10 Commandments of Incorporating Diversity and Inclusion In The Workplace

Today's post is on the 10 commandments of incorporating diversity and inclusion into your workplace. I believe that diversity and inclusion should be approached with a top-down, bottom-up strategy. Engaging your employees at all levels is one of the most effective ways to reach critical mass and communicate the import of inclusion and diversity. Most times employees are willing to join in the process but lack the confidence and understanding to take action.

This post will provide some concrete tips designed to engage employees at all levels of the organization. Remember it is essential to commit to the process, value the ideas of everyone, and celebrate along the way.

  1. THOU Shall Be CULTURALLY AWARE: You can't advance if you're not aware of your biases or perceptions on different cultures. Once you understand your biases, you'll be able overcome them. My recommendation would be to take the Implicit Association Test (IAT) herehttps://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
  2. THOU Shall Ask More Questions: Now that you're aware of your biases, let's explore. IMPROVE on your cultural competencies by making a commitment to learning about different races, cultures, religions and backgrounds represented by those around you. Ask your coworkers to share with you some of the practices and customs associated with their cultures. LISTEN, and make yourself familiar with several diversity-related terms and explore your curiosity.
  3. THOU Shall LEVERAGE Your Differences: Diversity has to do with the differences around you and now that you have made an effort to understanding the differences around you, it's now time to leverage them. This is essentially what INCLUSION is. A good leader is one that is able to create an environment where each and everyone of his/her employees feel safe enough to be themselves.
  4. THOU Shall CONNECT Diversity Initiatives to Your Business Objectives: Devote yourself to the process by understanding how your role is impacted by diversity initiatives and how it aligns with your business objectives. In this complex global world we live in today, inevitably complex issues arise so for your business to succeed, it is imperative that your company is ready to tackle these challenges whether it has to do with entering new markets, winning new clients, and manage diverse talent. KNOW the diversity visions and goals of your organization and how it connects to the overall business objectives.
  5. THOU Shall FULLY PARTICIPATE in employee engagement surveys. Fully participating means responding as honestly and openly as possible. It is usually advisable to find an internal champion with whom you can comfortably show your concerns and/or elicit advice to support your efforts. Alternatively, you could hire an external consultant to do an audit of your company and help assess your current diversity initiatives versus your business initiatives.
  6. THOU Shall INVOLVE yourself in the diversity efforts of your organizations. You can start by partaking in an employee Resource Group, volunteer to serve or chair on committees that organize diversity-related activities. Consider starting out as a mentor, mentee, or a team of co-mentoring relationship. All these activities will require your time commitment but they prove to be valuable as it helps teams develop personally and professionally. 
  7. THOU Shall UNDERSTAND Your Diversity: Diversity doesn't just come in the form of race, culture, and gender but also features elements such as socio-economic background, sexual orientation, education level, geographic location, thought, and lot more. Everybody has something to bring to the table. What is your contribution?
  8. THOU Shall Be a PARADOX: Diversity fosters innovation which is a direct result of creativity. To tap into this creativity, get comfortable being in positions where opinions differ from yours greatly.  You never know what you will come out of it. 
  9. THOU Shall Be An ALLY: Speak actively on diversity issues that aren’t even your own. Any organization will find it hard ignoring the power of the voice created when groups representing different diversity dimensions unify. Also, part of being an ally is making sure you are careful about using offensive and stereotypical remarks. Common social practices that are comfortable for you may not be the same for everyone.
  10. THOU Shall DEDICATE Yourself To Continuous Improvement: Be open to learning, accept feedback, and be ready to listen to the concerns of your colleagues. There is still an opportunity for growth in even the most enlightened individual. 

Remember leveraging diversity isn’t a destination. It is a journey. A journey that takes time, patience, and perseverance. 

The Benefits of Being Multilingual with Lina Abisoghomyan

SPECIAL EPISODE ALERT! Today’s episode is with Lina Abisoghomyan! Remember her from episode 208? Yup! Well she’s being gracious enough to do a special mini episode with us today. Today, she breaks down what the benefits are of being multilingual!

If you’re thinking of a New Year’s resolution, definitely consider picking up a language or two. The benefits are tremendous!

To catch Lina’s last episode, take a listen here: http://www.uydmedia.com/lina-abisoghomyan-the-diplomat-of-the-future/

To find out more about Lina’s company, click here: www.policypear.com

I did a Use Your Difference  episode on how to learn a language without moving abroad here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkbuJ4l6rJI

Enjoy the holidays! I think I might drop another episode this week so stay tuned!

Catch this special episode here or below:

What Nelson Mandela Taught Us About Seeing The Bigger Picture

Today marks year 3 since we lost one of the greatest leaders to have ever walked the planet earth, Nelson Mandela. Affectionately known as Madiba which means father, he certainly served as a father figure for many across the globe. Personally, he was (and still remains) a big influence in my life. I have spent countless hours studying his leadership style and one thing always stood out to me. His ability to see the bigger picture. This for me, was his greatest strength as a global leader. Here are some examples of Mandela understanding the bigger picture:

He Found Freedom In Forgiveness

It's no secret that Mandela spent 27 years in prison and just for context, I am 27 years old now and I can't imagine spending that much time in close to solitary confinement like that. For many, being imprisoned for this long will implant seeds of bitterness and vengeance but Mandela chose to see the bigger picture upon his release.

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” –Nelson Mandela

He showed the world what true forgiveness was like by fully forgiving his opponents even though he was now in a position of power over them.

Mandela used the four years after he left prison in 1990 and prior to the election to bring parties from different ethnic groups together. He created environments for open discussion among groups that had fought each other for years because he realized that the bigger picture here was unity and that if South Africa was ever going to be great, everyone needed to have a seat at the table.

