I condemn the treatment of African Americans as a result of widespread systemic injustice and racism. As a former business executive and current leadership coach, I stand for a positive, equitable and inclusive workplace where all employees are on fire to contribute, lean into their work more, and dream bigger about what is possible.
I am not an expert on diversity and inclusion. But I am a former people leader who leaned on my background and upbringing to build diverse and inclusive teams and champion efforts to improve diversity in my organization. My past has shown me, firsthand, how much progress can be made when teams of diverse humans have purpose and work together toward a goal. Right now, at this moment, organizations have to move past the public statements, pledging to do their part to end racism. The path to a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace starts by changing the customary practice of hiring and promoting individuals to leadership positions based on their technical expertise. This hiring practice ignores the importance of leading people, creating diversity, and fostering inclusion. Individuals who pride themselves on their technical proficiency and a “roll up your sleeves,” outcomes-focused, work ethic do not take the time to see ability and desire in others. Authentic people leaders are individuals who are willing to see the ability in people and measure success by the number of lives they have touched and growth of the members of their team.
People leaders, of diverse and inclusive teams, have the power to inspire their employees, build team chemistry and empower teams to believe they have what it takes. Diverse teams power innovation and boost the performance of an organization, as well as accelerate the growth and advancement of careers. When organizations and leaders invest in building inclusive cultures they achieve: 22% greater profitability, 21% greater productivity, 65% lower turnover (Creating a More Human Workplace SHRM Foundation Report, 2016).
Here are 4 things leaders can do, right now, to grow others, empower teams to believe they have what it takes and show they value the power of diversity and inclusion:
1. See. A collection of the most highly skilled and technically proficient individuals does not make a great team. Look at each team member’s potential, at what they could be. Look for the individual contributions that increase the potential of the team. At the same time, also look for those that create toxic environments and remove them from the team. When hiring, have a willingness to see the ability in candidates rather than their technical expertise.
2. Encourage. Never underestimate the power of encouragement. As leaders, it is easy to fall into the mode of expecting people to do certain tasks or fulfill certain roles. This is especially true in organizations. But when we are intentional about encouraging people, noticing them, and telling them they are appreciated, employees become motivated to want to keep going and give their best.
3. Learn. Always seek to be a learner. As leaders, you should never think you’ve “arrived.” You can always learn something from others. The of the sociocultural theory, Lev Vygotsky, is noted for saying, “It is through others that we develop into ourselves.” If you do not listen to your employees, if you are too busy to notice them, you will miss opportunities to learn and show your employees that you do not value inclusive perspective and thinking.
4. Push. Don’t be afraid to push. The people that inspire you the most are the ones who see potential in you and pushed you to be and do more. Why? Because good leaders push because they care. Although we do not necessarily enjoy being pushed, it is often what we need to exercise our talents and abilities.
One of the most noted leaders of the modern era, Jack Welch, has said: “When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” As a leader, end systemic injustice and racism by becoming a leader who sees people based on ability and is passionate about growing a team of people who can make the biggest contribution, lean into their work more, and dream bigger about what is possible.