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Seven Moves from the Trailblazers CEO Playbook to Drive Results through Inclusion and Diversity

By Redia Anderson

AndersonSuccess in this 21st century, global marketplace requires companies to think outside the box. In order to achieve truly innovative solutions, organizations must actively engage and include the unique and diverse perspectives of their employees’ in service of their customer’s needs.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a high school student body regarding the question:‘ What‘s the relevance of inclusion and diversity today?‘ The insights I shared with them as a former chief diversity officer and now as a D & I strategist and HR consultant were clear. In today‘s global world of one big marketplace, organizations of all shapes and sizes are vying for the increasingly diverse talent and customers from all around the world. I encouraged the students to recognize and know with certainty that they were no longer competing with Tiffany or Steven sitting across the aisle from them, or somewhere across the U. S. for college admissions and later-- positions in corporations; but rather, right now they were competing with people from across the globe. This isn‘t going to change! The companies that will prosper in this global marketplace understand that in order to be profitable and grow, they must mine the talent of their employees‘ diverse perspectives to differentiate themselves from their competition, to define who they really are, and to increase the relevancy of their business in a global economy.

In today‘s global marketplace, engaging different perspectives through diversity and inclusion is more important than ever. In fact, diversity and inclusion are increasingly being understood as being more than an —initiative? but rather -- as simply the way of doing business in the 21st century.

For those organizations that are the most effective with regards to inclusion and diversity, this engagement starts at the top, first and foremost with the CEO and secondly with his/her leadership team.

Today‘s clients, customers, and coworkers expect innovative solutions in response to pressing business issues. In almost every situation where strong, visible, and vocal CEO commitment exists, an organizational culture of curiosity, appreciation, and resolve to apply the lessons learned and insights from a diverse and inclusive workforce exists.

CEO commitment – in tandem with the work of the Chief Diversity Officer - has created awareness and set expectations that significantly raise the importance of inclusion and diversity as a strategic business imperative; an imperative that provides tangible results for organizations, and an imperative that is not optional for a successful business. This, combined with supporting infrastructure—communications, education, accountability, and metrics, has signaled the importance of this work for many major organizations such as the organizations highlighted in the book: Trailblazers: How Top Business Leaders Are Accelerating Results Through Inclusion and Diversity (Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-470-59347-9.) 

Trailblazers take the reader into some of the world‘s top-performing companies for insights on how they are expanding the definition, practice, and bottom-line benefits of diversity and inclusion. With best practices and innovative techniques drawn from path-making companies like IBM, Verizon, Dell, The Coca-Cola Company, Shell, Merck, and more, Trailblazers gives readers an up-to-date toolset to leverage diversity and inclusion in a global marketplace. CEO‘s understand that inclusion and diversity bring innovation and positive impact to their businesses. Growth and profitability are still the name of the game.

So, as a CEO/ business leader or manager, what are some of the things you can do to —walk the walk/ talk the talk? and engage your organization with regards to inclusion and diversity? You may want to share this article with other leaders.

Listed are seven actions you can take right now to overtly influence your culture and show your clear intent regarding these incredibly important objectives:

  1. Share your stories. Your personal experiences of difference—as well as stories in which you‘re keenly aware of being included—make strong statements about how willing you are to be transparent and learn from others. A colleague I respect says it this way – —givers gain.? Share your experiences. What did it feel like when you were the ?only one‘—woman, person of color, white male, over/ under a certain age—at a major business function? What was going through your/ mind at the time? What biases and assumptions did you have to overcome, if any, to participate fully? How receptive were others of you, or not? What did that do for you? What did you learn about yourself in the process?
  2. Become an active mentor. I highly recommend exposure and experience as a means to deepen personal knowledge about inclusion and diversity. Get to know three top performing, junior-level individuals who come from a different background than your own. Keep it informal: have coffee or go to lunch. Share your stories and tell them what you‘d like to learn from them. Be open to their experiences and suspend your judgment. Valuable reverse mentoring occurs within the context of these relationships, so remain open to letting it happen. You‘ll be grateful for what you can learn from your mentees.
  3. Support your organization’s employee resource groups. Become an executive liaison for the group or network. Regularly attend, support, and speak at their functions. These groups can be an incubator of leadership talent, so get to know their leaders and nurture them into your organization‘s leadership ranks.
  4. Put diversity on the agenda for the operations meeting. Make inclusion and diversity updates a standing agenda item at your regular leadership team meetings. Set and provide clear expectations of advancement and consequences. Reward and communicate progress of the business units and functions broadly. Recognize that, when the organization sees and hears little, they assume nothing is happening. Communicate frequently to let employees know that good things are indeed happening as it relates to the intersection of inclusion and diversity with regards to customer wins/ customer satisfaction and the marketplace.
  5. Speak it. Seek opportunities to include messages of the business imperative and the impact of inclusion and diversity to your organizations bottom line in every speech you/the leadership team give and comment on progress or challenges in every meeting held —internally and externally. Work with the chief diversity officer and the public relations team to proactively brand your  company in the marketplace as an inclusive employer—one that respects the broad definition of diversity and believes in the value of an inclusive and inviting culture.

6. Build diverse leadership teams. As key assignments, projects, and candidate slate opportunities arise, ensure that teams are consciously being staffed with the broadest, best, and most diverse perspectives to solve customer issues.

7. Monitor, measure, and reward evidence of inclusion and diversity progress. Utilize the performance management system as well as your organization‘s rewards and recognition systems to emphasize progress, being mindful to recognize the efforts of others in a way that is meaningful to them. It‘s important to also remember that recognition comes in more forms than monetary rewards. In fact, many of the organizations highlighted in Trailblazers utilized a variety of rewards and compensation approaches. While many of these indeed included traditional year-end monetary and spot awards, they also used more creative means to recognize people—an extra day or two of paid time off, theater tickets, a small grant of stock options, dinner reservations for two at top-notch local restaurants, and simple handwritten, or personally signed ?thank-you‘ notes from a senior leader. All of these methods convey a message of respect and recognition for positive results.

The CEOs and leaders, who are most effective in driving results through inclusion and diversity, seek opportunities to communicate their convictions and expectations everyday – just like they do for all their business objectives. The CEOs who lead their companies to sustained success in the global marketplace are staunch advocates of inclusion and diversity, fairness, innovation, and bottom-line business results. They measure progress, and they get results.

In the event you might be wondering, you‘ll recall I mentioned at the beginning of this article that I had been asked to speak to the student body regarding the question: What‘s the relevance of Inclusion and Diversity today?‘ I received a letter from the principal of the high school the other day. He had this to say: —This was truly one of the most successful and memorable assemblies thus far. I have heard nothing but positive feedback from our faculty, our staff and the student body. Your presentation was not only thought provoking, it was impactful as well. I know our students will benefit from this for years to come whether they are employers or employees.? Based on these remarks, I believe the students —got? the relevance of inclusion and diversity. And by the way, the letter…..it was personally signed by the principal.

About the Author: Redia Anderson, executive coach, speaker and nationally recognized leader in the field of inclusion and diversity, is a former chief diversity officer (Deloitte & Touche, Equiva Services—joint venture between Shell/Texaco/Saudi Aramco) and has worked with Fortune 500 corporations, partnerships, and universities. Redia is managing partner of Anderson People Strategies, LLC, where she helps organizations align people, performance, and results. Redia has been featured in national publications such as Working Mother, DiversityInc and Black Enterprise magazines. You can contact Redia: www.andersonpeoplestrategies.com


February 2011

 



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