Episode 6 – Diversity and Inclusion

Welcome to episode 6 of the ELC podcast.  I am your host and intentional leader, Rob Fisher, coming to you from the AEROhp.com Studios in the FIT Center for Excellence, here in Concord, NC!
In the last episode, we described the fourth attribute of the ELC – Trust.  I hope listeners immediately used some of the recommendations at the end of the podcast to start making changes in their intentional leadership. By now, you should have downloaded the E-Colors app and are using that information to manage your strengths and potential limiters in your day-to-day interactions. In this episode, I am going to discuss the next attribute of the essential leadership cycle – Diversity and Inclusion. Most organizations out there have some form of diversity element in either their vision and values, their mission, or their way of doing business. It sometimes seems that Diversity and Inclusion have become buzz words that organizations and leaders know they have to use to show that they are with the times. But very similar to some of the other elements, when I get managers and senior leaders one on one, away from the meeting room, they are all over the board as to what it really means to be diverse and inclusive. In fact, many of them don’t know that diversity and inclusion are actually different things that have been grouped together. Many organizations think and treat diversity and inclusion as a human resources program, and they try to play along under HRs rules.  I don’t think enough organizations have taken the time or energy to help the leaders understand both the power and the need for diversity and inclusion in the workforce.
I recently heard a great description that I’d like to share that we can then feed off of moving forward. You see – diversity is a FACT – it is a condition – it is tangible.  We look different, sure, but sometimes diversity can’t be seen, even though it is still a condition. I will talk about that in a minute. INCLUSION, on the other hand, is a CHOICE. Inclusion is ACTION-based. We can choose to be inclusive (or exclusive for that matter), but then we must take the actions needed to actually INCLUDE. When we did the personality diversity work in preparation for Superbowl 51 in Houston a few years ago, we got a new lesson in diversity and inclusion almost every day.
It was great to interact with the almost 10,000 volunteers, whose job it was to make the Superbowl experience the best it possibly could be for the over ½ million visitors. The E-Colors system underpinned the framework we used because individuals with different e-colors tend to think and react differently to input, processes, change, stress, time pressure, and many more attributes. Not everyone who came to the pre-party was a football fan – how do we make their experience good? Not everybody in Houston could go to the Superbowl – how do we make their experience good? Not everybody was going to speak English – how do we make their experience good? I think you are getting the picture… In order to answer those questions, with the goal and vision of a great Superbowl experience, we had to get diverse thoughts into play. It’s not enough to just ask for diverse thoughts – you have to actually seek it out. Since the diversity of thought is a condition that is difficult to SEE, you have to play to the individual’s personality tendencies to try to get diverse thoughts on the table sometimes. Some personalities freely offer their thoughts and opinions, and sometimes you don’t even have to ask for them. But some personalities will ONLY offer up their thoughts and opinions when prompted in a way that THEY accept. Then they will offer up those thoughts and opinions ONLY to the extent that they TRUST you or the organization. Sometimes that is trust based on their previous experience with you. Perhaps the last time you asked them for their input, you either ignored it or didn’t do the right thing with the information. This will limit the openness for them to divulge their diverse thoughts. I have a friend that works for a smaller school district. While she is well respected in her job, she has to do it over all of the schools in her district. She was appointed to a commission for the state, and all of the other members were from pretty massive school districts in the big cities. She really didn’t know what she had to add to this group that would be of value. Nevertheless, the group stated they wanted all thoughts and opinions so they could make the best decisions possible for the State and encouraged everyone to speak up when they had a thought or idea or opinion, even the new people. Her natural personality tendency is to keep pretty quiet and only to interject when asked directly or when she agrees. She told me she was encouraged to speak up (inclusion), but it was hard for her. Sometimes she had to push her play button to interject her thoughts, and each time they were both appreciated and well-received. After the event, the head of the commission thanked her personally for her input, even the times she challenged the thoughts of the bigger districts because they got a better outcome as a result. My point here is that inclusion is a two-way street. First, one has to be open to INCLUDING others.  Then WE have to be open to offering up our diversity!  Sometimes we need to use tools to do that – like she used her “play” button to speak up when it wasn’t natural.
We have more than our fair share of diversity today.  But I think we have lost some of our will, or fortitude, or desire (you pick it) to be inclusive of diverse thought. As leaders, we CANNOT let ourselves fall into the traps of our current environment where a whole lot of people believe that anybody that thinks differently than they do is not only wrong but should be persecuted in some way.  Intentional leaders have to overcome the urge in themselves and lead a team of others that have to overcome the current tide of thought diversity leading to EXCLUSION instead of inclusion. It is easy to include diversity that you can SEE, but make sure you also seek out diversity you CANT see. One of the reasons we promote making your e-colors or personality tendencies visible, whether by wearing a wristband or using a sticker or other visible indicator, is that it makes your personality tendencies more visible and allows a better opportunity for inclusion.
So what can you do?  First – seek out others with diverse personality tendencies for input.  You can bet that if their personality tendencies or e-colors are different than yours, that they will usually have a bit of a different outlook or thoughts on whatever it is you need input on. Second – when you form teams, make sure they contain diversity. All types of diversity. Make the discussion a part of the team startup. Help each other how and why you need to ensure that you have INCLUSION of diversity. And last – make sure the people that you engage within your organization UNDERSTAND through discussions with you how important the INCLUSION part of diversity and inclusion are. Diversity, for look’s sake, is not real diversity, and just because someone is there, doesn’t mean they are INCLUDED. This is a great topic for leadership teams to use in their values-based engagements. Until next time…this has been your host, Rob Fisher. Thanks for listening, and, remember Intentional Leadership starts with YOU!
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