Organizational change is challenging in the best of circumstances. But organizational change aimed at cultivating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace where all identities, unique backgrounds, experiences and perspectives are valued in today’s climate is no small endeavor.
As many leaders consider what’s needed to create and foster such an environment, the usual resources such as time, people and money come second to the less evident, internal resources and characteristics needed by leaders to anchor their personal actions and drive the change; if they are to be successful. Consider these attributes as you ponder where to start.
The 5 C’s:
Consciousness: The protests last year aimed at addressing racial injustice, police brutality, systemic racism and oppression prompted many leaders to release statements in solidarity with black communities⎯signifying, many might have been on autopilot and perhaps suddenly had their consciousness raised to a greater level of awareness.
They are now faced with a choice of what to do about it, because going beyond awareness to enact change requires courage.
Courage: Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” Cultivating a workplace where everyone feels respected, valued and a sense of belonging can be viewed as that more important, something else; and rising to this challenge will test and stretch you as never before. I have observed working with leaders that one of the primary inhibitors of getting started is fear, which is often accompanied by crippling guilt and shame serving to paralyze many and keep them from acting. I have found when you acknowledge the things that are holding you back and choose to act from your personal values, principals and convictions, you are then enabled to lead your organization or team to your desired reality⎯which also requires a level of confidence.
Confidence: This comes from first doing your own personal change work to enhance your level of awareness, deepen knowledge, and acquire key competences and skills needed to effectively lead a diverse workforce and cultivate an inclusive workplace. As you continue your personal development, this will help increase your confidence, mitigate fears and support you in walking the talk. This level of effort requires commitment.
Commitment: Many leaders have pledged commitments to support anti-racism, social justice and equity, creating the opportunity and prospect of making changes across their own spheres of influence. This commitment to change has already manifested in multiple ways such as donations to black-led organizations, changes in business practices, formalizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday, conducting listening tours, and others. But once the dust settles and the new normal establishes itself in a post-COVID society, and many are back in the workplace; what will continued commitment look like in practice every day particularly for your BIPOC employees? Because one-off solutions don’t completely address the problem. Long-term commitment to sustainable change is what will transform the personal behaviors, cultural norms and external practices which perpetuate the status quo. Since these changes don’t happen overnight, continued communication is required to keep everyone informed of where they’re going.
Communication: Employees want to know what’s the vision and how you’re going to lead them in getting there.
They’re looking for their leaders to provide them with this information if they are going to come on-board and trust that you know the way. This transparency requires you to bring them along with you every step of the way from the beginning, starting with explaining, among other things:
- Why this, why now?
- What’s your role and their expected role in this process?
- How it will benefit them personally?
All of this culminates in you “walking the talk” by modeling what the change looks like for everyone else to follow. Leveraging your internal and external resources will improve your chances of success.