Archive for May, 2013

Do One Thing!

Posted on May 21, 2013 by 1 Comment

The Invitation
Many of you live what would be considered multicultural  or intercultural lives as people who love to travel the world; eating foods of all types; soaking in the wonders of cultural institutions providing bridges to other worlds, often within our own neighborhoods; and of course, having relationships with many people from many cultures.  So, your responses to my invitation to “Do One Thing” in celebration of World Day for Cultural Diversity and Dialogue Development, which is today, May 21st have been very interesting.

A few of you thanked me for the reminder to be mindful and intentional in your quest to do one thing for diversity and inclusion today; a few of you committed to doing one thing today or this week and letting me know what that thing is after it is done; and a few of you shared recent experiences:

Some Responses
“I have been meaning to pick up Chaim Potok’s The Chosen  forever, and started last night.”

“I have a letter that I will scan to you when I get a chance.  Our Muslim neighbor sent it to  their neighbors, very well written, explaining who they are (in detail), about their religion and their attitude about the Boston bombings, etc., and their concern about what our attitude might be.  I haven’t responded yet, but intend to do so.”

” … a Chinese artist visiting and we struck up a conversation. His English was far better than my Mandarin. We talked about a Chinese artist I had seen in Washington, D.C. at a Hershorn exhibit, about a Korean artist I had seen in Seattle, about the differences between how English and Chinese poetry is conceptualized, about the proper way to prepare a Chicago hot dog. I was reading a book on the history of Chicago and he compared it with the history of Shanghai. A large unknowable world became smaller and grew handles. The skin around my uniqueness began to breathe.”

Multicultural
I am always thinking about how our cultures rub off on each other, how we cannot undo the impact that others have on us, how indelibly we are marked by the sound of unfamiliar music, the taste of unusual cuisine, the colors of unexplored terrains, the scent of new places, the challenge of speaking a foreign language, the feeling of exotic fabric on our skin.  That is what makes this day so wonderful!  This invitation to do something that for me, at least, is so much fun.  I must admit, it is a challenge to do one thing today as I usually do multiple things for diversity and inclusion.  So, I thought, ‘how can I convey my message of being multicultural to you?’
 
I have decided to share one of my favorite poems.  This poem is one that I have shared with some of you before as it is an excellent expression of what many people like me experience being members of multiple cultures.  Please let me know what you think and what you have done on this special day!

 
Child of the Americas
I am a child of the Americas,
a light-skinned mestiza of the Caribbean,
a child of many diaspora, born into this continent at a crossroads.
I am a U.S. Puerto Rican Jew,
a product of the ghettos of New York I have never known.
An immigrant and the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants.
I speak English with passion: it’s the tongue of my consciousness,
a flashing knife blade of cristal, my tool, my craft.
I am Caribeña, island grown. Spanish is my flesh,
Ripples from my tongue, lodges in my hips:
the language of garlic and mangoes,
the singing of poetry, the flying gestures of my hands.
I am of Latinoamerica, rooted in the history of my continent:
I speak from that body.
I am not African. Africa is in me, but I cannot return.
I am not taína. Taíno is in me, but there is no way back.
I am not European. Europe lives in me, but I have no home there.
I am new. History made me. My first language was Spanglish.
I was born at the crossroads
and I am whole.
Taino
Cemi del Mar
Indigenous Puerto Rican People
Deity of the Sea

  
Aurora Levins Morales
1986


 
 

[Please enter your comments below so that others can benefit by them, not just me. ;-)] 

