Talent Development 7 Cultural Awareness and Inclusion

August 16, 2020

The topics of cultural awareness and inclusion are part of the ATD CPTD Certification model. Basically, this involves skill in integrating diversity and inclusion principles in talent development strategies and initiatives.

I had a recent wake up call on this topic because I had just finished a leadership course but failed to create enough discussion on the social unrest that occurred in the summer of 2020. I received a comment to that effect on a feedback report.

Since then, I have gone back and modified my course in several ways to elevate the topics of equity and inclusion. Here are six of the points I have added.

Point 1 – Diversity is an Asset

When you have a mixture of cultures and differing opinions, the team can come up with more creative solutions to problems. The ability to see issues from different angles enhances the quality of dialog as long as all individuals show respect and trust for each other.

At work, I made it a point to promote people so that my team was highly diverse. Of the (roughly 40) supervisors and managers reporting to me, they were 1) more women than men, 2) roughly 30% racially different from me 3) of different age groups and with diverse cultural upbringings. I always enjoyed the diversity of my teams because we were able to see things from different angles. We listened to each other and avoided a monoculture in my area.

In nature, a monoculture is a weakened state. If you plant the same crop on a plot of land year after year, it will become susceptible to disease and produce lower yields.

Point 2 – Silence is being Complicit

Discussions that include individual differences can become uncomfortable, so many leaders tend to avoid them. That is a mistake. If you try to ignore the topics of equity and inclusion, you actually become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Dialog is essential because it leads to higher levels of awareness. The most dangerous part of bias is unconscious bias, so it is essential to discuss differences, and be receptive when others point out how you are showing bias.

Point 3 – There is no Fence Anymore

You must take a stand and declare your posture on fairness and equity. It is not possible to sit on the fence and let others argue the fine points of racial injustice, or any other form of prejudice.

Point 4 – Do not say “I Understand”

There is no way that a person from a privileged class can understand what it is like to be from a disadvantaged group. The person from a disadvantaged segment will have endured far more pain and feelings of inadequacy every day of his or her life than you can possibly imagine.
Recognize the emotional load that others carry, but do not patronize by saying “I understand.” You don’t.

Point 5 – Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Many of the discussions on equity and inclusion will be challenging and difficult. Both sides of any issue will make false steps along the journey to understanding.

Recognize and factor in the difficulty of the challenge.

Point 6 – Don’t Hire with the Idea of Getting Someone to “Fit In.”

It is a mistake to bring in people who are just like the rest of us. Always seek to hire people with differing points of view and backgrounds. Note: that does not mean you should seek to hire people who will be disruptive or abrasive. Rather seek to diversify the points of view for various people on the team.

These are just six points out of thousands that could be discussed, but they do demonstrate that I am trying to address the issue of cultural awareness, equality, and inclusion more consciously in my leadership work.

Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders.


Hiring the Right People

September 3, 2017

Selecting the right people to bring into the organization is undoubtedly one of the most critical functions any supervisor has to perform. Bringing in a problem employee can set an operation back for months.

Most organizations have a set hiring process that needs to be followed, but normally the supervisor has a lot of latitude as to who gets selected. In making the best hiring choice, I believe it really matters what kind of function your group is called upon to perform.

First let me describe the most typical supervisory situation, where the job is a production function, like running an assembly line or a packaging operation.

In this situation, you want the group of individuals working as a team and with the ability to swap workers to different stations as the situation requires it.

It is a good idea to select people who will blend in well with the existing group from the outset. Select people who are similar in outlook and demographics so there will be less need to play referee down the road.

Have a specific program of cross training workers on each function, so there is maximum flexibility for backfill in case of absence or to accommodate peak loads in one part of the process.

The ideal set up for an assembly line operation is if each person can perform any of the functions equally well as another individual.

The logic is quite different if you happen to be supervising a group of people who have jobs with highly creative requirements, cognitive skills, or customer/supplier interfaces.

In this case, diversity is superior to a homogeneous group philosophy, and yet the temptation is strong to try and find people who match perfectly with the existing team.

I often hear a phrase that makes me cringe coming from the lips of these managers: “We want to hire someone who will ‘fit into’ our group.”

