Leadership that fosters inclusion and innovation in the workplace
Good organizational leadership can be difficult to achieve. We all have so much going on that the ‘Inclusive Leadership Best Practices’ manual isn’t always top of mind. With that said, many leaders have developed habits in management and communication that over time can alienate team members and corrode their team culture.
Here are some two rarely-practiced ways that leaders can actively avoid negative management habits and leverage Inclusive Leadership in a way that empowers team members, harnesses collective team capital and boosts innovation.
Express genuine appreciation for all ideas.
Innovation thrives in an environment where team members are able to contribute diverse ideas freely, without feeling ego or fear about the outcome. Despite the best of intentions, many leaders tend to express appreciation only for ideas that they perceive as having a high value. This tendency can actually cause team members to feel pressure about having the “right” idea before bringing it to the table, which can slow the innovative process. As a leader, remember that every idea contributed by a team member is an opportunity to encourage future ideas. Even if the idea presented isn’t one that will work, your first response should be, “Thank you for that idea, I appreciate you thinking out of the box. Keep that up.” In other words, place value on the person, rather than the idea, and make team members feel positively about bringing future thoughts to the table. Not acknowledging the thought, effort, or excitement of a team member risks alienating them, discouraging them from sharing future ideas, and thus squandering future potential opportunities. Simply acknowledging the effort, expressing excitement for the idea, and transparently explaining potential barriers and next steps can go a long way.
Never forget about the quieter voices.
Eliciting participation from the quieter voices ona team makes those individuals feel more comfortable and engaged. Over time, this feeling empowers them to actively ideate and openly approach leadership with future ideas. Beyond shy or introverted team members, in many workplaces being the ‘only’ (i.e. only woman, racial minority, LGBTQ etc.) on the team can also make some people feel less invited to actively engage and share ideas. Leaders that effectively notice and actively elicit the quieter voices, when the proper opportunities arise, are more likely to bring out the potential for innovation on their teams.
What do you think?
Can you recall a specific experience when you as a leader were able to leverage inclusion to encourage innovation on your team? Perhaps you have been on the receiving end of a particularly inclusive leader’s encouragement (or perhaps you’ve experienced the opposite!) Share your experiences in the comments below. We would love to hear your thoughts.
Six months have passed since Governor Jerry Brown signed California Senate Bill 826 into law. As you likely have heard, this law mandates all publicly held companies in the state of California (where I am proud and fortunate to reside) to have at least one woman on their Board of Directors by the end of 2019.
Allow me to provide some history and stats behind the California mandate for women on boards
This new step toward workplace gender parity has a particularly relevant and personal significance to me. Depending on the public perception of this new law, I stand to either gain or lose by this legislation. As an accomplished female entrepreneur, litigator and corporate partner, now currently the Founder and CEO of a technology-enabled Diversity and Inclusionconsultancy, I have a few things to say about the public discourse and debate of this issue.
This law is hardly the first of its kind. As a former employment law litigator, I vividly recall asimilar debate surrounding Affirmative Action: a saga that, for the sake of brevity, essentially established the unconstitutionality of formally legislating ‘anti-discrimination’. Detractors had plenty to say: How could the government possibly force a race or gender filter on objective processes like job applications and college admissions criteria? How could that be fair or equitable? Isn’t it just reverse discrimination? And what about complacency? Surely mandated diversity will eliminate any incentive for underrepresented minorities to strive for excellence if they could use this criterion to gain an “unfair” advantage!
We are hearing similar lines of reasoning surrounding CA SB–826. In hopes of spurring healthy, respectful conversation, I’m adding my voice to the mix to share three compelling reasons we don’t need to apologize for “legislated inclusion.”
We are responding to a history of legislated exclusion
Like many women who have been forced to advocate for themselves their entire life, I feel I sometimes sound like a broken record. However, I strongly believe this discussion begins with knowledge of the extended history of “legislated discrimination”before we can discuss the idea of “legislated anti-discrimination.”
So first, let’s acknowledge the fact that we have been plagued by legislated discrimination in this country for decades. For example, by law, women could not own property until 1900, did not possess the right to vote until 1920, anddid not have the right to independently own a credit card till 1970. Legislated discrimination has also plagued African Americans.
We must also be reminded that although slavery was abolished in this country in 1865, women who birthed a mixed-race child faced imprisonment in Maryland until 1955. Schools that hosted black and white students in Virginia faced immediate closure until 958, and Arkansas law required designated whites-only sections in all school buses in 1959. Generally, the Jim Crow era actively suppressed black advocacy and rights and upheld separate but equal doctrine well into the late sixties. All the above laws, terrorized and plagued millions for centuries.
As Simone de Beauvoir said in 1949, “The relation of woman to husband, of daughter to father, of sister to brother, is a relation of [slavery].”So, women of color face the double-barreled challenge of surmounting a history of legislated exclusion on two fronts.
