Well-Intentioned Mistakes on Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion can feel scary. Diversity training rarely goes perfectly. Failures leaders can learn from.

Diversity and inclusion is a focus in nearly every top organization in Corporate America.  Why?  Simply put, diverse and inclusive teams outperform those that are not diverse and inclusive.

Wondering how your team or organization sizes up?  Look around your next team meeting and consider:

  • What perspectives are represented on our team?
  • How diverse are the team’s experiences?
  • How different are the team’s ideas?
  • How diverse are the behaviors of the team?
  • How is our team aligned with our ideal customer base?

If you struggled to gather a substantial list of factors, your team likely suffers from not being as diverse as it could be.  Image result for diversity and inclusion

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A requirement for diversity to thrive long-term is inclusion.  Diversity and inclusion is a long-term strategy.  It is not a strategic initiative or goal.  It is a journey, and it takes time to get there.  Many organizations focused on this for years have yet to get to where they want to be on diversity.

That is because organizations often make these mistakes.

Mistake #1:  Focus solely on recruiting and hiring

Most organizations striving to be more diverse start by ramping up the recruiting and hiring of diverse groups of people.  While this is important, “diverse” people are unlikely to stay if the culture is not inclusive.  Humans do not stay places they do not feel they belong.  If people do not see themselves reflected in the organization, they will leave.  Hire away without inclusion and expect high turnover rates.

Mistake #2:  Start with bias training

Again, despite the best of intentions, organizations all too often start diversity training with unconscious bias training.  These sessions generally are facilitated by an outside partner covering why bias matters, what it is, with tips on how to discuss it.  The problem is that little time is spent diving into the inclusive leadership behaviors necessary for cultural change.  Bias training without ongoing support is a recipe for disaster.  It creates more fear and can drive away the very people that need to be engaged.

Mistake #3:  Forget the middle manager

70% of the culture of inclusion is attributed to leadership according to a recent study produced by Harvard Business Review.  To drive real inclusion, facilitate meaningful inclusive leadership training focused on behavior shifts.  Based on my research, inclusive leaders tend to demonstrate these attributes:

  • Self-awareness
  • Vulnerability
  • Empathy
  • Emotionally intelligence
  • Humility
  • Curiosity
  • Candor
  • Transparency
  • Feedback focus
  • Anti-status quo

Often, a nice entry point to teach these behaviors is to talk about allyship.  Being an ally is something that anyone can get behind – it is leveraging your power or privilege to help others that are different than yourself.  Some organizations call allies “friends” or “advocate” programs.  Essentially, it is an expectation that we all are a part of the diversity and inclusion cultural transformation and it is not okay to leave anyone behind.

These behaviors can be taught.  They are not innate.  When modelled by leaders, it creates a domino effect inside organizations to drive positive inclusion.  The middle manager practicing inclusive leadership is key to driving a diverse and inclusive culture.

Like this content?  Then, you will love my new book Lead Like an Ally.  Click on the link to order your copy, watch complimentary videos, and begin your ally journey.  A great place to start is by taking my free online assessment and printing my free inclusive leader checklist to kick start efforts at your organization.