As I write this, I am looking at a palm tree in my backyard. The temperature in Los Angeles, where I live, is 59 degrees. For a December day in L.A., that’s normal. If I need to go out, I’ll throw on a light jacket. That’s how we’ve always done things in December, around here.
My colleague in Miami is basking in sunshine, with the temperature at 75 degrees. For her, 59 would mean a serious chill.
Conversely, my colleagues in Chicago are facing “the hawk.” In Chicago, today, it is 19 degrees. For them, 59 degrees might seem downright balmy.
So, who’s right?
Is 59 degrees…
… none of the above?
… all of the above?
59 degrees is… 59 degrees.
59 degrees is a fact, an objective measure. Whether it is balmy, chilly or normal is a matter of perspective, subjective.
The same is true of your organization’s culture when it comes to diversity & inclusion. Leaders must understand that, wherever you are on your D&I journey, whatever work you have or haven’t done…
… some may feel that it is too hot.
For these members of organizations, diversity work can feel like a bore or a chore. They may have the sense that they are being disadvantaged by attempts to “create a level playing field.” They may feel that their hard work is being dismissed with terms like “privilege.” They may feel that they’ve heard it all before.
These individuals will likely resist D&I efforts. They may reject opportunities to learn about or practice conscious inclusion. Then again, they may do their best to acclimate themselves, as uncomfortable as they may be. The truth remains, though, that for them it is too hot.
… some may feel that it is too cold.
For these members of our organizations, the worst thing about D&I efforts is the lack of… effort. They may feel the organization hasn’t made a real commitment. They may feel that their co-workers “just don’t get it.” They may simply be dissatisfied with the status quo, wanting to “heat things up.”
These individuals will support D&I efforts enthusiastically, perhaps even leading the proverbial charge. For the moment, though, they are dissatisfied, perhaps even disgruntled. For them, in terms of D&I, it is too cold.
… some may feel it is… just… right.
Perhaps they feel that the education they’ve received has been adequate. Perhaps they feel the training they’ve received is sufficient. Perhaps they have received none of the above and are fine with that because they don’t feel it was necessary, in the first place.
Whatever the case, these individuals may be skeptical of D&I efforts, unconvinced that they are the best investment of their time and/or the organization’s money.
So, who’s right?
Trick question. You see, it doesn’t matter who’s “right,” even if we could definitively answer the question. There is a key way in which your organizational culture is quite unlike the weather:
You control it!
As leaders — We’re talking leadership as a function, not necessarily a title. — we get to impact the “weather” or, perhaps more accurately, the “climate” in our organizations. So, where do we set it? Do we set it for our colleague “in Miami?” Do we set it for our colleagues “in Chicago?” Do we set it for me, “in LA?”
None of the above.
Remember that palm tree in my backyard? That palm tree has grown here because the climate allows it. Faced with Chicago cold, I can put on a parka, maybe add some layers. I can adjust. That palm tree, though… That palm tree would die.
So, while some may associate D&I work with warm fuzzy feelings of individuals. Today’s business leaders need to understand that D&I is about cold hard facts of organizational survival. So, ask yourself:
Will your workforce grow in your current climate? Are you recruiting and retaining the best talent?
Will profits grow in your current climate? Are diverse voices and viewpoints driving innovation? Are diverse voices identifying new market opportunities?
Will your organization grow in your current climate? That’s the question.
Because when you ignore D&I, you leave your organizational climate to chance.
Bottom line: If your business has the wrong climate it will die as surely as a palm tree on Lake Shore Drive. And what could be more frightful than that.
The Kaleidoscope Group