Posts tagged with Stealth Inclusion

Comfortable Diversity

Posted on January 19, 2015 by Leave a comment

Comfortable Diversity

I was once asked (directed) by a boss of mine not to use the words “race” or “gender” while facilitating diversity and inclusion education for the organization’s employees. The main reasons I was given for this approach were:

1. There are all types of diversity:  job title, geographic location, marital status, parental status, we don’t have to focus on the obvious differences.

2. According to Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas (the late diversity scholar and author of Beyond Race and Gender: Unleashing the Power of Your Total Work Force by Managing Diversity; AMACOM, NY, NY. 1991.), “Employees differ not just on the basis of race, gender, and ethnicity, but also on a variety of other dimensions such as age, functional and educational backgrounds, tenure with the organization, lifestyles, and geographic origins, just to name a few.”  Dr. Thomas was absolutely right, but that does not mean that any dimension of diversity should be avoided when trying to create an inclusive environment.

3.  If the training focuses on race and gender, it might make our people uncomfortable.

I was also told, in other terms, that we were living in a post-racial society and that there was no reason to dredge-up the past and make people feel guilty about things that they could not control.

Today, as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and contemplate his legacy and the history of race in our nation, it is impossible for me to understand the claim that we live in a post-racial society when there are so many racially based challenges that we face every single day.

No Pain No Gain

Many people have begun the New Year by trying to live healthier lives. They have started to exercise, possibly after a long period without doing so. If this is the case, underused muscles will be aching in response to the pressure to participate in this healthy activity. If one is out of shape and overdoes it, then it can become too painful to continue and make progress toward better health. (I will confess that as I write these words, more than a few of my neglected muscles are groaning in response to my recent attempts to include all of my interdependent parts in goal oriented exercising.)

To continue with the exercise metaphor, much of the diversity training of a few decades ago was also a bit painful because of neglect, particularly when trainers would overdo it. So, the tendency might be to cringe at the thought of working out when lingering pain from the last effort reminds us how uncomfortable exercise can be. This certainly makes sense. That is why it is wise to begin a regimen of exercising carefully, mindful of old injuries, weaknesses, and risks. While there is going to be some inevitable discomfort, it does not need to be debilitating.

Beyond Trends and Fads

Just as with zumba, and other forms of exercising, fads and trends come and go, but three basic methods remain at the core of a healthy physiological program: reaching a targeted heart rate for your age and condition (cardio or aerobics), stretching, and strength. Similarly, effective methods for reaching sustainable inclusion goals require energy, stretching one’s ability to communicate and connect, and improving an organization’s cultural strength, or interdependence. These may initially cause participants some discomfort, but with time they will grow and expand their capacity to be truly inclusive. Just as anyone beginning an exercise regimen is advised to see their doctor to make sure that they are not causing themselves any harm and if they can afford it, they should hire a professional trainer to guide them. Likewise, it is recommended that your organization reach out to an experienced guide before embarking on an inclusion campaign.

One Step at a Time

Just as we are advised to begin an exercise plan by walking – simply walking before we start running – I recommend that we begin by talking. Conversations that have the goal of creating empathy in spite of diversity can help us to acknowledge our common history and distinct positions. In other words, let’s not be polite; let’s have genuine conversations that result in real relationships. Conversations that are grounded in mutual respect and the understanding that every one of us has a unique perspective – a unique set of experiences – can result in sustainably inclusive relationships. Conversations that are facilitated in a safe environment where respect is the primary requirement can be the first steps that move our homes, our schools, our workplaces, our cities, and our nation in a direction of healing and sustainable or manageable health.

Setting Realistic Goals

Just as exercising and dieting goals need to be realistic and practical, inclusion goals, if they are to be sustainable, must also reflect our current state and condition regarding diversity and inclusion. That requires an honest assessment and a well thought out plan. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not just show up in Selma, Alabama and expect racism or the denial of civil rights to end. He worked with others and developed a well-thought out plan and still met with incredible resistance before he and all of those who fought for our civil rights advanced that goal. That success enables and encourages all of us to continue to walk, to continue to strive to achieve our goals of inclusion, of equity, of humanity.