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An Invitation

Posted on May 16, 2013 by Leave a comment


When people ask me what the difference is between the words diversity and inclusion I explain that diversity is a statement of fact, (think of the diverse group of objects on your desk.), while inclusion is an action (placing the objects on the desk is necessary if they are to be included).  We may be included in a group without being invited, but the most successful groups are those that are comprised of people who have been invited to participate because of what they potentially offer the group and who accepted the invitation because of what the group potentially offers them. (See my May 2nd blog entry, “Interdependence”) Think of the value an “A List” guest speaker brings to a conference or event.
We all want to be invited to the party, to the table, to the adventure!  Once the invitation or job offer is accepted however, many organizational leaders fail to invite employees to make the most of their group membership.  Think of the thousands of gym memberships that have gone virtually unused because the owners of the gyms failed to motivate their members to attend the gym regularly.  The most successful leaders invite employees to contribute to their organization’s success on a continual basis and acknowledge those contributions publicly.  This does not mean that every idea dropped in the ‘employee suggestion box’ has to be implemented. Those ideas need to be acknowledged, however, and if they are implemented, rewarded.  When employees are invited to contribute to an organization’s innovation and success both the individual and the group can reach their full potential.
There have been many invitations asking us to contribute to one cause or another.  Uncle Sam, for example, was first used as a recruitment tool for World War I in 1916. This image is still quite familiar to most Americans.  The message is personal, pointing directly at YOU.  A different call to action was when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”  Dr. King invited us to participate in the greatest non-violent revolution in our nation’s history.  His was not an exclusive invitation. He did not invite only the oppressed to stand up for their rights, as they had the most to directly gain by acquiring historically denied civil rights, but he invited all of us to contribute to creating a healthier, more productive, more peaceful nation regardless of the color of our skin or our abilities. What other invitations have inspired you to act?  
An Invitation to ‘Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion
Tuesday, May 21stis the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development and we are all invited to ‘Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion!
The 2013 campaign, by encouraging people and organizations from around the world to take concrete action to support diversity, aims:

  •  To raise awareness worldwide about the importance of intercultural dialogue, diversity and inclusion.
  • To build a world community of individuals committed to support diversity with real and every day-life gestures.
  •  To combat polarization and stereotypes to improve understanding and cooperation among people from different cultures.
The campaign works through a dedicated Facebook page, serving as a platform for people around the world to share their experiences through posts and videos.
Here are some things that you can do in response to this invite:

  •       Invite people from another culture to share a meal with you & exchange views on life.
  •       Visit an art exhibit or a museum dedicated to other cultures.
  •       Watch a movie, listen to music or read a book from another country or religion.
  •      Read works by the great thinkers of other cultures (e.g. Confucius, Socrates, Avicenna,
       Ibn Khaldun, Aristotle, Ganesh, Rumi, or Frances Wright).
 So, how will you respond to this invitation?
 
Share your experiences and learn more about this initiative on the UN’s Facebook page: Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion
I look forward to learning about your adventures in diversity and inclusion.  Please let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below and of course, if you are planning to do one thing we would love to know about it. 
By the way, I am always open to invitations! 
Onward!
~ Wendy

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Why Should You Ask?

Posted on May 10, 2013 by 5 Comments



What’s your story?
People love to tell their stories. However, they usually need to be asked to do so. Asking someone to share how they have acquired the knowledge and skills that help them to thrive in their work – outside of the professional and academic arenas – gives them an opportunity to tell you their story. It also gives you valuable information about a person’s transferable skills and competencies – information that may not be included on their resume. They may have learned how to manage teams successfully by helping a parent to raise their younger siblings; or they may have learned how to crunch numbers by helping at a grandparents shop.  You can help people to provide this information by asking them to share their ‘distance traveled.’  It might be easier for you to ask these questions of others if you begin by recalling the distance that you have traveled.  What have your experiences outside of the workplace or school taught you that helps you to thrive at work?
If only I had asked sooner!
A director of sales for a Fortune 50 company approached me and shared concerns that she had regarding an employee who had been in her department for seven years and was terrific in his capacity as an administrator.  She said that his coworkers respected and trusted him and that he was highly competent, knew the business and had an incredibly positive attitude.  The employee told the director that he wanted to be promoted into a sales title.  He felt that he was ready for this move and had shown that he deserved it.  The director confided in me that she did not think that he would be successful in sales as he had a very heavy Spanish accent.  I asked her if she was aware of accent reduction classes which have become common.  She had not, but explained that she was afraid that the employee might be insulted if she suggested that he take one of those classes.  I asked her what kind of training the sales people were required to take and she cataloged several topics, including “Effective Communication.”  I asked her if any of the other employees were insulted when she told them that they would have to take these classes in order to be promoted and she said, “Absolutely not!”  They were excited about the opportunity and grateful.  I explained to her that my father had a heavy Spanish accent and that I believe he would have taken an accent reduction class if one had been available to him.  I recommended that she speak with the employee as they had a long term relationship. We ran through several practice conversations.  Six months later she called me to tell me that the employee had taken the classes, was promoted, and in addition to being very successful with existing customers, he was expanding their client base by reaching out to Spanish speaking business owners in the territory. She said, “If only I had asked you about this sooner!” She was not thinking about numbers.  She was not thinking about quotas.  She was thinking about her mission – which was to sell.
Asking for and sharing ‘distance traveled’ stories contributes to the creation of an inclusive environment.  Learning how an employee’s background can be an asset also encourages inclusion.  An inclusive environment can be sustained if these approaches are integral elements of an organization’s culture. 
Please let us know what you think about this by sharing your comments below!
Onward,
~ Wendy
 www.inclusionstrategy.com

