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D|I|B - Casting the Vision and Communicating the Value of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging

Setting the Stage

Based on the success of the Executive Level Mastermind, the leadership team wanted to provide the same experiential learning opportunity to their direct reports who will ultimately be responsible for communicating the value of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging from the perspective of the majority white male employee population.

Background Information

The journey of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging (D|I|B) was undertaken by the executive leadership team of diverse professionals led by its CEO, a white male, and legacy owner of the 107-year-old family business. Fully aware of the culture transformation about to take place, and the likely resistance from the majority while male employees, the CEO and executive leadership team felt it critical to cast the vision over the course of several sessions that included all direct reports from 5 different divisions: Human Capital, Sales, Finance, New Product Development, and Manufacturing. An indirect benefit of these sessions was to address, and begin to eliminate, organizational silos that hindered the sense of Belonging as “one family” at the company.

The Challenge

Historically, leadership positions at the levels of manager, director, plant manager, and vice president were held by white males. This was not unusual or particularly troubling in the manufacturing industry that is itself represented by predominantly white males. However, with these roles came a sense of entitlement, superiority, and detachment that was glaring to anyone in the company who was not a white male. How to change the hearts and minds of individuals in seats of power was critical to establish a workforce that was expected to actively cast the vision and communicate the value of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging in both word and deed.

The Approach

To socialize a new way of doing business by declaring “this is happening” does not gain much traction very quickly without a clear explanation and way forward. When presenting D|I|B as a key component of a sound business strategy, people must be given the same considerations. To say, “we all need to do better” is vague, especially for those who may not have a personal frame of reference about D|I|B. Therefore, participants were required to complete pre-work in the form of an assessment that is specifically designed to identify inclusive leadership traits and how often they are consistently used, awareness building content in the form of articles, and case studies submitted by the executive leaders based on their own recent experiences and lessons learned. In so doing, leaders were actively leading by example the expectations of Core Performance Behaviors (CPBs) from their direct reports, that aligned with D|I|B.

The Outcomes

During a performance review, a Vice President who directly reported to the SVP of Sales & Marketing, both of whom are Black males, had to deliver feedback that an individual who assumed he would take home a prestigious sales award, was not being considered. He was a white male. Aware of the potential for this decision to be viewed as reverse discrimination considering the D|I|B journey being undertaken, the VP had to consider a strategy to deliver feedback that would be viewed in the most objective way. After being coached through the technique of guided self-discovery through empowering questions, the VP was able to help his direct report identify performance shortfalls through his own eyes for a more accurate self-assessment. In asking who, what, where, when, and why questions, the employee changed his self-assessment from an initial grade of A- to a more accurate grade of D. Not only was the interaction seen as an objective discussion, later the VP found out that the employee told a colleague that because of the way the review was conducted, he was more determined than ever to be the best sales rep in the history of the company! This demonstrated the ability to value feedback regardless of who delivered it.

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