A lot of effort is expended in screening candidates with personality tests, multiple interviews, even role plays in order to determine that the new hire will be similar in thinking to the existing team. I think this is a big mistake, if the work to be done requires a high degree of mental capability.

It is often the maverick or even rebel among a group of people who comes up with the genius solutions to problems or creates entirely new streams of income.

When we seek to have everyone “fit in” we lose the potential for diversity of thought that is a major part of the creative process.

When creativity is a significant aspect of the work, you do not want a team of people where everybody looks, thinks, and acts the same. A room full of clones may look reassuring to the boss, but it is not the pathway to peak performance, unless you are running a production line operation as described earlier.

Obviously, it is a good idea to avoid putting a person on the team who is a total misfit, is disruptive, or always brings up a contrary point of view, creating dissent. Instead, try to foster a mixture of ideas and points of view when hiring new team members.

As the supervisor, you need to pay special attention to the team dynamics and interplay during the time when a new person is settling in.

The team will eventually morph into a way of operating that takes the newcomer into account, but it may take quite a while, and you may not be happy with the new equilibrium if you let it happen naturally.

My rule of thumb is to double your interface time with the team when they are assimilating a new person. Doing this teambuilding is your best way to have a good result.

Recognize that each time you bring a new person onto an existing team, there is an adjustment period where new team norms are established. It is the old familiar Bruce Tuckman Model (1965) of forming, storming, norming, and performing that always occurs when there is a change in personnel on the team.

Expect this pattern and help the team work through the phases efficiently. When the team expresses frustration with the storming phase, point out that it is perfectly normal for a team to go through and ask the group for patience. Point out that when the team figures out what rules they want to play by, the stress will go down again.

The first few weeks, or even days, are critical to bringing a new member onto an existing team. I will deal with some tips for the onboarding process next week.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Challenge “Samers”

July 8, 2012

I often hear a phrase coming from the lips of hiring managers that makes me cringe. “We want to hire someone who will fit into our group.” A lot of effort is expended in screening candidates with personality tests, multiple interviews, even role plays in order to determine that the new hire will be similar in thinking to the existing team. I think this is a big mistake.

It is often the maverick or even outcast among a group of people who comes up with the genius solutions to problems or creates entirely new streams of income. When we seek to have everyone “fit in” we lose the potential for diversity of thought that is a major part of the creative process.

My leadership team was blessed with a mixture of line managers from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicity, and gender. These were in a constant state of flux because all were growing and moving in their careers, creating slots for others.

Often, it was the minority representation that brought the group up short when we were off base. They would help us realize our gut perspectives were not to be trusted. They would point out when we slipped into a dangerous “group think” or “monoculture” mentality.

In “The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership,” Steven Sample described it this way:

“A highly homogeneous organization is as susceptible to disease and infestations as a large biological monoculture. Every farmer knows that when he and his neighbors plant tens of thousands of contiguous acres in a particular variety of wheat year after year, that variety will soon become vulnerable to new diseases or new strains of insects. Ecosystems that are biologically diverse are much tougher and more resilient in the long run than monocultures, and so it is with organizations that contain a wide variety of people working toward a common goal.”

It was important to have a variety of people on the team and critical to listen when they pointed out our naiveté. It kept us growing and searching for a greater appreciation of diversity. Although no group ever fully understands the issue, at least if we embrace diversity, we can be a little less blind.

Obviously, it is a good idea to avoid putting a person on the team who is a total misfit, is disruptive, or always brings up a contrary point of view creating dissent. Instead, try to foster a mixture of ideas and points of view by following the actions:

1. If personality tests are used to screen candidates, seek to place people with different style patterns.

2. During interviews, try to determine the level of independent thinking while also determining an appropriate level of teamwork.

3. When asking about prior experiences and background, put high value on skills that will add new dimensions to the existing team rather than map closely with existing team skills.

4. Do not look for clones in terms of demographic and ethnic characteristics. Always seek to increase the variety of the team where possible.

5. Seek to make strategic moves of people from one team to another that will add diversity of thought to both groups.

6. Continually reinforce the idea that we can gain our greatest strength from diversity.

Building a strong team means not going the comfortable route where we hire and place people just like us. That is a formula for mediocrity.