The stats don’t lie; inequality in the workplace still exists and isn’t getting better
The simple argument I espouse is that in a country with a history of legislated discrimination, we need legislated inclusion to accelerate the leveling of the playing field.The World Economic Forum indicates that at the current rate, we won’t achieve global gender parity in the workplace until 2100. In fact, the World Economic Forum even pushed back its timeline between 2016 and 2017 indicating that progress is slowing, and even regressing, in some places. Globally, some 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice in jobs as men, face higher unemployment, lower pay, and more threat to their job status and personal safety according to the UN.
In the US today, despite the fact that women comprise57% of college graduates, we only comprise 31% of entry-level hires, and by the time we reach the C-Suite, women make up less than 20% of the workforce. For women of color, that number is less than 6% and only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women—all arerates that have remained consistent for several years. The percentage of women in STEM (despite continued efforts) has also remained at around 20% for the past 19 years.
In workplace culture, women are excluded from key opportunity and deprived of important relationships that are instrumental to professional development and career advancement. Men are 46% more likely to have a higher-ranking advocate in the office, more likely to receive a raise, promotion, and job. Women more often have toprovide evidence of their competence. Finally, women, many times find themselves excluded from stretch assignment and are many times the only woman on a given team or in a workplace. All the above factors continue to contribute to the exclusion and our collective inability to move towards workplace gender parity.
Those who argue that our society is changing, and the market is indeed naturally working in favor of equality must face the harsh reality that this is, in fact, not significantly the case and the need for formal Diversity and Inclusion initiatives is a necessity.
Legislated inclusion benefits all of us.
I think what scares some is the premise that advancingone person must surely be to the detriment of another person. This perspective ignores the fact that gender is being used as an additional selection criteria, not as a criteria that substitute for competence. There are thousands of qualified female board members and the more parity at board and senior leadership levels, the healthier our organizations.
Inclusion (and subsequent legislation) is the practice of fostering the necessary environment that transforms culture. McKinsey research shows that the most gender-diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to outperform their peers.The moreinclusion, the moreemployee engagement, leadership development, talent development, and innovation in our largest organizations. That is ROI that cannot be ignored or squandered.
Because we are overcoming a history of legislated exclusion, because inequity in the workplace is not improving quickly enough, and because the most diverse, inclusive organizations produce the greatest business results, I am unequivocally unapologetic about this new law. In fact, I am inspired and driven by the opportunities it stands to present for qualified female board candidates.
When signing SB-826 into law, Governor Brown acknowledged his skepticism as to whether this new law would prevail if tested in court but highlighted its importance in sending a message that we cannot patiently stand by and “hope” that gender parity will reach us by the next century.
Connect with me on your Diversity and Inclusion experiences and share your thought-leadership at my upcoming open Office Hours
What do YOU think? I would like to use this article as an opportunity to engage in dialog. My opinion is just one of many and discussing controversial issues in diversity and inclusion in an open and thoughtful manner is indeed the most effective way we will move the needle towards gender and racial parity together.
If you have more interest in this matter and some of the work we are doing in the field of Diversity and Inclusion, I encourage you all to see our Lead Inclusively Whitepaper.
Marshall Goldsmith Endorses a World Leader of Diversity & Inclusion
A self-reflection inspired by a humbling endorsement, By, our Founder and CEO, Denise Hummel.
In Ixtapa Mexico, I had the opportunity to sit down with a colleague and mentor, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, best-selling author, and the nations #1 Executive Coach. My relationship with Marshall started with one of his famous walks, years ago, having been introduced to him by Garry Ridge, a client and the CEO of WD-40. I was in the midst of selling my cross-cultural business and suffering from extreme anxiety as I labored over the decision. Garry told me, “you need to meet Marshall.” That walk changed my life as he coached me to lead with balanced generosity rather than fear; a decision that accelerated my growing career exponentially. Years later, after knowing Marshall for many years,he named me to his 100 Coaches program, his legacy team of coaches throughout the world. As a result, the one–on–one talks have expanded to benefitting from 99 others in a group thatI can only describe as a brain-trust. My gratitude for having Marshall and the MG100s in my life is experienced every day.
It was in Ixtapa that Marshallendorsedme as the “World Leader of Diversity & Inclusion. This from a man who has inspired millions with his leadership and coaching (many among whom are some of the most influential people in the world). The moment was humbling, gratifying, inspiring and unsurprisingly “Marshall.” His generosity in utilizing his gravitas to propel that of the next generation is one of the hallmarks of his brand. When I look back on that first walk, I experience a contrast and mixture of emotions that I can only describe as “Coming Full Circle” and it has given me the impetus to reflect and share my story — where I have come from, where I am now, but most importantly how far we have all come in our collective awareness and application of Diversity and Inclusion, and how much further we can go.
