LEADING A DIVERSE TEAM THROUGH INCLUSION
In today’s world, we encounter thousands and thousands of people who are marginally different from us, and others very different in vast respects. Our differences begin with the type of upbringing we encountered growing up and the cultures we engaged as we moved through schools and jobs. The type of books we like to read and extra-curricular activities we like to partake in even account for diversity in our thinking and behaviour. Workplaces are increasingly becoming obtuse with varieties of people in many fronts, especially in big corporations. As leaders, because of the multitude of dissimilarities in the type of people we encounter, we have been forced to rethink the way we relate to people and draw up intentional strategies to bring about inclusivity.
Most of us are familiar with the term “inclusion”. Some of us may not have only heard the term but we have actively practised inclusion in our Management of People, Leadership of People and even for our Personal Growth. No one is obliged to take in a diverse team and force themselves to understand different cultures, behaviours and abilities. In fact, many people in leadership positions avoid this on all fronts.
In September 2018, BBC wrote on a story of job ad discrimination. The story cited that, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) submitted a complaint alleging that Facebook’s advertising system allows employers to target job ads based on gender – a practice the ACLU says is illegal. This resulted in the company’s removal of over 5,000 targeting options for advertisers. The move was prompted by a lawsuit accusing the firm of unlawfully targeting users based on race or sexual orientation. This is only one example of a firm and its leaders trying to avoid a certain gender-orientation for reasons best known to its decision-makers.
Other job advertisements have clearly specified age groups, which has led to global conversations on whether these advertisements are discriminating over age. It is clear that when it comes to today’s business climate, employers and leaders are looking for a certain calibre of people. Having teammates that are alike can be a great thing and although diversity raises a new challenge for leaders, the benefits are enormous. For a company to be properly positioned as a force to be reckoned with, it must not only be multinational with its appearance on a global front. It should also be multinational with its people. The human resource is a value-adding factor many leaders take for granted but when extracted and implemented properly, it can be an ace in creating a bright and sustainable future.
What then is inclusion? Sonia Cargan, Chief Diversity Officer of American Express speaks on both diversity and inclusion. “Diversity is about representation, creating an organization that reflects a community or the customers you serve. Inclusion on the other hand is about ensuring you are creating a culture in which diverse employees have a voice and feel like they belong.”
Inclusive leadership does not only ensure the presence of the combination of both old and young, male and female, and diversified cultures. It goes further to nurture a fair, open and respectful environment where people can be high performers. Inclusivity, when properly managed, can be a booster for great performance. Enei UK defines inclusive leaders as people who are aware of their own biases and preferences, actively seek out and consider different views and perspectives to inform better decision-making. They see diverse talent as a source of competitive advantage and inspire diverse people to drive organizational and individual performance towards a shared vision.”
The Harvard Business Review and Insights by Deloitte show that teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report that they are high performing, 20% more likely to say they make high-quality decisions, and 29% more likely to report behaving collaboratively.
In 2017, Qantas won the “World’s Safest Airline” award, and was ranked as Australia’s most trusted big business and its most attractive employer, and delivered shareholder returns in the top quartile of its global airline peers and the ASX100. For CEO of Qantas, Alan Joyce, the spectacular turnaround of the Australian Airline reflected an underlying condition: “We have a very diverse environment and a very inclusive culture.” Those characteristics, according to Joyce, “got us through the tough times…diversity generated better strategy, better risk management, better debates, and better outcomes.”
Beyond the usual measurements of diversity such as age, gender and culture is an even bigger factor to be considered by leaders. “The most innovative company must also be the most diverse,” says Apple Inc. But Apple’s mention of diversity isn’t only about gender, race and age. It is more about diverse thinking, the next horizon to be considered after tackling all entry point of discrimination. According to Apple, “diversity of thinking is a wellspring of creativity, enhancing innovation by about 20 percent. It also enables groups to spot risks, reducing these by up to 30 percent. And it smooths the implementation of decisions by creating buy-in and trust.”
The important thing to note here from the stories of these successful companies is that, diversity in all forms is important. Both demographic diversity and intellectual diversity come to play important roles that should not be overlooked. When properly strategized, they can be useful independently and interdependently. For companies like Apple and American Express who take seriously diversity and inclusivity, they have experienced many benefits. They have experienced how a diverse and inclusive workforce provides a competitive advantage in the marketplace and serves as the foundation to drive their business transformation.
So how does a leader interested in transforming its workforce through diversity and inclusion do this? Here are 4 tips to help you achieve this goal.
BUILD DIVERSITY THROUGH CURIOSITY
Being curious about the things that go on around you is very crucial. You have to be positively inquisitive about people and places. Be open to listen and seek to understand while you listen to others. As leaders, we attend many conferences, business meetings and corporate events. This is the time to not simply get familiar with new faces but to intentionally speak to different people and understand what they are doing differently. This will open your mind to the possibilities of people and opportunities out there. It will guide you to understand what to look out for during interviews so you can build a diverse team.
DEMOGRAPHIC AND INTELLECTUAL INTELLIGENCE
Having a diverse demographic and intellectual team can be both a good and daunting task. It is your duty as a leader to gather intelligence on the people in your team and to delegate, if possible, a manager that will thoroughly learn and gain understanding on your people. This is key in building a unified team where everyone is confident enough to share their opinions and perform their best. To successfully facilitate this, one of the important soft skills to harness is that of emotional intelligence. In the face of adversity, this skill is strategic thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.
ACTION ACHIEVES THE GOAL
Inclusivity is not a fancy term to be added to your corporate programs as a show. It is a practice, a lifestyle that achieves goals and drives high performance. It is obvious that many organizations do not understand how to practice this, and this explains why in Deloitte’s insights, while an overwhelming majority of organizations of 71% aspire to have an “inclusive” culture in the future, survey results have found that actual maturity levels are very low. To actively practice inclusivity, there must be an entire cultural shift with the people.
Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon discuss what an inclusive culture looks like. First, there is the stage where diversity is a problem to be managed, with actions generally a consequence of external mandates or undertaken as a response to complaints. Progressing to stage 2, the value of diversity starts to be recognized, with this stage often characterized by grassroots initiatives (such as employee resource groups), a calendar of events, and other HR-led activities (such as mentoring). An advancement in cultural inclusion then sees leaders addressing barriers of inclusion till the point where diversity and inclusion are fully integrated into employee and other business processes such as innovation and customer experience.
COMMIT AND CHARTER THE COURSE
Diversity and inclusion should not be reduced to an event or a program. It should be incorporated in the organizational structure and practised judiciously from the top to grassroot. Leaders must embrace the reality and equip their people to charter this course if they want to experience a change in outcome. Remember it is not simply about getting a diverse demography but making room for diverse thinking and contributions that drive creativity, innovation and advancement in today’s global village.
When we come to the point of understanding and acting through common drive, we as leaders will gain influence to impact our communities and achieve goals not through broken human connections and misunderstandings, but through a unified and inclusive workforce.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017. She has also been featured on CNN.
She can be reached on email@example.com and @dzigbordi across all social media platforms.