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Diversity in the workplace

Let's look at solving diversity in the workplace by posing five powerful questions. But first, a diversity dilemma…

I want you to imagine you are sitting in the passenger seat of a car, being driven by a very dear friend or a close family member. Your dear friend or close family member is driving above the speed limit. As it happens, the speeding car slams into a person who is crossing the street on a pedestrian crossing. Soon, there is an ambulance and a police car on the spot. The unconscious and critically injured person is taken away on a stretcher to the nearest hospital and the police approach you. Now, pay attention…

The police take you aside and ask you: "We need your help. There is no CCTV camera on this street and we note there are no onlookers or witnesses apart from you. Can you tell us what really happened? Was the driver driving over speed limit? You are our only witness."

You are aware of the fact that the penalty for speeding over limits in this scenario is severe penalty for the driver, maybe imprisonment. The question I have for you is:

Do you tell the police the driver that your close friend or beloved family member was driving above the speed limit, or do you overlook that fact in your response? When this question was asked in a workshop where people from different parts of the world were attending, an interesting pattern emerged. People in some countries said they would overlook sharing the fact that the driver was driving over speed limits. whilst many said they would confess the fact that the driver was driving over speed limits. There were degrees of hesitation and qualifications but broadly they sat in these two camps. What followed was an even more interesting and insightful debate; the people who said they would overlook the fact interpreted the others as ‘They can’t stand up for their friends or family members how will they stand up for their team members?? Can I really trust them?’ The people who said they would share the fact and tell the truth interpreted the others as ‘Liars!! How can I trust them?’ Diversity is a complex topic and means different things to different people. One size does not fit all. Here are 5 questions to ask and fix your diversity strategy. A strategy that delivers real results: Do you need to reframe the word diversity?

It's about respect. It's about teamwork. And, it's way beyond gender, race, sexual orientation and age. We all remember the iceberg model. There is lots that is hidden in a person that makes them an individual and what is important that we recognise and respect those aspects. So, whats the word that will engage your people? And even if you use the word diversity or inclusion make sure they are trained to not just identify but leverage what is beneath the surface. Therein lies the answer of making diversity your organisation’s asset. Are you paying attention to similarities?

Some diversity trainings pay a huge focus on understanding differences between cultures, abilities and gender. This is important so we can respect unique nuances and differences. But, if that’s all we trained people on then its a job half done. It is crucial to explore and establish the similarities amongst people. Its a great mindset to inculcate in people. Differences diminish and the sense of camaraderie increase boosting employee engagement. Are they really talking in the right way?

Here is a checklist of 4 key skills to include in Communication/ Diversity/ Leadership workshops – How to ask questions from a place of curiosity rather than outright challenge; how to listen patiently and mirror back their understanding; how to have difficult honest conversations and how to explore a different point of view without judgement. You will visibly notice the the growth of business revenues as people begin to collaborate more effectively. What do you do with the snake?

There will always be people in an organisation who will bully others who are different, or might even be racist or gender defiant in some shape or form. It's wise to remove such employees no matter where they are in your hierarchy. Put a hard stop to bullying behaviours or conversations that promote differences. The truth is we sometimes oversee such exchanges or delay in acting. Let me put it this way. If there is a snake you don’t need to set up a committee to decide what to do. You kill it. Do you know the business case of strengths-based strategy?

If you must focus on differences this is the one. Playing to strengths creates masses of positive energy and results in higher productivity and employee engagement levels. It is high impact and has huge returns on investment. Ensure employees are trained to gain mastery on their strengths. This is important because whilst a combination of strengths makes a person highly productive, if they are not managed well they begin to work against them! Train teams to leverage each other’s strength to outperform, train leaders and managers to coach their teams to apply their strengths. Its worth every penny you invest. I welcome comments and debate! And yes, do ask the speeding driver question of your colleagues or in the next diversity training. It's a great way to start an insightful conversation. Enjoy and good luck!

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