Over the course of this four-part series, you understand diversity is much more than a buzzword, but it has considerable (and much deserved) corporate attention.
More and more companies realize the huge impact workplace diversity (when done right) can have on corporate bottom lines and product innovation.
So, diversity and inclusion can create tremendous value for an organization and no one wants to mess it up. Because unfortunately, there’s a massive stigma around diversity done wrong.
For organizations looking to create diversity and inclusion initiatives, the key to success is to be intentional. This one element, if forgotten, will derail all your diversity and inclusion efforts.
It sounds simple, but a lack of intentionality leaves a gaping void in any plan or initiative. You need to have a clear rationale, plan, and outcome of the initiative you put in place. And it’s imperative that you communicate your intentions throughout the process with your teams.
How to manage diversity efforts with intention.
Being intentional means to be purposeful with your words and actions. As you manage or experience diversity efforts inside of your organization, being purposeful with both word and deed are critical, and any misstep can destroy your efforts. Below, we share six intentional practices to adapt to be more intentional with your diversity efforts.
1. Practice self-awareness.
Being intentional is as much about how you communicate as it is what you communicate. Be intentional with how you relate to yourself during this process and maintain a constant awareness of how you’re (personally) managing the changes within your organization.
Use your self-awareness to communicate authentically with people, allowing others to witness, understand, and perhaps support your process.
2. Practice getting to know people different from you.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Inviting diversity into your space when you’re not accustomed to it can be confronting and uncomfortable. Acknowledge the discomfort but practice engaging with people who believe, look, and speak differently than you both in professional and personal settings. Believe it or not, the longer you intentionally practice uncomfortable new things, the faster those new things will become comfortable for you.
3. Practice empathy.
Creating diversity and inclusion inside of an organization requires a huge organizational cultural shift. Discomfort will be common, but not just for you; everyone will be uncomfortable. So practice empathy and compassion for yourself and others. Allowing yourself to empathize with differences as you experience discomfort will ultimately allow you to practice empathy when you have differing opinions as members of the same team.
4. Practice active listening.
Be intentional about your listening (and speaking). Listen to people with the sole purpose to understand, not respond. Allow people, in all segments of your life, to be heard before you respond to their questions, thoughts, or concerns. Being able to allow your teammates to express their ideas entirely creates an atmosphere of safety and acceptance that will allow your team to generate ideas and create innovative team-driven solutions to problems more quickly.
5. Practice Intentional Conflict
Diversity or not, accept that you will not always agree with your colleagues. But as you practice self-awareness, compassion, and active listening to these skills will lend themselves well to support your intentional conflict or constructive disagreements. High performing teams test ideas in the fire of deliberate conflict. They tear ideas to the skeleton to determine if they will work and they’re not afraid to respectfully disagree with their colleagues to create the most innovative team solution.
6. Practice Transparency
When done authentically, all of the above practices will drastically support, but as a leader, the absolute most important practice of your diversity and inclusion plan is your ability to communicate your intentions and to follow-through on your commitments. In other words, be transparent and practice integrity. Once your team can trust your ability to honor your words and know that you will share your intentions for the future, they will become your biggest supporters.
Your diversity and inclusion plan or strategy relies on your ability to be intentional with the plan and to have a clear rationale, strategy, and outcome for each part of the plan as well. Most importantly though, your ability to be intentional with your mannerisms, your words, and your actions as you collaborate and communicate with your team will determine the success of your diversity and inclusion endeavors.