One Word… Diversity

This is the next in a series of posts on words that matter to leaders. So far, we’ve looked at Vision, Data, and most recently, Why? Today, I want to share a few thoughts on a term that is often charged with emotion and sometimes carries a lot of baggage: Diversity.

Honestly, diversity is not something I’ve ever thought much about… let me explain. Diversity makes so much sense to me I don’t have to “decide” what I think about it. A lack of diversity impedes my leadership effectiveness – end of story. As I’ve thought about how I reached this conclusion, I think three reasons rise to the surface.
I have deeply held beliefs regarding the value of every person. Some of it can be attributed to my childhood and the way I was raised; some may be attributed to my faith. I believe God loves diversity.
I’m a big believer in teams. The best teams are diverse. Can you imagine a baseball team with all second basemen? They would be a lousy team. Can you imagine a team in professional sports today that could excel by discriminating against any minority? Professional sports are leading the way in the globalization of talent. Smart organizations are following their lead.
I want to be better than my competition. A broader, more diverse talent base should create competitive advantage. When you and I build an organization with diversity as a cornerstone, we bring more talent to the table. Multiple perspectives, diverse points-of-view, if managed well, can create tremendous competitive advantage.
So, let’s say you buy it – you agree that creating a diverse talent pool is not only the right thing to do, it will enhance your leadership impact; however, you’re not there yet. What can you do? I’ve got four ideas for you to consider.
Set the strategy. Leaders set strategic direction. You’ve gotten where you are today with a strategy, even if it was unstated. If you want a different workforce in 5 years, set the expectation – that’s one of the things leaders do.
Cast a wide net. How widely do you recruit? Who’s doing the recruiting? Consider recruiting in other parts of the world. You may be thinking, we don’t have the infrastructure to do that. Most organizations don’t. Have you considered strategic partnerships with firms in other parts of the world? There are capable people around the globe who can help you create a globally diverse workforce.
Keep score. What gets measured, gets done. If you want to improve the diversity of your talent, set aggressive goals and track your progress.  Make the diversity scorecard an active part of performance conversations. This is not about quotas; it is about executing on the strategic direction of your organization. You must keep score if you’re going to hold people accountable.
Don’t lower your standards. Rather, I would suggest you raise them. When you cast a wider net, you have more talented people to choose from. The simple shift from a regional recruiting focus to a national one can increase your pool of talent by 100 million people or more. If you take the step to begin recruiting globally, your talent pool is now billions larger. Don’t lower your standards – raise them!
If you want more diversity, hope is not a strategy. You’ll have to do something different.[GLS_Shield]

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Nathan Magnuson

7 years ago

Good thoughts, Mark. You mentioned that the word “diversity” often comes with a lot of emotion and baggage. I’d be interested in hearing you describe what diversity is and conversely what it is not.

Michael Droske

7 years ago

Great post, Mark. It is surprising how many people still overlook diversity these days. Leaders often hire people who look and act just like they do, and they wonder why they can’t seem to break the group think they are stuck in. Goes back to your comment on everyone being a second baseman.
As you’ve said, you can’t just hope for diversity…you need to take steps to embrace it and make it happen.
Thanks!
Michael

mark

7 years ago

Thanks, Michael, for joining the conversation! Mark

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