THE SECRET SAUCE TO SUCCESSFUL DIVERSITY EFFORTS: WHAT TECH FIRMS NEED TO LEARN TO STOP THE REVOLVING DOOR BY JUDITH H. KATZ AND FREDERICK A. MILLER

For the last few years, news from the tech sector has been dominated by two types of stories: those highlighting the industry’s woeful lack of diversity and bold announcements by some companies to launch aggressive diversity efforts. But as the initial fanfare of multimillion dollar investments to accelerate their recruiting efforts fades, the question remains—are their efforts paying off? Unfortunately, the answer is not to the extent that they had hoped. People are leaving almost as fast as they are joining. These tech companies have the right intent, but getting sustainable results is another matter.

Intel was one of the first tech giants to step up with a bold commitment; however, they are finding that whatever gains they made have fallen short (Fast Company, 2016—http://www.fastcompany.com/3056245/...). While they describe holding everyone of their 107,000 employees accountable for achieving their diversity goals through a company-wide bonus program that has increased employee referrals, and have in fact done well in terms of broadening their recruitment efforts--efforts that are reflected in clearly improved hiring numbers, the revolving door for people who are different remains as active as ever. It is tempting to see these lackluster results and ask “why?” but the real question should be “Why are we surprised?”

Many organizations in the tech (and other industries) have invested considerable time, money and resources in revamping their recruiting processes (including instituting best practices such as blind recruiting, recruiting at a broader range of schools, and training hiring managers and teams to be aware of unconscious bias). These efforts to get people in the door are critical and need to be maintained and even escalated in some places, but they are only one part of the task. These organizations have not yet learned the often painful lesson that recruiting is only the first step toward having a more diverse organization. The secret sauce is inclusion. Many organizations assume their culture is fine and just getting people in the door is sufficient. Unfortunately, almost anyone who has ever joined an organization and had to navigate—with varying degrees of success—the unwritten rules and unspoken but powerful norms knows this is not a recipe for success. Too often, individuals of diverse backgrounds get hired only to find themselves in an organizational culture that feels like a club where systems and ways of interacting are unwelcoming and exclude people who are not a part of that club.

So what does changing the culture entail? It means creating an environment in which people feel welcomed and that they belong. It means that people feel seen, valued and respected for their differences and they experience a level of supportive energy from their team members, peers and leaders. Creating a culture where people want to stay requires more than diversity training or building awareness of the unconscious biases that block effective, inclusive interactions. Instead, it is about instilling, expecting and rewarding the day-to-day conscious actions for inclusion that allow people to do their best work using the talents, skills and abilities they were hired for in the first place. It means providing support for people who are different than the traditional group not only through networks and resource groups, but, more importantly, in their team environment so that the team members feel accountable and have the skills to leverage each person’s talents and abilities and understand the role that differences play as a part of their success. An inclusive organization recognizes that everyone needs to change. And it means expecting a new set of competencies and ways of working so that everyone succeeds.

Changing the culture means leveraging diversity AND living inclusion. Creating an inclusive organization must become a new way of life in organizations that are serious about becoming more diverse. Inclusion must become part of the organization’s DNA, the new HOW for how people interact, how decisions are made, how work gets done, but also who is at the table and whose voices are listened to. It is about BOLD moves…transformational change for most organizations.

It’s great that the tech industry is beginning to realize that it needs greater diversity for its continued success. Now it’s time to stop the revolving door and expand the focus beyond the door and into the hallways, meeting rooms, and shop floors where the culture lives and breathes. The tech industry has taken some solid first steps. The question is, will they step up yet again to ensure their efforts pay off? Organizations like Slack are leading the way, showing that it’s possible to recruit AND retain a diverse workforce. They are changing the way people interact. Creating a work environment in which all people feel that sense of belonging and can do their best work because the organizational culture works for them, supports them and fully includes them. It’s time for others to join with efforts that will make a sustainable difference in their organizations. The secret sauce is not so secret – but it does mean leadership must see the need for change. And that change is an inclusive culture.

OD NETWORK/IODA ANNUAL CONFERENCE

OD, Inclusion, and Diversity: Yesterday, Today, and Looking Around the Corner

Fred Miller and Judith Katz gave a well-attended presentation at this year’s conference on OD, Inclusion, and Diversity: Yesterday, Today, and Looking Around the Corner. The presentation centered on how we talk about differences in the workplace and in society has changed fundamentally in the last 25 years. We’ve seen shifts from a compliance focus of affirmative action to recognizing and articulating the business case for diversity in the workplace to focusing on not just representation, but the inclusion of people of all differences. Yet, stories related to diversity and differences are as alive as ever, from Ferguson (and beyond) to Gamergate to the battle for marriage equality. How do we as practitioners address differences and where does diversity fit in moving the field of OD forward? This presentation explored the evolution of diversity and inclusion, the challenges organizations face today, and how emerging trends such as Dialogic OD are shaping our approach to making an impact in how we change organizations.

