Dear Fortune 1000 CEO:
Do you have a few ideas on how to improve cross-cultural communications and enhance cultural diversity and inclusion here at the office?
Congratulations! You are just like everyone else in line with you at Starbuck’s. Great ideas alone do not create a culturally diverse and inclusive community at work. I have several hundred ideas a month on what we might do. Soy latte please!
In the “new now”, cultural diversity is all the rage amongst your peers. I find that too often you lose sight of the fact that developing a diverse workplace involves real relationships between actual human beings who do not look like you or live in your zip code. Diversity days, posters in the break room and ethnic oriented lunches have become “comfort food” for far too many people in your position who claim that diversity is indeed a priority. It is similar to popcorn at a movie theater. Granted, it is a start but do not get it twisted like you’re something special because you had a cultural awareness week last month. It requires much more than you just sitting on the floor with us eating General Tso’s Chicken.
It is so easy to become enamored with the number of events and committees we have so you can broadcast just how much you are doing to the media. You do it as if this is something to brag about, but I have yet to feel a difference. I have not seen any meaningful metrics or milestones to measure the impact of your efforts.
Building a diverse workplace on an island is okay if your name is Gilligan. Otherwise, I might suggest that you spend some time each day, week, month, and year actually getting to know some of the folks that work for and with you. Actually, do yourself a favor and make sure you are comfortable in your own skin before you attempt to sell yourself and these initiatives to the rest of the community.
Today is your lucky day as I am going to give you a nice kick in the rear (with love) to get you started:
1. Amongst all the “noise” at the office, something as small as showing up when you say you will or saying “thank you” matters more than some might have the courage to tell you. It is easy to discount the small stuff in your race for more, more, more… Your mission is to create a culture where everyone feels valued and important. The little stuff does matter.
2. Take some time to understand and work with all sorts of people who cross your radar screen and many who do not. This will require that you get out of your office and have conversations with folks outside your inner circle. Make people feel important while educating them on what you hope to accomplish but also spending some time to learn about their goals and aspirations. Ask insightful questions, listen, learn, grow, and observe daily what people are doing, reading, and sharing. Is it too much to ask to be genuinely interested in someone else? I hope not for your sake.
3. Never underestimate another person’s influence or ability (regardless of their title) to help you build a more diverse and inclusive community. You never know where “that” relationship may take the group. I learned this one the hard way. Take an interest in others and they will take an interest in you.
4. Form a network of peers and mentors that will provide you with unfiltered feedback about your plans, messaging, next steps etc… Feedback is a gift so please be open to it! Mark Twain said it best, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt”.
Keep smiling and do not forget that it is about progress not perfection. If you stop learning today, you will stop leading tomorrow.
Best of luck as we are counting on you!