This was evident in how he played a big role in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was formed by the new South African government in 1995. Its goal was to help heal the country and bring about a reconciliation of its people by uncovering the truth about human rights violations that had occurred during the period of apartheid. Its emphasis was on gathering evidence and uncovering information—from both victims and perpetrators—and not on prosecuting individuals for past crimes, which is how the commission mainly differed from the Nürnberg trials that prosecuted Nazis after World War II.

He helped bring together whites and blacks to help shape a better tomorrow. This is something we can all learn from. Don't run away from what you don't understand. Rather, seek to give everyone a voice and work out a solution from there. 

One could say his 27 years in prison in a way saved him. It gave him time develop his leadership style as well as a new perspective. He became someone with a willingness to open his heart, mind and soul to the problems that existed around him. He allowed himself to develop a space for change and therefore better understanding. 

“One of the most difficult things is not to change society but to change yourself.” -Nelson Mandela

He was focused on goals and a mission beyond himself: 

Even before Mandela went to prison, he had a deep sense of purpose and his purpose was not about him. Take a listen to his speech at the opening of his trial for sabotage in Pretoria on April 20, 1964.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

This was something he continued to live by everyday until his death. For him the big picture was ensuring that true equality existed. His ability to understand his role in the grand scheme of things was remarkable. It didn't matter what happened to him as long as his fellow countrymen and women got to experience better lives. He wanted to ensure that the next generation did not experience the hardships his generation went through and so he continued to fight. 

He Knew How To Find Unity In Global Moments

Part of being a great leader is recognizing opportunities and Nelson Mandela did this often. Perhaps his most famous example of this was during the 1995 Rugby World Cup final when South Africa was playing against New Zealand. Up until that point, rugby in South Africa was a direct symbol of apartheid. It was a primarily white sport and many black South Africans actively rooted against the team.

However, Mandela saw things differently. To him, he saw the moment as an opportunity to bring the nation together. His advisors disagreed vehemently but alas, he walked on to that stage where millions all over the world watched him draped in the Springbok Jersey which had been the symbol of hatred for so many and walked out to South Africans of all races chanting: Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!. I talk about the moment and the other ways he was open minded in the video below:

Journalist and author John Carlin said,

"It was far, far, far more than a sporting event, I've never come across a more politically significant, emotional ... moment then what was witnessed at the World Cup."

Today is December 5. A day I will never forget. Even though Mandela died three years ago, his spirit lives on today. Let us learn how to see the bigger picture in our global world. 2016 has shown us that a lot of work that still needs to be done to give everyone a voice but let Nelson Mandela be a reminder to you all that unity is possible and that we can all truly use our differences to make a difference. Thank you Madiba!

How to Lead Effectively Across Cultures

As the title suggests, today's topic has to do with leadership across cultures and to truly get into the granular details of how to do this effectively, one has to understand Power Distance Index (PDI). PDI is the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.  Basically it is the degree of respect we show to authority. In the workplace, power is about how we deal with hierarchy at work: bosses, senior colleagues, people who report to you or other junior personnel. 

It is the brainchild of Geert Hofsteade. He came up with six cultural dimensions that organizations and groups can use to view the world and Power Distance Index is one of those dimensions. I talk a little bit about it here. His research has framed a lot of the work that that is done in the cross cultural field today. 

Countries that rank high on the power distance index have a very hierarchical leadership structure while countries that rank lower on the power distance index have a flatter leadership structure.

I grew up in cultures embedded on both ends of the PDI spectrum. I was born in Nigeria where the power distance is high but I came across both Swedish and the American cultures before I was 19 years old. The United States and Sweden rank lower on the power distance index. Growing up in Nigeria where there are more than 250 ethnic groups, I saw that status came from age, traditional or tribal rank (chief, elder and so on), family connections, honor and religious goodness.

Wealth also brings power in Nigeria, but not necessarily status in the eyes of the community. Power differences between people are clear and are reinforced by status symbols of various kinds (title, servants and assistants, quality of office accommodation, clothes, cars and so on).

Rebellions against authority figures are rare. Senior people are typically not easy for juniors to approach. When junior staff get access, they must show great respect. Decisions will be taken by a single leader or a group of high-ranking people, usually without much participation by junior staff or by the people whom the decision affects.

As someone who was initially raised that way, my initial experiences with American culture was interesting to say the least especially as I started to gain leadership roles in these two cultures. Here are some of the lessons I have learned while leading across both cultures.

If you are dealing with people who prefer bigger differences in power than you

  • show respect for people with higher status

  • make sure that you understand the chain of authority and its implications

  • accept that employees may like strong supervision and feel comfortable with a directive, persuasive supervisor

  • do not put employees in a position where they have to disagree with their manager

If you are dealing with people who prefer smaller differences in power than you

  • make sure your staff feel empowered, if you want to get the best performance out of them

  • avoid close supervision – it is likely to be counterproductive and seen as offensive

  • focus on encouraging or inspiring your staff, not controlling or instructing them

  • make yourself available to your staff more often and share some informal occasions with them

As the world starts to shrink with each digital platform that pops off everyday and with constant migration, chances are that you will either work with or work for people from different cultural backgrounds. If you don't work with them on a professional level, you will most certainly go to school with them or come across some form of different culture in your day to day life. 

You can't lead across cultures without understanding it.

Once you know your place on a dimension, you can start to build strategies for working with people who are different from you. For example, with Argonaut's CultureConnector tool, you get strategies like the top 4 strategies for dealing with people who prefer bigger power distance than you above.

Remember you can use your difference to make a difference to your personal success across cultures in very practical ways. 

Till next week use your DIFFERENCE to make a DIFFERENCE.