Every study on Diversity/Inclusion
proves that it is the smartest business decision you could make – there’s no
getting around it. To me, the obvious
reason is Perspective.
The most powerful human force on the planet is a team of
dedicated people. The more diverse the
team, the more successful they will be.
Each obstacle they encounter is an opportunity to bring all the
different perspectives into play and come up with the best possible idea to
move forward. Then, there’s the original
design to consider. If there are
different perspectives at the table when an original design is presented, then
the potential issues can be addressed immediately – always smart business. It is MUCH less expensive to avoid a mishap
than apologize for it afterwards – especially when the apology must be done
publicly. Proof is in the recent slew of
fashion design screw ups that clearly did not have diversity at the table when
the designs were created. I mean
honestly – a noose as a fashion design element?
But it’s not just about having lots of voices at the table –
if the voices don’t feel they can speak up.
In offices across the country and in EVERY industry, women and men feel
they cannot share their perspective. If
they appear to disagree or disprove their leader’s idea, then they fear for
their job or their career. If they speak
up at their group’s table, they fear they will be criticized or worse,
ignored. There’s some magic about higher
levels within a company that implies they are smarter than you – that they’ve
‘earned’ that big salary and big title and what could *you* provide?!?!? The truth??
They are no better and no smarter than you. They may have more knowledge (which is NOT
about being smart) or more experience, but they don’t have YOUR
perspective. And maybe (in fact, most
likely) – YOUR perspective is what they need the most.
I remember years ago, I worked for a very large
organization. The executives were
struggling with low employee moral/low earnings (they go hand in hand) and
decided to go on a Road Show to talk with the people on the front lines and
learn more. They came to our
office. Prior to the town hall, I was
specifically pulled aside and told flat out to NOT SAY A WORD. The leaders of my office were afraid of the
truth, they were afraid of being targeted as the ‘problem’ office, and they
certainly did not want to be held accountable for what was really going on. I wasn’t going to be disrespectful and I
wasn’t going to be mean or vengeful. But
I was denied an opportunity and more importantly, the executives were denied honesty.
What matters is Diversity with Inclusion with the
culture that promotes speaking up.
Without each of those, each manager hires people who are just like them
– typically the same gender, the same color, the same background. We do that because it’s who we feel will hear
us and understand us. What we really need though – is to be open, to be told
when our idea isn’t the brightest or the best, and to listen more than we
Did you see an old man and an old woman in the picture – or a young man and a young woman?
When you’re getting up in the morning to prepare for work and you’re really preparing for battle. You hate it, you dread it, you can’t stand it, you want to quit but you can’t afford it…it all feels impossible. You become inward, you talk less, you become paranoid, doubt is constant, you think it’s you, everyone else seems fine, no one wants me here, I’m doing the wrong job, these people think I’m weird, I don’t fit. Everything is worse and everything is bottled up. There’s too much to do, not enough time, everyone is pulling at me. I get it – I’ve been there more times than I realize. One thing consistently got me INTO these places – I closed down and stopped talking to people about how I was feeling. I believed the negativity that no one wanted to listen to me whine and no one wanted to hear my woes.
One thing consistently got me OUT of those places – talking. I think I heard someone call it ‘Talk Therapy’. It’s up there with aromatherapy, shopping therapy, movie therapy, and our favorite sugar therapy. EVERYONE needs a chance to vent, whine, complain… get it off our chests. Think of it as an onion – the outer layers are the annoyances, the moles we grow into mountains. If you can get those out of the way, they reveal the bigger issues that are the real issues. Maybe we don’t feel valued, maybe we are in the wrong position, maybe the office is too toxic – you can’t even look at those unless you vent and whine and complain.
Talk therapy. People see different parts of us and different parts of our situation – they can provide real insight. Or bullshit – it’s up to you. It’s not only therapists (although they’re pretty good at it). Even water cooler conversations can lead you into some great conversations.
Example: If you are not sure if you’re the only one frustrated – use open ended conversation starters…. “I was surprised at how <<the boss>> handled that call yesterday.” You don’t have to say you were happy or sad or disappointed or disgusted. Find out what the other people feel – the more people in the group the better. Your use of ‘surprised’ will be the perfect opener to make the others feel like you agree with them – whatever they feel. You will most likely find people who agree with you that you can commiserate with – it will help BOTH of you feel a lot better. And maybe you’ll find a new friend at work – the best possible outcome.
Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines…it’s a constant in our work life. Mix those in with home life to do’s and mandatory schedules – ‘I promised a date with my spouse tonight’! How do we survive?!?!
I do two things:
1) Acknowledge there are seasons or cycles to everything. Marketing is going be busy in the fall. Selling is going to be heavy in the holidays. Accounting is every winter/spring. Kiddo’s sports/events/theater is every spring and fall. You get the picture. Somethings will get caught in that crunch – be kind to yourself and others. It’s expected if you’re in the right frame of mind.
2) Prioritize based on those cycles.
Life: If you’re a tax accountant, a vacation in February is not a great idea. But one in May – much appreciated and much more enjoyable. Kiddo’s game on April 14???? – talk about it ahead of time. When cycles collide, have someone else clean the house, increase your budget for takeout, make extra meals before hand for easy lunches.
Work: Despite what it may feel like, not all deadlines are real and not all deadlines need to be kept – this is the secret. Which ones are not real and not needing to be kept are something you learn. In the meantime, talk to your boss(es) and explain the constraints (not the family ones) and find out which ones can slip.
Bottom line – be open, be honest, see what’s ahead of you so you’re prepared. Being hit by a Mac truck that you could have avoided completely sucks!!! That’s why you have to slow down.
I was told once by a consultant who specialized in culture, that when she looked around everything pointed to culture as the problem and the solution. I didn’t believe her. I thought everything was about being productive and working together because that’s what mattered to me.
When I looked at what, how, why I do (Thank you to Simon Sinek), I found a system: What = Same Road, Same Time, Same Direction. How = I manipulate the fabric of team dynamics. Why = Create Accountability.
When I put it all that together and saw the system I create – you can’t have a system of positive accountability unless you have a positive culture that supports it.
The reason I can turn projects around, even ones that are going up in flames, is that I change the micro culture of the project and create a system of accountability.