 

OD Network/IODA Annual Conference

OD Network/IODA Annual ConferenceOD, Inclusion, and Diversity: Yesterday, Today, and Looking Around the Corner 18 October 2015

Matt Ninihan, Mila Baker, Judith H. Katz, Fred Miller

Fred Miller and Judith Katz gave a well-attended presentation at this year’s conference on OD, Inclusion, and Diversity: Yesterday, Today, and Looking Around the Corner. The presentation centered on how we talk about differences in the workplace and in society has changed fundamentally in the last 25 years. We've seen shifts from a compliance focus of affirmative action to recognizing and articulating the business case for diversity in the workplace to focusing on not just representation, but the inclusion of people of all differences. Yet, stories related to diversity and differences are as alive as ever, from Ferguson (and beyond) to Gamergate to the battle for marriage equality. How do we as practitioners address differences and where does diversity fit in moving the field of OD forward? This presentation explored the evolution of diversity and inclusion, the challenges organizations face today, and how emerging trends such as Dialogic OD are shaping our approach to making an impact in how we change organizations.

To view or download a copy of their presentation, CLICK HERE.

A More Welcoming, Inclusive and Safer Troy

Inclusive_Troy On Wednesday, 7 October 2015, a three hour community conversation was hosted by KJCG, along with community partners, about creating A More Welcoming, Inclusive and Safer Troy at Bush Memorial Hall on The Russell Sage College campus in Troy, New York. This conversation, with 230 engaged people, focused on ways that citizens, community members, students, police, city government, businesses, and civic and religious leaders can work together, honor our diversity, and make Troy a more welcoming, inclusive, and safer city. The event sparked a conversation that helped to shape a community that values all and conveys belonging, appreciation and neighborly goodwill; a community that celebrates connection and cooperation with care and respect—without exceptions. The event had a very diverse turnout, with people of all social economic groups, ages, races, and employment conditions. Participants each filled out individual Call-to-Actions and Big Ideas, ideas that are beyond the scope of an individual. This is one piece of a larger movement to make Troy, New York, a more welcoming, inclusive and safer place.

KJCG RECEIVES THE 2016 VAN RENSSELAER SMALL BUSINESS AWARD

The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, Inc. has been selected as the recipient of the 2016 Van Rensselaer Small Business Award.  The Chamber established the Van Rensselaer Small Business Award to honor businesses that demonstrate exceptional corporate citizenship through active involvement and generous contribution to the economy while improving the quality of life in the Rensselaer Gateway communities.  The Chamber stated that is is proud to highlight KJCG’s efforts with this award as the community initiatives of The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group clearly exemplify these characteristics.  Previous Van Rensselaer Small Business Award recipients include Bouchey & Clarke Benefits Inc./Bouchey Financial Group, Ltd.; Tri-City ValleyCats; MicroKnowledge, Inc.; architecture +; The Alcher Printing Group; The Old Daley Inn Catering Company; and Spiral Design Studio, LLC.

The Chamber will honor KJCG at the annual Van Rensselaer Awards Dinner scheduled for Thursday, September 15, 2016 in Troy, NY

 

KJCG Receives the 2016 Van Rensselaer Small Business Award

The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, Inc. has been selected as the recipient of the 2016 Van Rensselaer Small Business Award.  The Chamber established the Van Rensselaer Small Business Award to honor businesses that demonstrate exceptional corporate citizenship through active involvement and generous contribution to the economy while improving the quality of life in the Rensselaer Gateway communities.  The Chamber stated that is is proud to highlight KJCG’s efforts with this award as the community initiatives of The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group clearly exemplify these characteristics.  Previous Van Rensselaer Small Business Award recipients include Bouchey & Clarke Benefits Inc./Bouchey Financial Group, Ltd.; Tri-City ValleyCats; MicroKnowledge, Inc.; architecture +; The Alcher Printing Group; The Old Daley Inn Catering Company; and Spiral Design Studio, LLC. The Chamber will honor KJCG at the annual Van Rensselaer Awards Dinner scheduled for Thursday, September 15, 2016 in Troy, NY.

KJCG Wins Troy Vision Award

image002-1 The Downtown Troy Business Improvement District’s Fourth Annual Fundraising Dinner and Sammy Awards was at Franklin Plaza in Troy on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015.  The BID honored individuals and businesses that have helped make Downtown Troy a thriving place to live, work and explore.

Fred Miller and The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, Inc. were honored with The "Troy Vision" Award.  This award is given to a person or organization that has implemented a proven dedication to tackling community or societal issues in Troy in an effort to improve quality of life in the city.

