Last week, we commemorated the 246th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. A document that outlines freedoms and rights of United States citizens. However, a day that is often celebrated with fireworks, festivities, and Americans eating an estimated 150 million hot dogs didn’t feel very festive to a number of Americans due to recent Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) rulings on matters of gun control, prayers on a football field, and the overturning of Roe v Wade.
While I have my own opinions about each of the rulings, this blog is not about my opinions or beliefs, instead, I hope to inspire you to take action to communicate around these rulings to support your team from a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) perspective. As leaders, we cannot ignore what is happening around us without risking our brightest talent and best clients feeling like they don’t belong or aren’t understood at work, and we might lose ourselves in the process.
Progressive Next Gen organizations strive to embrace inclusive values and encourage team members to bring their true selves to work every day. Gone are the days of leaving our personal lives at home when we start our day or leaving work at work when we end our day. That time passed well before the pandemic fully empowered remote work. Instead, our environment, ideas, and beliefs are becoming more openly expressed and team member beliefs are complex and diverse. As leaders, friends, coaches/mentors, or colleagues it is our duty to embrace and respect the differences. Yet many leaders stay quiet and back into the shadows when a tough topic arises, out of fear of offending someone, driving clients away, or causing other negative consequences. But in today’s world, staying quiet is the worst thing you can do. Everything happening around us is affecting our team members and whether we agree or disagree with the results it is up to us to ensure everyone feels supported.
Consider these actions to demonstrate inclusive and supportive behaviors toward ALL team members:
- Everyone was a beginner at some point. Just because you don’t understand or you haven’t experienced something, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or impact those around you. Ignoring a situation or brushing off feedback from your team because you have never experienced something is a sure-fire way of alienating your team and encouraging them to leave your firm. Remember that, like delegation, your way isn’t the only way and our country was built on people of very diverse backgrounds and experiences who want to exercise their beliefs freely.
- Don’t put on a show. It is fair to say that in June, we all saw social media profile pictures change to include rainbows for Pride. However, if changing your profile picture was the only thing you did for June, I guarantee your LGBTQ+ team members do not feel supported or comfortable sharing their true selves with you. Your talent and clients, especially upcoming generations like GenZ, can and do recognize when a brand or organization is putting on a façade of support versus being truly supporting.
- Action item: Put your pronouns in your signature line or add to your social media profile. Take it a step further and look at your internal forms or documents, are they inclusive?
- Be cognizant of where your money is going. Many organizations make charitable contributions or participate in charity events. I, personally, love seeing firms share in social media about how they are helping their community whether they are volunteering at a local shelter or gathering items for a school. However, not all non-profits are created equal. And, sadly, some non-profits may be hurting or working against DEI efforts. Please also recognize that this doesn’t just apply to non-profits, more and more consumers are looking to websites like ProgressiveShopper.com to determine where they will spend their money.
- Action item: Don’t skip on the research. Dive into the organizations that you are supporting on behalf of the firm. If their purpose does not match with your purpose or firm beliefs, they are no longer the non-profit for you to support.
- The proof is in the pudding. Do you have a diverse team, a team that gives of their time by volunteering, a remote culture, team members who genuinely like each other, or XYZ? Then, why does your website and marketing consist of stock photos? Clients and talent are researching you before you are aware of them and making judgments about your firm based on the evidence they have – your marketing, your clout and posts in social media, and your past and present employees.
- Action item: Update your marketing to real photos of your team and involve your marketing team in DEI initiatives and conversations. Hold stay interviews and invite an outside consultant to have confidential conversations to get to the bottom of what your team members would like to see you change or shift to be more diverse, inclusive and equitable.
- Actions speak louder than words. We all saw the statements about Ukraine or Black Lives Matter. However, posting a statement doesn’t mean a whole lot when your actions aren’t backing it up. Instead it might come off as disingenuous and erode trust.
- Action item: When you draft a statement and make a stance on an issue, include action items and real concrete steps about what you are going to do. Here is an example from BDO about the actions they are taking to back-up their statement regarding Ukraine.
- Demonstrate care and concern for the whole person. We often say, “people don’t quit their firm, they quit their manager.” If leaders don’t care, why would other team members care? Create an inclusive culture that cares for the whole person, both mentally and physically. As Tamera Loerzel explained in Wining at Work Requires Winning at Home, check-in often with your team and ask “How are you, really?” I would also encourage you to ask them how YOU can support them. Mental health is often over-looked and events, like the recent mass shootings or SCOTUS decisions, affect how your team is feeling and coping. Asking “How are you, really?” could shed a light on where your team members need extra support.
- Action item: Provide mental health resources for your team members. Consider benefits like gym reimbursement, a company Calm app to help with stress management, and, especially, mental health services.
While this list is not exhaustive of ideas and action items for you to create an inclusive firm, I hope it gives you a few practical ideas you can implement. DEI is not an optional initiative, or one owned solely by HR. Instead it is a requirement for a healthy, thriving organization and must be embedded in the culture. DEI is the responsibility of all leaders.
Until next time,