Be a LEADer in Diversity & Inclusion

4 Things You Can Start Doing Today!

As a HR professional for nearly 25 years, I’ve always supported diversity & inclusion (D&I) efforts, especially at work. However, it wasn’t until the Summer of 2009 that I understood how I needed to do more to build my D&I leadership competency for work and beyond. If you’re interested in learning more about my personal journey, please read to the end of this article. But first, let me share the 4 things I’ve done that you may find useful:

(1) LEAD and be open to different cultural norms and perspectives

Diversity training has become a minefield to navigate for organizations over the years. If you’re very “black & white” about differences in people, you’re sure to alienate whites—who can feel unfairly blamed for sins of their forefathers. If you tiptoe around the subject, nothing seems to change. Whites who tend to be at the top of most corporate structures don’t see the “business case” for increasing diversity in the organization.

For me, diversity became personal when I recognized that people I valued and respected were not gaining the attention they and their message deserved. As a white man, I recognize that I’m heard differently in this conversation. So, I sought to intentionally investigate topics like white male culture, white privilege, and unintentional intolerance. As I dug deeper and understood my own background and perspective better, I learned more about other cultures and other perspectives…


(2) EXAMINE every policy, practice, or procedure to see if they may be inadvertently perpetuating unfair outcomes

Many times in organizations—especially large ones like the one where I work—promotion and selection practices evolve over time. If your organization is like ours, managers have a lot of discretion and flexibility in how they establish their teams and promote employees. While flexibility is good and helpful, if left unattended, it could have unintended consequences over time. We have recently learned that some employees intuitively understand how to navigate our organization culture and “system”—and they know their career path options. Other employees—especially newer ones without formal mentors—have described their frustration with not understanding our policies, practices, and procedures for promotion.

This revelation led us to re-examine how we make key assignments and determine promotions. We are making improvements to our “system” to increase transparency, so employees will clearly understand the options in front of them and can determine their career path choices.


(3) ACT within your sphere of influence

The more I learn about systemic diversity issues and institutional racism (“racism without racists”—where systems produce unfair outcomes), the more overwhelmed I become. Some of the issues seem so daunting…so challenging…that it’s difficult to see the “problem being solved.” However, I do recognize that I have influence over people at work and my network of friends on a regular basis…and there are things I can do within my own sphere of influence.

My personal sphere of influence includes making management decisions about selections, promotions, and recognition of our HR team members. I also have influence over decisions related to key personnel in other organizations. In the community, I have influence with friends and family. My career has also afforded me opportunity to speak to school groups and university students. The most effective method of influence I’ve found related to diversity & inclusion leads me to the next tip…


(4) DIALOGUE to share perspectives

The way I think about Diversity & Inclusion is that each of us has a unique perspective…and we all need to share that perspective with one another. It’s kind of like putting a puzzle together. If any of us holds onto our puzzle piece and does not engage in dialogue, the picture is not complete. To do this effectively, you must start by doing your own work. If you take the first three tips to heart, you’ll be ready to dialogue with others to share perspectives.

If you’re a white guy like me, it’s very important that you engage in these conversations. Too many times, we sit back and assume someone else will take the lead in diversity and inclusion conversations. That does not help our organizations…and it doesn’t help you be a LEADer in Diversity & Inclusion.

Click here to learn more about Brady’s Journey – “Diversity & Inclusion Incompetency”