“Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo or consensus, especially when looking out for the community of partners, customers and employees. Always focus on the outcome for all.”
Many organizations and individuals in the US have expressed profound changes of heart in recent weeks. They claim to have “opened their eyes” after watching the absurd killing of George Floyd. They are now willing to embrace change around this very important subject of discrimination and inclusion.
Immediately, this sudden change raises several questions. First, how can it be true that so few people and organizations in the US understood discrimination before? Did they not see how some groups have privileges that other minorities lack? George Floyd is not the first to suffer. Why does this event “open your eyes” when countless others did not?
Interracial marriage was forbidden in the US until 1967. Some communities did not have the right to own their own property until 1968! I do not attempt to justify but only to understand. The historic lack of inclusivity and diversity in our companies, communities, and our blindness is unjustifiable.
I am sure I am not the only one to raise this suspicion. Wanting to change is different than having a commitment to change. Before we discuss diversity and inclusiveness in your organization, try for a moment to look at these words from a perspective different from your own. This mental exercise will be good preparation for the work ahead.
Take a human being who has focused almost exclusively during their lifetime on self-interest. Imagine this individual has chosen repeatedly to forward their interests. They have demonstrated a lack of diversity in their friends and colleagues and work choices. They have demonstrated at times a lack of understanding of different cultures and their opinions. Now they start to discuss George Floyd. It seems nice that they are discussing a topic they never before approached with seriousness. But would you trust that this human would actually take action to risk their self-interest in order to be more inclusive and diverse? Or would you suspect they were only being opportunistic. Would you think they were jumping on the bandwagon just to sound good? Would you expect follow-through, or a return to life as usual?
The crack between words and actions is widening right now in many organizations. Employees, customers and partners are watching for signs of change, and in many cases they are finding none. Plenty of organizations preach about their diversity when one look into the history of leadership proves otherwise. Those of us with leadership or board experience can tell when the decision makers do not have the ability to listen to outside opinions and to bring diverse talent on board. There is a big difference between talking about voice of customer and employee, and actually taking practical actions in response to those stakeholders. Many organizations and companies fail somewhere in the journey between words and follow-through. Promotions are made to bring on additions to the team that only reflect current thoughts, instead of welcoming challenges, new voices, new perceptions and different opinions. I have personally seen plateauing leadership environments like this a few times.
Before we begin, let’s be clear. Diversity and inclusiveness initiatives can be a great step forward. They can also lead to little more than inauthentic lip service. Words do not make the difference; intentions do not make the difference: only results.
There are organizations that were born into diversity. Infineon, Salesforce, SAP are a great example.
It might be rare for a human being to change so profoundly, but with time and proof, transformation can become trustworthy. The good news is: long before your efforts change public opinion, the challenges, triumphs and benefits of diversity and inclusiveness will lead to real improvements and growth in your organization.
Success Despite iMPerfEctioN: The benefits of mere challenge for executives, employees, partners and customers'It is always easy to lead with people who are like you. However, what will be the outcome of that collaboration if you all think alike?' Click To Tweet
Consider two teams. One has many individuals who share a unified mindset. The other has many different voices and opinions. Which team will be more effective and bring better outcomes?
You see what I mean. I ask it that way because replacing the word diversity with difference can free some people to see their bias. Many humans and organizations operate on the belief that similarity makes decision-making easier and faster. But they neglect to see that the kind of decisions a homogenous group will make tend to be predictable, myopic, self-interested, and limited. Ultimately their experiences are reflected in services and products. Limited experience and listening skills, often lead to worse products, experiences, and it shows up in earnings!
McKinsey has continually found evidence that mere diversity in executive teams indicates a higher likelihood of being/becoming a top performer. On the other hand, less diverse executive teams are more likely to perform poorly! The data is even more convincing now then it was six years ago. Look closely.
We can see that either of these two major types of diversity correlates with financial performance. Less diverse teams are not as likely to succeed!
I have seen this trend personally in my work with VW, Samsung, SAP and in many American, South Korean and Israeli companies. But my experience is much clearer. Diversity has always brought better results. It also might be of interest to note that it does not matter whether diversity is inherent or learned. In cases where leadership can listen to other perspectives and mentalities, good changes happen quickly!
Look at Samsung and VW. Four months after the S7 exploding phone crisis the company was fine. Yet VW continues to struggle with diesel fraud years later. Taking the same attitude works until it does not. Change is directly correlated with the board and C-Suite. So how can any organization adapt without diverse mind models to help them see a new way forward?
Is Your Diversity and Inclusiveness Skin–Deep?
