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On March 23rd, I had the pleasure and privilege of co-leading The Bailey Group’s second Coaching and Caffeine gathering for CEOs with Liwanag Ojala, CEO of Caring Bridge. The topic was Creating Workplace Cultures that Support Diversity and Inclusion. Liwanag’s knowledge and passion for the subject assured that a lively discussion took place with the audience of about 40 CEOs and executives.  Here are some of the highlights from the conversation:

The Research

  • Immigration and the ability and willingness to accept individuals from other countries and cultures is not a new issue, as demonstrated by examining this map of the history of two centuries of U S immigration.
  • The research is clear that teams which are both diverse and inclusive perform better
  • Despite the research, most organizations have struggled to create diverse and inclusive cultures, as demonstrated by this statistic from the April 2016 edition of HBR: “There are more CEOs of large U.S. companies who are named David (4.5%) than there are CEOs who are women (4.1%) — and David isn’t even the most common first name among CEOs.”

Diversity Defined

  • “Diversity is accomplishing the development of a group of people, who can bring to bear thinking from various viewpoints because of their background/experience – that can mean location of origin, race, gender, age, experience, etc. – a combination of all – to create a culture of inclusion.” – Liwanag Ojala
  • With minor modification, Liwanag’s definition of diversity could also define the relationship component of team development efforts. Google’s Project Aristotle research on what differentiates effective from ineffective teams supports this conclusion.

The Role of the CEO in leading efforts to create diverse and inclusive cultures

  • Understand the business case
  • Know your numbers
  • Raise the diversity consciousness level
  • Protect brand – your organization’s and yours
  • Lead and champion change

What works in creating meaningful conversations in the workplace about creating diverse and inclusive cultures?

  • Starts (but can’t end) at the top
  • Engage at all levels – ideally volunteers
  • Celebrate differences
  • Examine all practices- recruiting, promotions, key project leadership
  • Solutions are in mindsets, not money

As with many difficult subjects, the most important variable in creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace cultures is a leaders’ curiosity and willingness to be vulnerable and uncomfortable in the process of growing as a human being. I left the meeting with a deeper sense of responsibility and commitment to raising the focus of The Bailey Group and having more on-going discussions with clients about creating more diverse and inclusive culture. Research on business outcomes and our common humanity demand nothing less.

P.S. If you would like a copy of the slide deck from the session, email me at lbailey@thebaileygroup.com and I will be happy to share it with you.

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