If you have not begun to advance your goals of inclusion, isn’t today a great time to begin?

Onward!

~ Wendy

Please let me know what you think!  wendy@inclusionstrategy.com

 

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Stealth Inclusion

Posted on October 14, 2014 by Leave a comment

By Any Other Name

It has become increasingly clear to me that there is a growing resistance to diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace as incidents of blatant racism, sexism and really all ‘isms’ seem to be on the rise.  I cannot definitively assert that there is a direct correlation between these two trends, but I believe that there is.  So, I have developed a concept called “Stealth Inclusion.”  Stealth Inclusion is a way to create inclusion in organizations by helping executives who may not necessarily acknowledge that they need help, to solve organizational problems.  This is particularly necessary where ‘exclusive’ cultures result in negative conditions, such as: employee turnover, disengagement, sabotage, diminished market share, poor or damaged public image, etc.

In Act II, Scene II of “Romeo and Juliet,” Juliet says the following to Romeo, in response to his concerns over their belonging to feuding families:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose   yellow rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
;”

So, what if we don’t call diversity and inclusion initiatives by their name, but use other names? What if we call our strategies, strategies for success, instead of inclusion strategies and our assessments, corporate assessments, instead of cultural assessments?  What if we use different or diverse words to describe what it is that we do and why it is that we do it?

By Any Means Necessary

In 1963 Jean-Paul Sartre wrote the words “by any means necessary” regarding class struggle, in his play Dirty Hands. The phrase was made famous by Malcolm X a year later and became a metaphor for justifying violence to overcome oppression. (Which I certainly am not advocating!)  What I am encouraging is that we find different ways to accomplish our missions. Is your organization behaving in a healthy way?  (See my 2007 article, “The Evolution of Inclusion,” where I discuss organizations as organisms (Posted in my blog in January 2014)).  Do the members of your organization:

a.) Know what your organizational mission is?
b.) Feel invited to contribute to the success of that mission?

If people are being excluded at your organization because of where or when they were born, how they worship, what they look like, how they identify, or any other distinction, you have a problem that needs a solution – a real, sustainable solution.  You do not need buzz words, or pot luck luncheons, or awards programs – you need effective strategies that can help you to cross the complex chasms that separate you from achieving your goals and getting that mission accomplished!

Mission + Strategy = Success Great_cormorant_flock

What motivates the people around you?  What really gets people excited enough to jump out of bed when it is still dark out and stay at the office past sunset?  Being part of a mission matters to you and to everyone else!  Being INCLUDED is what excites all of us!  Being invited to help, create, innovate, achieve, and win!  Not everyone can invite themselves to the party, many people need to be asked, many people come from places where there are different rules and customs about participation.

Excellent leaders learn about those different customs and learn how to invite and organize participation. Even when people have a common mission and are as motivated as the people were who filled Tahrir Square in Cairo in 2011, an effective, sustainable strategy must be implemented in order for success to occur.  That requires experienced and competent leadership: leaders who are flexible and open to learning and finding new ways to achieve their goals when old ways fail. So, if we do not call it ‘Diversity Training’, but ‘Effective Communication’ and ‘Successful Leadership, does it really matter?  [Note:  This does not mean that I am changing the name of the company!] The most effective leaders know what they don’t know and bring in subject matter experts to provide the knowledge and competencies that they lack.  Hence, part of a great strategy is having the right team members.

Mission Accomplished!

What is your goal?  What is your personal mission?  I have shared mine with you before: To make manifest the value of all people. Sounds simple, no? Well, it is not simple, it is complicated and takes real knowledge and competency and care and skill and passion and yes, sometimes, it takes Stealth Inclusion!

If you are not overcoming the barriers to inclusion at your organization, isn’t it about time that you do?

Onward!

~ Wendy

Please let me know what you think in the comment section below or email me: wendy@inclusionstrategy.com
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