Because of my gender and race, throughout my working career and life, I have been part of the privileged class. Things have been easier for me because of how I look and what I am — a white male. And while I have taken advantage of my situation, I have also been open to creating conditions for diversity and inclusion in my organizations and family. Diversity of gender, ethnicity, personality type, thought, and style are the various differences that I am referencing.
My earlier career experiences as a quality-improvement manager at a local manufacturing company in the mid-1980s provided my early glimpses of the benefit of employee involvement and inclusion for improving engagement, productivity, and results. The traditional paradigm in manufacturing created an artificial difference between labor and management — with managers managing and laborers working. Consequently, we often missed valuable perspectives for improving the business based on that narrow perception that leaders lead and workers work. The employee-involvement movement showed that the benefits of increased engagement that W. Edwards Deming, a quality control expert, had been experiencing for decades in Japan led to improved quality and productivity.
This is just one example of how being open to diversity and inclusion can lead to better performance. Take a look around your company: are you really working to create opportunities for inclusion, or are you simply paying lip service to the concept? Are you truly honest in your biases — both positive and negative — toward all types of people? These biases could cause blind spots in your hiring and promotion decisions.
I was encouraged recently when a local CEO expressed dismay over the lack of women on his senior management team. His concern was less from a politically correct perspective and more from a pragmatic one. He stated, “Statistically, we have talent that is not being fully utilized because, for whatever reason, we are not providing opportunities for everyone to have the same chance to get to the table.”
The point is: We are doing ourselves a disservice when we do not actively and objectively find innovative ways to create more diversity and inclusion in our organizations. We are missing the synergy of the unique gifts and expressions that each person can offer when given the chance; we must become more self-aware so that we can discover the truth about our biases toward others — both positive and negative.
It is often a lack of awareness that prevents many organizations from realizing their full potential. With this awareness, we can emerge into a paradigm where we see how our own openness to doing things differently and positively contributes to the adaptability and agility of our organizations. We need to achieve this awareness of our own biases as a first step to creating diversity. Once we can identify them, we can work toward the goal of replacing judgment with curiosity — truly considering how diversity in all of its forms can lead to healthier discussions and better decisions and results. It’s a process, but one that will be worthwhile for both individuals and the organization as a whole.
By truly focusing on the principle of interdependence, we do it together. We replace a sense of separation — and all of the negativity and counter-productivity it implies — with the underlying spirit of oneness. We consider how we can flourish as an organization, not by finding, hiring, and promoting one type of person, but by creating a culture of inclusion. That culture goes well beyond just valuing differences, to a much higher level of consciousness — one that both seeks out and celebrates differences.
Ralph L. Simone is founder of Productivity Leadership Systems (PLS), a provider of executive coaching and leadership training, based in Baldwinsville. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org