Good intentions just aren’t enough when it comes to being an inclusive leader and creating an environment that truly embraces diversity. I learned that the hard way. It requires a personal journey in which you learn about yourself and others, but by doing so, you are able to become an empathic and inclusive leader needed to build a thriving team in which all people flourish.
Jennifer Brown is a leading diversity and inclusion expert, dynamic keynote speaker, best-selling author, award-winning entrepreneur and host of The Will To Change podcast, which uncovers true stories of diversity and inclusion. As the founder, president and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting, her workplace strategies have been employed by some of the world’s top Fortune 500 companies and nonprofits to help employees bring their full selves to work and feel Welcomed, Valued, Respected and Heard℠.
Jennifer and I talk about what diversity and inclusion really means, the personal journey of engaging in being a more inclusive leader, what you can do to support your learning, and a whole lot more. And, you’ll hear about my own learning journey when it comes to implicit bias and being an inclusive leader. This is deep and challenging work and it is so important.
Read the related blog article: Start Your Journey of Inclusive Leadership With Small Steps
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Embracing diversity and inclusion is more like building a new muscle than putting on a pair of glasses. It requires noticing and making different choices. There are visible and invisible forms of diversity: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Disabilities, Mental Health, Neuro-Diversity, Veteran Status, Age, Parental Status. Unconscious bias exists in everyone and it doesn't make us a bad person. Being well intentioned or holding morally just values is not enough because bias lives below the surface. The important thing is to admit to yourself that you have unconscious bias so that you can start to recognize your own thoughts and see how bias is showing up in the world around you. The business world was built by and to work for a small segment of the population, which is predominantly male and white. Bias is hardwired in the system and often leaders are perpetuating this biased system. The Inclusive Leader Continuum has 4 stages: (1) Unaware - people don’t think there is a problem, I’m not responsible, and/or I think diversity is important and that’s enough. (2) Aware - understand that not everyone is bringing their full self to work, actively trying to learn about the experiences of others, putting yourself in new/uncomfortable situations. (3) Active - you chose to use your knowledge and learnings, make different decisions and use different language, be public about your journey and seek feedback, take risks and be willing to make mistakes, apologize when you do or say something that misses the mark. (4) Advocate - work towards system change, advocate for and lift up others, work publically and behind the scenes. When you activate your learnings, you will make mistakes and you need to hear the feedback and keep going.