Too much Diversity Training...

inclusiveleadership How are you developing your inclusive culture?

...not enough Inclusion Development

I had the pleasure recently of delivering our updated Diversity and Inclusion workshop to an audience of Human Resource professionals. We approach diversity and inclusion as a leadership development process as opposed to a program event. Introducing this through the workshop we realized this approach was new to many of the participants. It’s been known for ages that leadership training, while important, does not change attitudes and behaviors in and by itself. Millions of dollars have been spent to develop organizational leaders only to see little or no return because it was merely training disguised as development.

In a simple formula we use in our coaching practice, we discuss the moving parts of leadership development; Skills, Knowledge and Attitude. We define skill as what to do and how to do something relevant to the job. For leaders, skills (hard and soft skills) such as how to set and achieve goals and how to listen are some we regularly encounter. Knowledge is knowing when and where to effectively apply these new skills. For leaders, this can only be accomplished in the context of their role as a leader and repeatedly practiced over time. Attitude is the want, or desire, to leverage the skills and knowledge to advance the organization. Without the want, the how, what, when and where doesn’t work well!

It is also one of the key reasons why the business community still struggles with inclusion. Many would proudly hold up their diversity training programs as evidence their leaders are doing the right thing. However, history tells us the hard truth that a one-hour workshop done once a year (maybe twice if an event happens) on the importance of diversity did nothing to improve the overall attitudes towards diversity. Unfortunately, most of the training workshops did little to speak of the real issue, that of inclusion. I recently responded to a LinkedIn post where one of the posts stated senior leaders are afraid of diversity. My reply was they were not afraid of diversity, they are afraid of inclusion!

There is a Verna Miles quote that aptly explains the difference between diversity and inclusion that goes, “Diversity is getting asked to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” So, if inclusion is the desired end result, how do leaders develop the right attitudes towards inclusion to create an inclusive culture? The answer is simple, get serious about developing the leader’s attitudes around inclusiveness by rethinking the challenge as an event and reframe it as a process. Without an attitude of inclusion, the organization stews in the status quo of its own comfort zone!

We train skills and develop attitudes. We define attitude as one’s habit of thought which means leaders have a choice of how to think about inclusion. Research suggests the strength of the attitude-behavior connection lies in how strongly a person relates to the new attitude. Because every leader is a product of their past, the challenge is helping leaders understand the importance of inclusion that transcends their past programming. This can only be done through an effective leadership development process where inclusion, among other leadership skills, knowledge and attitudes are reinforced in the context of the organizational environment and culture.

Why do we care? In her 2016 book, “Which Two Heads are Better Than One? How Diverse Teams Create Breakthrough Ideas and Make Smarter Decisions”, Juliet Bourke highlights the potential impact of an inclusive organizational culture. Organizations with inclusive cultures are twice as likely to meet and exceed financial goals and six times more innovative and agile. Especially in these challenging times, what organization couldn’t benefit from those multiples?

How are you developing your inclusive culture? If you don’t know, we can help!

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Monday, 30 November 2020