In my last blog post, “Proven Strategies to Create a More Inclusive Workplace“, I discussed specific and proven strategies companies can implement to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Those steps work — I know this first-hand, because I’ve assisted organizations in creating individualized plans and putting them into effect.
However, one thing that has become clear to me is that diversity and inclusion in the workplace can only be achieved when all of us believe in and are committed to the mission.
This week I’d like to look at something even more fundamental than proven steps and strategies. I’d like to talk about you, and me, and how each of us — whether we know it or not — are getting in the way of creating a diverse and inclusive workspace, and what we can do to move forward.
The 10 Barriers to Courage
Brené Brown is a vulnerability researcher and professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She is also the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers, including a book called Dare to Lead. This book has been formative in shaping my approach to diversity and inclusion and the language I use to about talk these concepts.
When it comes to cultivating diversity and inclusion, Brené’s work is pivotal. She is committed to helping leaders get out of their own way to create organizations that thrive. I believe so strongly in her work that I’ve been trained in her Dare to Lead concepts, and today I am going to share some of them with you.
The main concept I’d like to explore today is based on one question that Brené asked over 150 C-suite executives:
“What, if anything, about the way people are leading today needs to
change in order for leaders to be successful in a complex, rapidly
changing environment where we’re faced with seemingly intractable
challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation?”
The data she gathered from her research made one thing clear: the solution is all about courage.
In order to get to the point where we can implement strategies that promote diversity and inclusion, we have to be courageous. These ideas are new and threaten the status quo, and quite frankly, when we introduce them we might get shot down, and that possibility can keep us from moving forward.
In other words, the key to creating a more diverse and inclusive work force isn’t hiring smarter people or implementing the latest technology or leveraging a new marketing strategy. It’s about having the courage to do what it takes to create change.
This is where the 10 Barriers to Courage come into play.
I’m going to look at 3 of the 10 Barriers to Courage. You can read about all of them in Brené’s book, Dare to Lead, which I encourage you to do!
Let’s take a look
Barrier #1: We Avoid Tough Conversation
“We avoid tough conversation, including giving honest, productive feedback.”
Having the courage to engage in tough conversation is infinitely more important than any strategy or plan or system. The courage to wade into the waters of the uncomfortable for the sake of making positive change is vital, and to be completely honest, most strategies will involve tough conversation anyway.
Brené says, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” When we sugar-coat our feedback, we’re being unclear and even misleading to others. People want to know what’s working, what’s not working, and what they can do better.
Be kind and give people the useful and truthful information they crave. And yes, this requires tremendous courage!
Barrier #2: We Are Not Proactive
“Rather than spending a reasonable amount of time proactively
acknowledging and addressing the fears and feelings that show up
during change and upheaval, we spend an unreasonable amount of
time managing problematic behaviors.”
There’s a lot to unpack in that statement, but it comes down to this: most organizations do not offer enough time or space for employees to process big changes. As a result, leadership will end up spending a majority of their time trying to manage difficult behavior from employees. They’re dealing with the symptoms, not treating — or preventing — the root cause.
When change happens, people go through a “change process” that is similar to the “grief process”. Typically, it is a cycle of anger, denial and other emotions that people need to work through… and the process is not linear until they come out on the other side, where they can once again be motivated, engaged and fully adapted to the new normal.
Employees need space and an opportunity to voice their fears about change. They need constructive ways to deal with their concerns and worries so they can work through the process; employers can be proactive and create these systems beforehand so they aren’t blindsided by disruptive employee responses to the changes.
Barrier #3: We Opt Out
“People are opting out of vital conversations about diversity and
inclusivity because they fear looking wrong, saying something wrong, or
being wrong. Choosing our own comfort over hard conversations is the
epitome or privilege, and it corrodes trust and moves us away from
meaningful and lasting change.”
In 2019, there is a huge push for more diversity and inclusion, and yet, many of us are afraid to engage in the conversation because we don’t know how to begin. And yes, there is always a risk — especially via social media where people typically are more outspoken and confrontational — of getting “creamed by the trolls,” so to speak. In other words, we’re all afraid of saying the wrong thing and being lambasted by an angry Twitter hoard.
Yet, in a workplace, all we’re doing by opting out of the conversation is continuing to maintain our siloed modus operandi. We must endeavor to create an environment where we can say, “I don’t know how to talk about this, and I’m going to learn. I want you to be open and help me. I’m making an effort, please meet me where I’m at.”
Chelsea Handler recently released a new Netflix special on the topic of diversity and inclusion called White Privilege. I highly recommend watching this documentary (please note, it is not appropriate for children). Chelsea truly has courage: she brings herself into some very tough conversations and isn’t afraid to deal with the (oftentimes very messy) outcome.
It’s important to acknowledge that this is a big conversation and it deserves our care and attention. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, and yet, every organization can benefit from working on these barriers.
If you are interested in learning how to bring the Dare to Lead ideas to your team, I’d love to talk to you. Click HERE to connect with me today.
Photo Source: NerdFitness.com