Diversity and Inclusion and Leadership

Today I had the opportunity to meet with one of my VP’s of HR.  Initially scheduled for 15 minutes, we ended up chatting for an hour.  I had expected the meeting to be a simple introduction about my role in the organization and where I could support him in regards to sourcing.  Little did I know, he was more interested in learning about who I am, and how I could help him in regards to Diversity and Inclusion.

We ended up talking about my studies and the potential of doing work to help communicate the values of Diversity and Inclusion; specifically how to find and hire diverse individuals for senior positions in the company.  I attempted, in a few sentences to explain Heifetz definition of leadership: the mobilization of people (in this case the VP’s and director’s of the company) to solve an adaptive challenge (a changing and diverse workforce and yet, behaviors of hiring homogenous individuals).  When the VP asked how I would propose to address this challenge, I explained that the work needed to be given back to the people [effected by the problem].  Adaptive challenges, as Heifetz explains, cannot be solved by a lone leader or even a few, but group relations work that requires clarifying aspirations and changing values, beliefs, roles, relationships and approaches to work.  The first step would be to understand (or deconstruct) what the values, beliefs, concerns, goals, etc. of the VP’s and director’s are in order to understand what specifically needed to be changed.  My use of the word “deconstruct” seemed to strike a chord with the VP; he was concerned we would have to deal with each person’s “issues,” which he didn’t want to do.  Nor did he want to come up with a generic, bland message to try to “sell” Diversity and Inclusion.

What I failed to point out, was that often times, people within a group share similar ideas and feelings without realizing others feel the same way.  We wouldn’t need to “deconstruct” each person, but rather the factions that existed, whom have competing definitions of the problem.  This is where perception comes into play.  We’re all looking at the same situation, but we all perceive it differently.  And as factions form, shared perceptions are created for each.  The trick is to figure out these perspectives, and reframe them to align – until the factions are speaking the same language.  Once we realize we all want the same thing, can we develop a solution to address the problem.

I told the VP, I wouldn’t be able to answer his question in a single sitting.  But that I would think it over and help in any way I can to support him and the D&I Manager as they communicate and promote the program.

So expect more to come…

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