Good Lookin' OUT!
Do me a favor. Go on your company’s public website. Click on the Diversity and Inclusion tab.
Next. Check out your company’s leadership and board member website pages.
I recently did this exercise with a number of well-known companies and was surprisingly not surprised at what I saw. I call it the difference between looking good and being good.
Let me explain.
My son spent a great amount of time getting ready for each of his high school football games. He wore the same cool gloves his favorite NFL players wore. His hand towel was folded and hung in just the right position. As a side, I still don’t understand why players need gloves and a towel. But I digress. He even sported the latest in cleat technology and style. And don’t even get me started on his sock game.
I shared my observations with him to which he said, ‘I want to look good out there.’ To which I responded, ‘Would you rather look good or be good?’.
Back to our Google exercise.
Looking good means your company openly has identified Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) as a priority. Your organization is indeed a proud member of a growing cohort of mainstream companies that have recognized the value of elevating D&I. They have fully utilized what I like to call ‘The Diversity and Inclusion Looking Good Starter Pack’. You know. Leader named. Check. Initiatives developed. Check. Metrics, goals and data about performance against said metrics and goals, complete with braggadocios statements about the metrics. Check. Check. And check.
To anyone’s eye, this company looks quite good and is seriously serious about D&I. They even pump out periodic articles highlighting the importance of inclusion in their overall corporate strategy. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But when you dig a little deeper past the headline and sub-text, that is where some companies fall short.
Let me explain.
We all know that every company, including yours, has a deliberate strategy to attract and retain millennials. You just saw for yourself when you looked on your company’s D&I page. It is when you toggle over to the same company’s leadership and board member page and notice the absence of millennials in the sea of corporate glamour shots where it’s not such a good look. Just one click away there was a strong case for the value of millennials and, yet, none of them are represented in leadership.
I know what you are thinking. No one in their right mind would put a barely-out-of-college-25 year-old in a leadership position. I’ll give you that (no offense to Zuckerberg or Kylie).
Let’s substitute millennials for, say, people of color or women. I know what you are likely thinking, ‘That’s completely different’. I will admit that I personally have heard many recruiters say they have a tough time identifying people of color for leadership positions. To which I say, ‘Have you bothered to look?’
Being good is about believing in the value of diversity and inclusion to the point that it permeates throughout everything your company does. It is a natural part of the company’s conversation about strategy, initiatives, vision, consumers and leadership.
Being good is about embedding diversity and inclusion as a core part of doing business. Not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do if your company chooses to compete.
Being good is about leveraging and unleashing the power of difference---experiences, culture, and mindsets---as imperative to company success.
There will be some that point out your company actually does have diverse leadership. To which I say, ‘GREAT!’.
On that note, let me give you something else to ponder.
Just because leaders have the body parts and the melanin does not mean the value of their experiences are being leveraged or that those individuals are down for the cause. Women have had to combat bringing their true selves to the workplace for fear of appearing different from male counterparts. Similarly, people of color often distance themselves from their culture or race for fear of perpetuating a stereotype. Most of these leaders, including myself, have at some point in their career felt the need to overcompensate to prove they deserve a seat at the table.
So now what?
There are no easy answers, but maybe there’s an easy start. Just start with you. Standing on the sideline may just be the new smoking. While I can’t go back and undue my silence, I am now using my voice to proactively, unapologetically and proudly change the mindset of c-suites and boardrooms. In order to leverage the power of diversity and inclusion, we have to change how we think about it. In order to change the way we think about it, we must begin to have the conversation.
So what does that look like?
The next time you find yourself sitting in one of those conference rooms, gazing at what will be a reading of a 64-page word document masked as a powerpoint, at the start of meeting number ten on the same damn issue, try asking this…
’Are we trying to look good or are we at all interested in actually being good?’.