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Interdependence

Posted on May 2, 2013 by 1 Comment

Independence is highly valued in American culture.  Our independence from England, the independence of thought expressed by our right and responsibility to vote, the independence of a capitalist system where consumers choose which products to buy, and the independence to live and work where we choose. Interdependence takes our ability to act and think independently to the next level. 
In the workplace interdependence is an essential element of success.  Success is indicated by productivity, employee engagement, (how happy people are at work), and market share. For many years management and leadership theory articulated interdependence in industrial environments, picture Lucy and Ethel on the assembly line, for example.  Employees in white collar positions, those higher up in the organizational ranks, were encouraged to be loyal to the company, but practice ‘healthy competition’ with their co-workers.  This is illustrated in a somewhat extreme way in the play, “Glengarry, Glen Ross,” where the employees are made to compete for sales in order to keep their jobs.”  This method of managing people to be competitive is often used when there is a commission, but not uniquely.  At one of my prior employers, for example our bonuses were based on both our performance and the company’s quarterly profits.  The employee evaluation system forced department heads to give only one employee the highest possible rating, thus a higher bonus.  This inevitably resulted in a competitive attitude toward co-workers, even though in our department our success was not measured by the number of clients or dollars earned by the organization.  This method of managing people discouraged collaboration and interdependence. When I was in graduate school there were several people in my program who were highly competitive.  They would not share ideas until they did so with a professor, to assure that they would get credit for thinking brilliant thoughts.  I was competing with myself to achieve more intellectually than I had ever done before in my life not my fellow students. The lack of trust by many students and some professors’ inability to encourage a free exchange of ideas among the students resulted in an unhealthy type of competition!
People like to be interdependent.  I have long been a person who loves helping others.  I enjoy being needed and am the ‘go to’ person when out with friends and someone needs a bandage, or an aspirin, or etc.  One of the greatest things that I have learned however was not how to help, but to let others help me.  Interdependence eliminates feelings of guilt or of owing the other person when they help you as you know that you will be helping them sooner or later.  What is even better about interdependence is that what two people come up with when they collaborate is not twice as good as what one person can come up with on their own, it is exponentially better!  I know that working interdependently will help me to create something better than I can on my own and so do my colleagues!
Strategic planning sessions are interdependent group exercises.  Oh, I can come up with a plan on my own, even a pretty good one, but that plan will be created from my perspective, based on my experiences and knowledge and competencies.  When I participate in an interdependent strategic planning session, everyone’s perspectives, experiences, knowledge and competencies are included equally in the process and the results are alwaysmuch, much better.
I am an idea woman.  I have all kinds of creative, fun ideas every day.  I love having new ideas and imagining them being put into action.  Again, if I operate on my own, what I have may be a good idea or a great idea, possibly even a revolutionary idea, but without the interdependent experience of sharing and examining that idea with others it cannot be as good, great or revolutionary.
People, strategies and ideas are alwaysbetter when we collaborate with others.  We cannot successfully collaborate with others unless we understand that we are interdependent.  That does not mean that we understand or agree with everything that everyone says, does or thinks. It means that we allow different thoughts, ideas and perspectives to influence us by being open to who is sharing them.  This is why I chose the light bulb with the gears as an image for my website.  The gears represent our interdependence, the bulb the resultant, amazing idea!
 
There is an international movement to make people aware of our global interdependence.  The short film, “A Declaration of Interdependence” by The Moxie Institute does so beautifully!
http://letitripple.org/a-declaration-of-interdependence/

Onward!

~ Wendy

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