The Downtown Troy BID's mission is to cultivate and advocate the economic growth of Downtown Troy and to further enhance and make our community a vibrant, attractive destination for visitors, businesses, residents, property owners, daily workforce and students.

image001

KJCG WINS TROY VISION AWARD

The Downtown Troy Business Improvement District’s Fourth Annual Fundraising Dinner and Sammy Awards was at Franklin Plaza in Troy on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015.  The BID honored individuals and businesses that have helped make Downtown Troy a thriving place to live, work and explore.

Fred Miller and The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, Inc. were honored with The “Troy Vision” Award.  This award is given to a person or organization that has implemented a proven dedication to tackling community or societal issues in Troy in an effort to improve quality of life in the city.

The Downtown Troy BID’s mission is to cultivate and advocate the economic growth of Downtown Troy and to further enhance and make our community a vibrant, attractive destination for visitors, businesses, residents, property owners, daily workforce and students.

A MORE WELCOMING, INCLUSIVE AND SAFER TROY

On Wednesday, 7 October 2015, a three hour community conversation was hosted by KJCG, along with community partners, about creating A More Welcoming, Inclusive and Safer Troy at Bush Memorial Hall on The Russell Sage College campus in Troy, New York. This conversation, with 230 engaged people, focused on ways that citizens, community members, students, police, city government, businesses, and civic and religious leaders can work together, honor our diversity, and make Troy a more welcoming, inclusive, and safer city. The event sparked a conversation that helped to shape a community that values all and conveys belonging, appreciation and neighborly goodwill; a community that celebrates connection and cooperation with care and respect—without exceptions. The event had a very diverse turnout, with people of all social economic groups, ages, races, and employment conditions. Participants each filled out individual Call-to-Actions and Big Ideas, ideas that are beyond the scope of an individual. This is one piece of a larger movement to make Troy, New York, a more welcoming, inclusive and safer place.

 

Hunger in Troy

image004 On 28 September 2015, KJCG and the Hunger in Troy Planning Group gathered together with Troy community members at Sage Bush Memorial to discuss individual and collaborative actions to help increase food security in Troy. One of the big ideas that came out of the meeting was mobilizing local participation in #GivingTuesday, which resulted in raising over 700 pounds of food that Hunger in Troy donated back to local Troy food pantries and organizations in need.

The Power of Checklists

Frederick A. Miller Checklists have saved thousands of hospital patients. One of them may even have helped the Allies win the Second World War.

Those statements may seem exaggerated. But in his 2009 book The Checklist Manifesto, surgeon and author Atul Gawande tracks how checklists have dramatically reduced human error and, today, enable us to leverage the impossibly complex knowledge that humans have amassed in the past few decades.

Gawande’s thesis, simply stated, is that we can’t keep all that knowledge in our heads any longer. In medicine, in engineering, in finance, even in organizations, our species has uncovered ever more knowledge to handle ever more complex situations. The knowledge and complexity are so great, in fact, that in the attempt to apply the knowledge we often forget the routine things—like ensuring there’s enough soap in an ICU to wash one’s hands. The result, as you might imagine, can be disastrous.

This is the value of the checklist: it frees us from having to remember the routine, so we can devote our full attention to the complexity that our brains are designed to grapple with. As Gawande notes, “A lesson is emerging: checklists seem able to defend anyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realized. They provide a kind of cognitive net. They catch mental flaws inherent in all of us—flaws of memory and attention and thoroughness.”

In the world of organizations, I see checklists as an ideal way to follow standard work. The whole point of standard work—loosely defined here as the most efficient and effective method currently known for performing a repetitive task—is to eliminate waste. With its origins in Lean Six Sigma, standard work provides an established, repeatable way to perform tasks. As a result, people no longer have to rethink their routines at each repetition; they simply complete the tasks according to standard work and devote their brainpower to unexpected or complex issues.

Still, not everyone will remember every step of standard work every time. Here is where a physical checklist, posted prominently, can come in: as a continual reminder to attend to the routine but essential details that make standard work as efficient and effective as it is.

Moreover, the benefits of checklists can extend well beyond processes. This is why we developed the Inclusive Meeting Norms as a checklist for more inclusive, more effective meetings, and the 4 Keys that Change EVERYTHING as a checklist for interactions in general. By practicing standard work and checklists in our human interactions, we will reduce waste, create a common language with which to communicate, increase our personal effectiveness, and get closer to Right First Time interactions.

Where could you use a checklist—in your own work life, in your team, throughout your organization—to ensure that everyone is focused where their brains are most needed to focus: on the complexities of the workplace? What pieces of your standard work would run more effectively through the use of checklists? How could you use checklists in your home life: packing for a trip, for instance, or keeping track of bills? Feel free to post your thinking here.