Not all organizations are born with enough openness to diverse inputs and ideas. I was a member of an Association that struggled to hear foreign opinion. They said they would listen. Yet at the moment of execution, they balked at alien ideas. As with many organizations that serve diverse groups, they even took steps to bring more diversity to the board. The changes looked good; however, key decisioning power was retained by a small subsection of self-centred people. Leaders earned “authority” by demonstrating they were “like-minded”. These groups might have taken one step toward diversity, but they took two back. So, I simply left.
I suspect similar workings in many organizations with this “change of heart”. Will they be able to follow-through on their words to become more diverse and inclusive?
Certainly, we need to realize that humans are not as stupid as some leaders want them to be. A member of a subgroup who has felt that your organization underrepresents them is not going to believe words without action. People will listen to words and then watch your next actions very closely. They will evaluate for themselves whether you are trustworthy and authentic, or superficial or fake.
We have this rare chance to change, so how can we follow through? Many organizations have struggled with these challenges. But there are ways to transform.
How to grow real diversity in your guts
Many organizations have amazingly well-written mission and customer statements. But the story changes when you look at reality. Every organization is a disappointment in some way, but some are becoming closer to their potential; whereas others aren’t even walking in the right direction. What’s the problem?!
This is not the first time I have written about cultural issues. In Creating a Customer Experience Culture: What needs to change first, I discussed two cultural goals that need to be addressed in order to become a Simple and Simplified (S+S) ‘’experience’’ organization . These were consensus and status quo. Both are anathema to diversity and inclusiveness.
These are problematic thorns for our work. Diverse mental models threaten consensus by their very definition. Gasp! And, if we listen to them, we might even change the status quo! Oh my!
Thus, working toward diversity leads many organizations to outgrow their lassitude! A group that welcomes change and difference will have much fewer problems with including outside opinions!
Now that’s out of the way, we’ll move onto the easier to-do lists.
Understand — Diversity and inclusion transcend ethnicity, gender, religion, and cultural differences. We need to understand the limitations of our opinions. Our opinions result from experience, and any individual’s experience is very small. We need to speak our minds and listen to others! That is how we become stronger! That is how to help people engage with your vision, and it is also how to adapt your vision to include others.
Assess — It starts with raising questions and listening to people. Company culture needs to make a self-assessment first, checking the gap between words and facts. What do under-represented groups actually think? Do they feel included? Do leaders welcome challenge to their mentalities?
Implement — In the initial phase you collected ideas. You received harsh feedback, a nice mix of destructive and constructive thoughts. Great. Now what do we do with it?
Like any feedback, there is a timer. If you do not act on the concerns voiced, then it would be better not to have wasted time on the survey.
C-Suite needs to lead the charge on enacting these changes through all levels of the company. It is imperative that all employees and customers can see how their actions impact output and outcomes, so that real actions can change and new voices can be heard. Hierarchical and siloed, even flat organizations can make this task even more complicated. Success depends on minds and people at the end of the day.
Cross-functional groups can help. Additionally, Give HR resources to rethink hiring, promoting, compensation, and training practices. Reward traits such as customer-centricity, intellectual curiosity, unconventional thinking, and courage. Give people the skills to properly represent end-users. Encourage and reward unique voices instead of exclude or discriminate.
Follow-through — Remember that results are enabled on an organizational level but practiced on an individual level. When you express publicly a commitment to include diverse voices, you need to prove it in private communications by listening, considering, and taking action. Avoid double standards and selective listening. If you put on a nice face in public, ensure that you express empathy and listening in private, as well. Some so called ‘’self-defined leaders and thought leaders’’ are like that.
Humans from different background who do not think alike are gifts. Listening to everyone widens your vision. It’s like adding side mirrors and a rear-view to your vehicle. But the opportunity is often small. As soon as you demonstrate that you cannot listen, then you will lose engagement, and many beautiful thoughts and ideas that you cannot dream up.
Thanks for reading! Please let me know your thoughts, especially if you think differently than I do!
Also, subscribe for our podcast vlogcast –> CX Human Lab ,– initial interviews with Dr. Marcell Vollmer Chief Innovation Officer and now Parter at Boston Consulting Group and Lior Arussy, the previous Founder, President and CEO of Strativity Group.
- Interview with Dr. Marcell Vollmer.
- Coming, next week Lior Arussy here part I and II:
Dixon-Fyle, S., Dolan, K., Hunt, V., & Prince, S. (2020, June 18). Diversity wins: How inclusion matters. Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters
Hunt, V., Yee, L., Prince, S., & Dixon-Fyle, S. (2020, January 17). Delivering through diversity. Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/delivering-through-diversity
London, L., Goldstein, D., & Ellsworth, D. (2020, March 2). The “how” in creating inclusive workplaces. Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-organization-blog/the-how-in-creating-inclusive-workplaces
More diversity, more complexity: Is your culture evolving fast enough? (2020, January 09). Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/capital-projects-and-infrastructure/our-insights/more-diversity-more-complexity-is-your-culture-evolving-fast-enough