I was applying to college hearing that Brown was an especially hospitable place for Black students for example. The school has definitely benefited over the years because some of the best and the most talented African-Americans often choose Brown due to the perception of inclusiveness. In business, it’s clear that companies who successfully market diverse customers are similarly advantaged. Chubb Insurance is an excellent example of this. They were a relatively conservative company with a reputation for treating people with a respect that has allowed them to attract some incredibly gifted LGBT employees. This in turn has helped them create a powerful market niche and gain recognition for their leadership at the Catalyst Awards last year.
Diversity training is usually pretty serious, yet participants say your programs are entertaining. Are you avoiding the “hard stuff”?
You’d be surprised how open and honest people can be when you approach these challenges with a loving and light heart. We’ve become experts at this and it’s worked for us for almost twenty years. We sometimes use skits to act out serious issues in ways that are essentially true but exaggerated to the point where people laugh. People laugh when they see something that’s familiar. It’s painful, but also funny to watch the lengths to which one group might go to exclude another. And in that laughter we are able to confront truths that we would otherwise refuse to admit.