You have two books available. One is called SPEAK MILK. DRINK WINE. BECOMING A GLOBAL CITIZEN and the other is called DIVERSITY, INCLUSION & CULTURE INTEGRATION: LESSONS OF AN EXPAT. Are both centered around your life in Italy? Can you give us a synopsis of both books?
SPEAK MILK was the first edition of the book and DIVERSITY, INCLUSION & CULTURE INTEGRATION is the second edition. Both contain the same content, but the second book was re-positioned to be more aligned with the Mergers & Acquisitions clients and Global Mobility clients I was serving at Ernst & Young as a Principal there and helps readers to be connected with the relationship between becoming a global citizen in their personal lives and the importance of inclusive leadership and respect for diversity in our business lives.
Why did you write it and what does it mean to you?
I originally wrote it because what we were experiencing as American Expats in Italy was so powerful that I didn’t want to forget, and I didn’t want my children to forget, what we experienced. What was happening to us was profound, joyous, sad, confusing and empowering all at the same time. Later, after I actually developed a cross-cultural business optimization model based, in part, on those lessons, I realized that the book was actually a wonderful metaphorical voice for what I was trying to accomplish professionally.
Why are diversity and inclusion so important?
I think first we have to define the difference between diversity and inclusion. In a business setting, diversity simply refers to having a proportional mix of diverse talent, whether that be gender, race, sexual identity, cultural differences or a diverse way of looking at life and business challenges. Inclusion refers to what happens when we have diverse people working together and to what extent our leaders include, enable and empower diverse people to bring their best selves to work.
What happens when we ignore the fundamentals of inclusive leadership in our everyday life, business, etc?
One of the things that happens, is that we increase risk in our organization. We increase the probability that just one point of view will be represented in decision-making thus leaving our organizations more vulnerable to bad decision making. We also increase the probability of a lawsuit brought by someone who feels that their personal dignity and their professional achievement is being marginalized. Just as important, if not more so, we cripple innovation by leaving people with the impression that they have no voice or that their ideas will not be supported and advanced in the organization. In an age of intense competition, where great ideas and speed to market are imperative, we just can’t afford not to enable and empower diverse ideation.
Are there examples that you can give us as to why you know that inclusion can lead to better business results and if so, why does it seem that so many companies don’t create adequate budget or resources to make sure that diverse talent is, in fact, “included?”
There are many examples as well as many studies that support this concept. Let’s start, though, with common sense. Let’s take the gender talent pool alone for the sake of simplification, and agree that the talent pool of women in this decade is approximately 50% of the total available talent,. It then defies common sense not to explore and remedy any trend or evidence that a non-inclusive environment impedes diverse voices that would otherwise speak out to signal risk as well as to share ideas related to new products, services, systems and processes. An anonymous employee engagement survey that asks the right questions will easily yield whether the organization has challenges with maintaining an inclusive environment. The remedy can be more complex, and the tendency to throw training, tests and rules at the problem has not lead to any meaningful organizational shifts. Many of us who started our D&I careers on the legal or regulatory side and then moved in-house or to consulting on the business side are coming to the realization that we need to focus on “Engagement” (mentoring and coaching for example), “Contact” (cross-functional and diverse teams, projects and activities) and “Social Accountability” (diversity tasks forces, oversight regarding performance reviews and promotion and other means of decision quality control).
Given the methodology you are developing at Lead Inclusively and the methodology you developed, BMIA (Business Model of Intercultural Analysis) — a cross-cultural business model used by enterprise organizations globally, as well as the Big4 consulting firms — give us a snapshot of how the government would score under a Trump presidency, i.e. one with walls, deportation, religious bans, as opposed to a Clinton presidency that emphasizes the importance of respecting all races, religions, genders and points of view?
Well, rather than answer that in a politically charged manner, let me focus for now on policies that influence global diplomacy and create a stable global market place and/or accelerated global growth. Donald Trump has clearly demonstrated that there is a faction of Americans who are fearful enough of the violence and terrorism that has been progressively escalating, globally, to vote for someone who stands for exclusion of any individual who does not fit a narrow criteria. The majority of the country, however, still seems to align with the foundational core of democratic principles. That’s good for global business because we obviously can’t achieve fiscal prosperity with global partners, clients, investors and stakeholders in the supply chain who we reject as inferior and/or who dislike or are fearful of us.
As we are all painfully aware, even within our own country, we are divided by culture and race and show little understanding of one another. Based on your and your family’s experiences living outside the country, what guidance would you give parents to better teach their children that there are different ways to approach friendship, collegiality, food, traditions, politics, work, religion, gender roles and generational influences?
Great question because I’ve always said that global-minded executives begin as global-minded citizens and there is no greater way to become one than for that mind-set to be cultivated by the family and supported in the formative years at grade school. By the time we enter the workforce, if we don’t have that general ethos that others are not better or worse than we are, but just different, it’s a very difficult “unlearning” process before we can even begin to move the needle on leadership behaviors that will support an inclusive organizational environment. Not everyone can pick up and move their children to another country to give their children a first-hand cross-cultural experience, of course. There is so much we can do, though, right in our own backyards to make sure that we are raising children who demonstrate tolerance, curiosity and understanding of differences. We can bring up current events at the dinner table to talk about how a particular event demonstrated tolerance or intolerance. We can share our values with our children to influence their thinking early in life. We can expose them to people, events, music and traditions that are different from our own heritage, pointing out the benefits, joy and interest they evoke. Nature abhors a vacuum and absent direct communication about this issue, children will simply absorb what experience in their environment (through peers, the media, etc.).
Tell us about “pazienza” and how living in Italy taught you what that meant. You have some wonderful anecdotes in your book that illustrate the meaning. How do you balance the demands of running your company, Lead Inclusively, Inc. while at the same time embracing your own pazienza? Give us some guidance.
Pazienza is the Italian word for patience and it is a word I heard every day of my life while living in Italy, multiple times a day. I’m guessing that it began as a word the Italians used to respond to many of life’s daily annoyances like excessive bureaucracy for example, but I think it also stands for tolerance, generally, in the sense that there are few things that are worth getting really worked up about. If your family is healthy and safe, you have a roof over your head and clean food and water, the rest of it is just really extra. I do have a demanding life, including building my second business and supporting my now college-bound kids at this stage of their lives as well as trying to create a balanced life for myself. I find that beyond the boundaries of Italy and back into life in the United States, it’s very easy for me to revert to my more workaholic style, where I measure each day by how “productive” I have been. I do have to remind myself to focus on how lucky I am to have so much “extra” in my life. I live in beautiful San Diego, I am surrounded by family and friends who love me, I have a wonderful education and career. So anytime I lose my “pazienza,” I close my eyes and remember all those blessings, and since I can no longer take a walk around the Italian piazza where I lived, I simply take a bike ride around the bay, watch the sail boats or setting sun, and feel grateful for all the different people who have contributed to making my life so joyful.