April 27, 2023
TPL Insights #168 – How Culture, Mindset, and Real Diversity Spell Major Wins for Future Organizations
By Rob Andrews
For decades, we have been told that organizations that employ diverse leadership teams perform better than those with homogeneity at the top. But what does diversity mean in 2023? Diversity includes gender and race for sure. It also includes diversity of thought, generation, culture, hardwiring, nationality, political orientation, communication style, strengths, and more. Building a truly diverse and inclusive leadership team is far more complex and more difficult than most people realize.
Assuming you could achieve a truly diverse board, leadership team, and workforce overnight, you would still have a lot of work to do. Diversity does not equal inclusion. Like every other corporate undertaking, the first step in a corporate transformation to become fully diverse, inclusive, and equitable starts with a mindset largely devoid of limiting beliefs, as well as a transformation of the board, CEO, and senior leadership team. If it does not start with support from the top, then you are just “whistling dixie.” Achieving your diversity objectives will require:
- Aligning the board, CEO, and senior leadership team around a commitment to a journey that never ends, eliminating limiting beliefs that stifle any transformative effort.
- Operating with a clear sense of purpose that engages all stakeholder groups.
- Ensuring alignment of your teams around purpose, mission, vision, and values.
- Celebrating leaders and employees for their unique strengths, characteristics, and perspectives.
- Crafting a statement that describes in detail what diversity means to your organization.
- Committing to counteract unconscious biases that exist in even the most highly evolved leaders.
- Designing and providing tools to recognize and neutralize unconscious biases.
- Being aware of training programs that make people defensive due to coming across as remedial rather than developmental.
- Ensuring disciplined hiring practices focused on shaping the culture to which you aspire.
- Developing qualitative metrics to monitor the state of your cultural health.
Beyond hiring diverse talent, there is the need to fully engage your entire workforce. Attracting and motivating diverse workers will be key to building the company of the future; the old, worn-out definition of diversity no longer applies. When we spoke of diversity in the early 1990s, it was primarily about gender and race. Today, it is about total diversity: gender, race, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, natural strengths, hardwiring, and generation.
Of all the challenges that we face, generational diversity is one of the most complex. Jason Dorsey, who has built a wildly successful consulting practice focused on helping us understand, motivate, manage, sell to, communicate with, and otherwise deal with multiple generations says that those who get the generational nuances will win, and those who don’t will not. Dorsey’s research facility, the Center for Generational Kinetics, has determined that we will be interacting with seven different generations in years to come. He says that generations are no longer determined by birth years but by context and behaviors.
For example, Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are the demographic cohort following Generation X, and it represents the largest generation in history. There are no precise dates for this cohort; demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years.
Several important trends have been identified by Dorsey and his team. The emerging generation is the most diverse generation in history. What this means is that the only thing the emerging generation notices about diversity is the lack thereof. This generation will not remember a time in which we have not had an African American president, gay marriage, or Facetime. They will not remember a time in which their school did not look like the United Nations. For decades now, diversity has been a good business idea and a sound strategy. Going forward, it is the price of admission.
The second trend Jason’s research surfaced relates to technology. Contrary to popular belief, Millennials are not necessarily tech-savvy; rather, they are tech-dependent! There are approximately eighty million millennials. Dorsey’s research suggests that Gen Y is split into two groups. About half are doing what they have been told they ought to do. The other half, typically around age 30, are self-selecting out of the stereotypical millennial group and can no longer identify with them.
The group that has self-selected out is becoming increasingly driven to work hard, build businesses, become self-sufficient, and influence others. Now here comes the good part, or the scary part, depending on your perspective. The younger generation is changing the way the older generations operate, and there is no way to avoid it. According to Dorsey, not getting this is going to put many companies out of business. He says that smart companies will change the dialogue altogether. Smart companies will no longer talk about the differences between generations, gender, or ethnicity, but they will begin to harness the power of the totality of diversity.
Obviously, we are witnessing a dramatic shift in what it will take to lead the boardrooms and organizations of the future. No longer can one leader be the catalyst for an entire organization’s success. A true transformation to a diverse, inclusive, and equitable culture will entail a shift in mindset from a focus on individual excellence to a culture of eliminating limiting beliefs, leveraging individual strengths, building peak-performance teams, and fostering collaborative success. This will only be achieved when we cultivate leaders who recognize and celebrate the differences and nurture the best in all people.
We hope this piece has been helpful. For complementary resources on ways to dramatically improve your diversity, culture, and overall performance, sign up for our blog and explore our website for additional tools.