Forget About Diversity

To be successful and to make significant progress you need the right goal.

Did the title of this article, Forget About Diversity get your attention?

Every organization has been talking about diversity for a long time but few have really achieved a lot in this area.

A few years ago it struck me why organizations are not achieving the results they say they want in the area of diversity. I came to the conclusion that it was because they had the wrong goal. The goal should be to create an inclusive environment.  An inclusive environment where all people are respected, no matter where they are from… or what their culture is… or what religion they practice… or what race they are… or what gender they are…or what age they are… or what their sexual orientation is… or what their dietary requirements are…or what their physical ability is… or what level of education they have achieved and on and on and on.

Creating this kind of environment can only be done over time by an organization which has great dedicated leaders who understand that one of the main responsibilities of a leader is to create an inclusive environment which leads to the diverse workforce we all want.

When you create this kind of environment you don’t have to worry about diversity because everyone will want to be a part of your organization. When you hire people they will stay. The word will get out and everyone will want to be a part of your organization. This is an area where leadership and role modeling really make the defining difference.

Fostering an inclusive environment truly is a journey that never ends. There is no final destination in this ever-changing world. Different situations will occur in the world which will challenge some people to stay on track in treating everyone respectfully and being inclusive. As an example the current situation in the Middle East has affected some people’s attitude towards Muslims.  

A manager contacted me just before I retired to tell me a story that really brought this subject home for me. She said that she was casually talking with a group of managers one day when they began to make jokes about Muslims. She said they did not know that she was a Muslim. She said, “Lee, I have to deal with this everyday when my children come home from school crying because their classmates have made fun of them for being Muslim.”

She went on to say how much she appreciates me for standing up for “everyone” when I interact with people, when I give speeches and when I write articles about diversity.

I told her, “Shame on those managers.” This is why I always remind everyone that the most important leadership behavior is; Be careful what you say and do as everyone is watching you and judging you.

As a leader make sure you are using your authority and position to do the right things and to send the right message to your organization.

Like all environmental changes, they take time. Environments usually do not get a lot better or a lot worse quickly. You need to have patience, as well as persistence to move your environment along. While leaders may not be able to change the environment and culture of America as quickly as we would like to, we can change our own organization’s  environment and culture much faster than that of our country. We do control our destiny.

In my last blog posting I talked about the concept of working on things today which will not pay off for many years ahead. Being the kind of leader who fosters an inclusive environment where everyone matters and they know they matter is one of these things. The sooner you get started the sooner you get the payoff, just like most everything in life.

Having an inclusive environment is really the most important thing that we can do to ensure our organizations future success. Without attracting and keeping a diverse workforce of great people we will find ourselves with a talent drain which will be the beginning of the end for many organizations.

I have found that most organizations have a detailed product and services business strategy but few have a detailed leadership and people strategy. You need both to not only survive but to thrive.

In my next posting I will offer up a few things you should be doing in your organization to foster an inclusive environment.  Down the road you will be glad you did…Lee

  1. This article is a great way to make diversity accessible to everyone. We all want to feel connected with our workplace. That is a groundwork necessary for progress.

  2. Lee, With all due respect you need to change your title. You talk about how companies have been trying to achieve diversity for a while but have been failing because they have the wrong goal? What wrong goals do you belive they have? By an inclusive environment I assume you mean a supportive work environment where the employees feel comfortable to contribute and express themselves. With that I agree, but what does that have to do with a company’s goal setting staregy when it comes to diversity?

  3. I think you mean that, interms of a company’s goal progression, you mean they need to first make sure that they establish the “inclusive” environment before proceeding with diversity hiring? In a way this is almost counterintuitive because in order to achieve a “inclusive” environment open for a diverse crowd, you first need a diverse crowd. So what do you go after first? It’s kind of a catch 22. And you are going to run into speed bumps either way.

  4. You know as well as I do that once ou introduce a new member into an environment the environment changes. Your best hope as a leader is to establish a base set of fundamental values and start building the team around that aspect. The best teams in the world are the ones that share the same sets of as values. That way, when you introduce a new member to the environment the environment will change, but the chemistry between everyone shouldn’t because of the values and trust.

  5. Plus, once the team is established around a set a values, the work environment should eliminate most of the common problems that stem from a diverse environment. Through education you should hope to eliminate most of the rest. Thanks for listening. Hope to converse sooner or later.

  6. The wrong goal is that folks what the organization to appear diverse not be diverse. What Lee is getting at is that individuals, and leaders in particular need to change personaly. That change involves believing that each team member can be excellent regardless. Lee, for what it is worth, I think you are right on. Diversity is not something you talk about or wish for it is something you achieve through your behavior. Or as Walt Disney said, “stop talking and start doing.”

  7. Lee,

    re: “Like all environmental changes, they take time. Environments usually do not get a lot better or a lot worse quickly. You need to have patience, as well as persistence to move your environment along. . . . We do control our destiny.”

    Immediately I thought of W. Edwards Deming’s ‘Create constancy of purpose’ principle. To achive true diversity we must stay the course.

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