People always ask me how I define Diversity and Inclusion and I sum it up with 13 words: there is a problem going on over there, please don’t avert your eyes. For far too long diverse faces, voices and experiences have been missing from around the table. Then came a time when people noticed those faces, voices and experiences missing, but they adverted their eyes. Diversity & Inclusion has been treated as a tension to manage, and not a problem to solve, and that has to stop. Of course addressing the matter starts at the top, but it is best modeled from the bottom up…I will share more. The #1 reason why Diversity & Inclusion initiatives tend to jolt the systems of the people that make up the organization when they’re introduced, it is because often times the people are not great individual representatives of what they are attempting to project to the world organizationally. The power belongs to the people and not the power (C-Suite), so the people in the organization have to work to have D&I in their DNA, instead of waiting on the organization to champion and lead the initiative. Four components are needed to get D&I in your DNA, if you are in an organization and want to see D&I as a core business goal in your organization. Hint: It starts with you.

  1. Community: Same Vision. Same Values. Same Virtues.

It’s really important that the individuals that make up the organization have the same vision, same values and same virtues when it comes to their Diversity & Inclusion model…which starts with an all in commitment. All in commitment is essentially humanity being humanity. All of us were created to be connected, to be unit, to be a team. Is anyone a fan of National Geographic or Animal Planet? Good, me too. This was the best illustration I could think of when I thought what an all in commitment looked like. Listen to how the description of an animal changes when it moves from standing alone to rolling in a community with other animals like them (same vision, same values, and same virtues): wolves are a pack, elephants are a herd, herons are a siege, and flamingos are called flamboyance. There is something that changes when are connected; we are stronger, we are tougher, we become more formidable against anything we are facing.

2. Communications: Right Place. Right Time. Right Force.

In order to be better individual representatives, it’s important that we all create year round spaces of meaning for conversations, conversions, & excursions to take place. Most of these conversations are what Joseph Grenny (a social scientists for business performance) calls crucial conversations; conversations that we are not having or conversations that we are having, but not having well. When you have these conversations it is important that they be in real time with real talk: this is timely candor–address it now and all (respectable) emotions are acceptable when talking about the tensions in culture surrounding the topic Diversity and Inclusion. Conversions speaks to the idea that someone wouldn’t necessarily change their ideology or deeply held value, but they would be open to a dialogue, not debate. Excursions are trips to learn and live in community with one another. In every space of meaning created, communicating in the right place, at the right time, with the right force is essential for the transfer of thoughts and ideas.

3. Compassion:Strong with the Truth, Gentle with People.

In this case compassion is being strong with the truth, but gentle with people. Often times we love to limit Diversity & Inclusion to race, but the truth of the matter is that diversity covers a multitude of capacities and components of our world (military attachment, sexual orientation, differently able, etc). As we talk about being strong with the truth, here is one of my favorite truths that I like to share whenever I lead an organization through the idea of Diversity & Inclusion. It is the truth that the world is, four-fifths Black or Brown with respect to race/color. How will each one of us engage the world around us with that truth in mind? Every day for the next 20 years a Baby Boomer will turn 65. How will each one of us engage the world around us with that truth in mind? Strong with the truth or your truth, but here’s the tough part—gentle with people. We all come from our carefully crafted, comfortable, echo chambers and these are not casual conversations. They are conversations that need to be had, so quite naturally compassion has to be present and the starting point for all compassion is an objective truth. I believe the North Point for compassion, the zenith to doing it right is that every space I create, every person I interact with and every conversation…it’s done with the highest level of courtesy.

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