I have struggled with whether I should pen this article for a few weeks now. Fortunately, I concluded that the benefit of putting this topic in front of the public far outweighs the negatives. Building inclusive and diverse teams is not just about increased profitability and better efficiencies. It is simply the right thing to do. It is the decent thing to do. It is the human thing to do. It is the humane thing to do. It is worth it in the long run.
As a leader, of African descent that is working in the United States, I am exhausted by 10am most days. Building mental models for employees, bosses, peer managers, and random people who I have interacted with that day is exhausting. Constantly analyzing and over-analyzing every interaction, business and otherwise, consumes energy that could be better used to successfully drive towards business and or personal goals.
Imagine what the minority members of your team have to go through each and every minute of every day.
It is my strong belief that it is my duty to ensure that my team is inclusive and diverse. My peers and bosses have the same responsibility. Here is how we get there.
INCREASE YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE PROBLEM
The problem is you. The problem is the system you are in. The problem is the set of (flawed) beliefs that you have, consciously and subconsciously, accepted.
The legislature, the market, and governance structure are steeped in racism. Let that sink in. Don’t resist it. Be comfortable in your discomfort. Brush up on your history and verify the truth for yourself. Recognize the privilege and advantages that you are receiving from this rigged system.
Now appreciate that the system benefits some and oppresses everyone else.
As someone who benefits from this system, it is your job to understand the problem, know the historical context, and shine a light on the inequity and inequality generated from this system.
Start with this blog to deepen your knowledge in the space.
CREATE AND NURTURE THE RIGHT CULTURE
It is your job to foster a culture of inclusion. This may include performing blind screenings in the resume review process (to minimize unconscious bias), banning “culture fit” as a reason for rejecting a candidate, starting or sponsoring affinity or employee resource groups for under-represented collectives, or uncovering your biases, and those of your team, by having everyone take the Implicit Assumption Test.
Jennifer Kim’s post provides a lot of ideas on tangible steps that you can take in order to cultivate this environment. It is definitely worth reading.
Nurturing this culture involves introspection – for you and your team.
It has taken decades to ingrain your current values and behavior. It will take time to realize that they are false and to replace them with beliefs that foster inclusivity and diversity.
Self-awareness and vigilance will be key for you as a leader. Honesty and willingness to have (potentially) difficult conversations with your team has to become second nature.
MAKE IT A WAY OF LIFE
Cultural change sticks when you embed the changes into the processes and procedures that are an integral part of your team’s business life.
Examine the systems that your team uses for performance evaluations, for onboarding, for assigning and evaluating work, etc. Through the eyes of a black woman, critically think about how these mechanisms can be modified to be supportive and democratized.
Before long, it will just be the way we do things around here.
We are all humans. We all make mistakes. We all have our own biases. Creating great teams is not easy. Creating great, diverse, and inclusive teams is an order of magnitude more difficult.
However, it is rewarding and it is what your organization needs you to do.
This post is also published on GovLoop.
Dr Tyrone Grandison
Executive. Technologist. Change Agent. Computer Scientist. Data Nerd. Privacy and Security Geek.