By Amy S. Tolbert, PH.D., CSP
Change is a messy business.
- The changes to incorporate diversity and inclusion into an organization can be even more so.
- The brutal fact is that about 70% of all change initiatives fail. Why? Because in most of the cases organizational-change failures are driven by … negative employee attitudes and unproductive management behavior.
The most general lesson to be learned from the many studies is that organizational culture is the most common barriers.
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
— George Bernard Shaw
For some, embracing diversity and inclusion is a huge change. It is a change in the way they are thinking, or even the way in which they live their lives. It may be a change in the culture of an organization.
In her book, “Reversing the Ostrich Approach to Diversity: Pulling your head out of the sand,” Amy Tolbert, Ph.D., CSP describes five basic concepts regarding diversity and inclusion:
- Stop Walking On Eggshells: Define and use positive confrontation. Relationships are built, and you can influence how they are developed and shaped. Yet, there is often a lot of energy-draining, stutter-stepping going on that hinders relationship development with those of different cultures or abilities. You can stop walking on eggshells by taking risks, appropriately confronting difficult situations, and managing conflict. Once you do, you will benefit from strong, healthy relationships that can help you reach both personal and professional goals.
- I’m Okay, But “They” Need Help: Why should I change? There are rewards for implementing personal change. However, change is unlikely without identifying those benefits and making a conscious choice to implement the changes needed to acquire them. You’ll learn about and use the head, heart, and hand model to help make you more aware of the things you say and do. This model emphasizes that, in every situation, you choose your response. By recognizing your ability to change outcomes by making different response choices, you can begin to experience the benefits of those changes.
- Help Others Matter: Unleash the power of diversity. You are either included or excluded by others, which causes you to feel and behave in certain ways. You also include or exclude others. Individuals who feel they are being excluded often respond with less motivation and productivity. You have the power to change that response by choosing words and actions that make them feel they matter.
- Broaden Your World View: See things as they are not as you are. All of us have biases, prejudices, and stereotypical ideas of others; we are all ethnocentric. It’s part of being human. However, not admitting to these negative social forces damages your relationships with others, the bottom line, and your potential to advance along your career path.
- Which Way Out of the Desert: Progress is made with just one step. Take one tiny step forward. Take another. How about one more? Before long you’ll discover you’re a long way from where you started. When it comes to making changes the important thing is to just start. Risk-taking and moving into discomfort will move you away from a limiting view of the world and toward a broader, more enriching one. The goal is to overcome unconscious biases.
When a corporation embarks on a diversity and inclusion initiative, it is important that any changes are embraced at all levels. While senior leadership must do more than give lip service to the effort, middle managers can be the drivers. So too can other leaders.
How Middle Managers Can Foster Inclusion
Middle management should be made aware of their responsibilities to the business on the issue of diversity and inclusion prior to getting them involved.
- Provide diversity and inclusion training / resource groups
- Measure management effectiveness through a diversity and inclusion self-assessment profile
- Tie diversity and inclusion to corporate goals/initiatives/mission
- Set expectations (and consequences) in terms of performance
- Create competition through measured goals
- Make sure middle managers are involved and driving the diversity and inclusion process.
Source: Diversity Inc., “Engaging Middle Management in Diversity and Inclusion,” Michael Nam, Jan. 22, 2016
This article was originally posted at ECCO International.
Amy S. Tolbert, PH.D., CSP is a faculty member of LEADERSHIP USA.