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.
The journey of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging (DIB) 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.
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.
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 DIB 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 DIB. 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 DIB.
The self-reflection of their leadership traits, in conjunction with readings, case studies, and role plays enabled the participants to identify for themselves their strengths and areas for growth in terms of DIB work. Activities such as role plays deepened participants’ understanding of why someone may not feel a sense of belonging in a given moment. Through the strategic use of peer coaching activities, team members learned that this work is “about the leadership of everyone, not just the people in your immediate circle or people who are like you.” Hearing leaders share their insights raised the awareness of others about how different elements of DIB work were operating at a personal level for different people. Greater awareness across levels of the organization can lead to increased understanding and communication about DIB work, how it looks and sounds, and result in greater connection and sense of inclusion and belonging.