Posted: 10/23/2019

Diversity & Inclusion — Getting Middle Managers to Embrace D&I Strategies


A Candid Conversation with Diversity Strategist, Regina Huber

A few months ago, I met with a bi-racial, financial advisor who worked with high-net-worth clients at one of the nation’s big banks  A mutual friend introduced us as she believed their were many synergies in our work.

I was very excited about the meeting. I was particularly anxious to hear how this large financial institution – with its high-profile CEO who speaks often about his commitment to diversity – was creating a corporate culture that supported a diverse network of financial advisors in the ultra white high-net-worth space.

Jaded and Disheartened

The meeting did not go as I expected. This advisor was jaded, disheartened, and after she realized that I could literally feel the disconnect between her positive words about her company and the energy she was giving off, she shared that her CEO’s words and intentions were at odds with the experience she was having. She was planning to leave the firm.

This woman told me when client calls and prospects came in, her direct managers – those at the middle management level of the corporation – were not passing them onto her. She said that many minorities and women in the department reported similar experiences.

Best Practices

I discussed the experience with global transformational leadership consultant and coach, Regina Huber, founder of Transform Your Performance, and author of Speak up, Stand out and Shine – Speak Powerfully in Any Situation.

Huber shared insights about best practices when it comes to better integrating middle managers into diversity efforts.

(Tisdale)  The woman I described to you, like many women and people of color, said her company’s diversity and inclusion intentions fall apart at the middle management level. Please share your thoughts on that?

(Huber) Middle managers are reviewed and compensated according to division goals. These don’t usually include the company’s diversity and inclusion goals, in fact, they can often be at odds with them.
Until companies find a way to make middle managers accountable to overall parity in their workforce, middle managers won’t be vested in diversity and inclusion, and we will run into the same old problems with retention of minorities and women.

(Tisdale) What can middle managers do to meet their goals, but still embrace D&I as an opportunity?

(Huber)First of all, they must understand that it’s not a contradiction. Meeting your goals and creating a diverse corporate culture do not have to be opposite ends of the spectrum. They are totally compatible. It sounds cliché, but more diverse teams lead to greater creativity and more engagement. This happens when people operate in an environment of trust. Middle managers must create a safe environment in which everyone can speak up, share ideas, and also make mistakes.

Even neuroscience has proven that different chemicals and different parts of our brains are active when we’re acting in a trust environment. It’s also based on the principle of co-creation…when we have more trust we have more co-creation. We know this. We just must use our intuition to humanize the work environment.

(Tisdale) What can companies do to hold middle management more accountable?

(Huber)  Diversity and inclusion goals must be part of performance reviews.  It’s also best to introduce metrics platforms.  Bigger picture, companies need to hold themselves accountable for managing their human resource, and not only better educate middle managers about the benefits of diversity, but also make middle managers the leaders in these efforts. Many middle managers don’t think they have the time to integrate this into their day. They are often times more worried about deadlines instead of what can make them more productive, save time, and create better results, long-term.

(Tisdale)  What about top management’s role in all of this?

(Huber)Once top leadership buys in, you can begin. Top management should understand that there’s a business case. It’s really important to use data to create accountability and dispel myths, as well as to educate and demonstrate the business case very clearly and make it compelling.  Again, it may not affect your bottom line in the short-term. Long-term, however, you are creating more effective and productive teams.

(Tisdale) What can employees do who find themselves in companies that ‘talk the talk’ about D&I, but run into these frustrations with middle managers?

(Huber)They must evaluate if this is the right cultural fit.  If you decide that you do want to stay in that environment, let your diversity leader know, or go to HR.  Sometimes HR doesn’t seem open to that conversation, but remember, it’s their job. They are there to take action.  Having a mentor, or even better a sponsor is critical. Proactively look for that person who can be a support. Coaching is also helpful, and can guide you on how to show up more powerfully.

Regardless, you are likely experiencing subtle types of discrimination, micro aggressions, or not given equal opportunities to advance. You must really keep a record. Write down the incidents and the dates. It helps if you have those facts. Even if not seen as hard proof because it’s just your word, people take you more seriously. When a person is confronted, it’s much harder for them to ignore it.

Regina Huber is the founder and CEO of Transform Your Performance.



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