Like many, life for me has been a series of chapters, marked by a thread or theme. For me, the theme is a fascination with how to connect individual differences in the workplace, while preserving the individual uniqueness and gifts of each person. There was the chapter in my life where I leveraged my law degree to advocate for the disabled, litigating and winning the first class-action under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). There was a chapter where I rejected litigation as being part of the “problem,” rather than the “solution” of empowering diverse people, convinced that using my law degree, instead, in international Mergers & Acquisitionswas a way to bridge cross-cultural differences and ultimately built a cross-cultural firm that I sold to Ernst & Young. There was a chapter where I led Culture, Inclusion, and Innovation for EY and was able to truly understand the needs of an enterprise when it came to the ability to recruit, retain and advance diverse employees. Each of these chapters had additional complexities, and like many women, I was also trying to raise children, and in my case, doing soalone.The tumultuous nature of these stages of my career and life have culminated in my transition to the latest most exciting chapterthrough two key realizations.
The first realization was that above everything else, I was not an attorney, I was not a senior leader in enterprise, I was an entrepreneur – someone who was gifted at translating ideation and hypotheses to action with a willingness to fail if necessary, in order to succeed. Someone who was impatient and intolerant of artificial barriers to innovation. Someone who could take the lessons of decades and turn them into “next practices,” rather than relying on historic “best practices” that simply have not worked.
My second realization is that I never quite felt that I belonged when I sold my small, thriving business to a large enterprise consultancy, despite the enormous resources there that could have catapulted the intellectual property I was developing. I felt compelled to move on, once again, to entrepreneurship, starting over with limited resources, once again, rather than utilize my talents in the context of a large, highly successful organization. Lucky for me, this transition has taken me to the most exciting and impactful chapter of my life and career to date, but “unlucky” that my talents couldn’t thrive in an institution that had the power to be a dynamic petri dish, incubating thought-leadership relative to D&I that is transforming organizations and likely will transform our entire working society.
This transition helped me to realize that my experience is pervasive in American and global corporate culture. How many millions of talented professionals like me might be missing out on opportunities because they didn’t fit a rigid, narrow corporate cultural lens? How many opportunities are corporations missing out on by not properly harnessing this talent due to a simple ‘fit’ issue? And how much quicker and more innovatively could society move forward with the ability to transform to an inclusion culture, effectively and sustainably.
It was for these reasons that Ievolved my current firm, Lead Inclusively, Inc., from a niche D&I consulting firm, filled withmanagement consultants, passionate about the impact inclusion can have on the bottom line, to a technology firm leveraging technology and AI to promote inclusive behaviors in a way that has been previously impossible.
I am humbled by the accolades that Marshall has given me and hope to live up to his vision of me, but mostly, I am excited to be a part of this unique moment in time, where we can admit thatthe way we have approached D&I in the past has not worked, that transforming organizational cultures to a culture of inclusion in the future, and that embracing technology to do that supports the majority of leaders who really want to “Lead Inclusively” but have never had the opportunity to see and feel what inclusive leadership looks like, how to apply it and be supported in their journey. Thank you, Marshall, for supporting this dream through your gravitas. Thank you to our clients who believe in what we are trying to accomplish. Thank you to all of you who read this blog to the end.
Our Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, Denise Hummel was interviewed by Scott Osman, CEO of Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches, the mentorship legacy program of world-renowned executive coach, Marshall Goldsmith. In the interview, Ms. Hummel and Mr. Osman discussed the evolving role of Diversity & Inclusion in workplaces across the globe, and the emergence of tech as a viable tool that can be used to leverage Diversity & Inclusion as a driver of sustained culture transformation and improved business results. Scroll down to read a more in-depth summary of the interview, or simply press play below to listen to the whole interview!
The podcast begins with Ms. Hummel sharing her journey from top Civil Rights Attorney in the state of New York to serial entrepreneur, and now a leading expert/thought leader on matters of Diversity & Inclusion. Denise shares her perspective on the current and future state of Diversity & Inclusion and the necessity to move current D&I training beyond the initial awareness stage (e.g. unconscious bias training), and take effective measures to ensure D&I professionals are delivering learning that creates sustainable inclusive culture change within top organizations and ultimately our entire workplace culture as a whole.
The interview transitions to some of the unique work Lead Inclusively is doing to help companies leverage D&I as a driver of business performance, and the variety of exciting new ways technology and Artificial Intelligence have become effective and viable options for larger, less agile, organizations as they attempt to implement new D&I strategies, and training, that help foster sustainable culture transformation within their workplaces at scale.
The interview then concludes with Denise sharing her favorite Marshall Goldsmith anecdote and briefly discussing the 100 Coaches group. If you haven’t already, click play above to listen to the whole interview!