 

Measuring an Inclusion as the HOW® Change Effort

Catherine M. Volk Editor’s note: Catherine M. Volk, Judith H. Katz, and one of their key client partners will present on this topic on 10 April at the Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity. You can register for the forum here.

In organization development and change management, a wealth of models measure how individuals respond to change. How might a model evaluate the movement of systems, teams, and individuals through a change effort? What happens when the change effort in question is focused on improving inclusion in the workplace?  Over the past few years, we have asked these questions while partnering with a global organization to implement Inclusion as the HOW for accelerating results and achieving higher performance.

With the permission of change consultant Daryl Conner, we began by adapting the Patterson-Conner Commitment Curve—which charts the progress of individuals through a change—to plot the inclusion change effort at individual, group, and system levels. Our team designed a brief survey focused on the behavioral outcomes we anticipated at each milestone on the curve. With that survey in hand, we interviewed groups across the organization, testing the questions while evaluating how people were progressing up the curve.

The results gave us data about the progress of the inclusion change effort. Just as important, they provided far greater clarity, not only on the definitions of relevant behaviors, but also on which behaviors corresponded with which milestones. Early in the process, for example, we tested two questions: one asked people whether they had heard about the change effort overall, and another inquired whether they had heard about specific elements of the change. In accordance with the Commitment Curve, we identified the first question as an indicator of Contact and the second as an indicator of Awareness, thinking that people needed to hear about the change effort as a whole before exploring specific elements. What we found, however, was that people moved through the change much faster than we expected: so fast, in fact, that there was no significant difference in these questions. Instead, the better differentiator between Contact and Awareness was whether people had begun to undergo some education (formal or informal) on the components of the change.

We also saw, through measurable data, other dynamics of the change effort, among them:

  • If the change effort has enough momentum, even developments that might traditionally be seen as non-inclusive (e.g., downsizing) will not move the organization backward on the Commitment Curve—as long as those developments are handled inclusively. In the wake of one large restructuring, for instance, engagement scores remained consistently high, largely because the leaders modeled inclusive behaviors throughout the process.
  • Internal change agents must not move too far up the Commitment Curve vis-à-vis the rest of the system. Being “out of sight of the pack” often leaves change agents feeling vulnerable and alone. Their own momentum up the curve, and the creation of critical mass within their own organization, are at risk without senior leader sponsorship, strong leaders from their function, and a community of others practicing the new behaviors. This highlights the value of Communities of Practice, which bring change agents and early adopters together for mutual support.
  • Sequencing is essential. Some change agents, energized by the vision, try to engage all aspects of the change at once. For the system and the people in it, this is too much too fast, actually creating more resistance because the groundwork for the next stage is not yet ready.

As organizations feel ever more pressure to quantify return on investment, it is imperative to create reliable tools and strategies to measure change. Our hope is that this extension of the Patterson-Conner Commitment Curve helps organizations make the case for Inclusion as the HOW to accelerate results and achieve performance—and, more broadly, for design interventions to help individuals and the system integrate new behaviors so they become a way of life for the organization.

Healthcare and the Case for Street Corners

John Backman Last month, noted surgeon and author Atul Gawande visited our region to discuss the future of healthcare. What I heard him talking about was the need to share—and hear—street corners.

Gawande, the author of The Checklist Manifesto, was in town to present the keynote for “Health Care in the 21st Century: A Community Call to Action,” sponsored by The University at Albany School of Public Health and The University at Albany Foundation. For about 45 minutes, he spoke of the sea changes in public health over the past 80 years, the extraordinary leaps forward in the care of wounded soldiers, and, especially, the value of systems.

Perhaps his most startling comment, however, concerned the use of penicillin early in the 20th century. Even as the “wonder drug” delivered tremendous benefit, Gawande noted, it also led to an overreliance on medication as a treatment model. Now, amid the advent of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, the focus is shifting to a systems approach. Where healthcare is most like a system, Gawande said, is where it’s most likely to succeed.

And what does this system consist of? In part, it features groups of people delivering great results together. “We are now all specialists,” Gawande said. “We each have only a piece of healthcare.”

Or, to put it in KJCG language, each healthcare professional sees healthcare from a particular “street corner” or perspective. Bring them together, and you get closer to a 360-degree vision of the issue at hand. This applies to understanding individual patient cases as well as the field itself.

It is a textbook example of the need for one of our 12 Inclusive Behaviors: asking who else needs to be involved to understand the whole situation. Providing the extraordinarily complex care in today’s healthcare requires bringing together all relevant people, from physicians to nurses to administrators to public health experts and others, all sharing their street corners.

Yet this runs counter to the way healthcare has evolved: as a model that revolves around the autonomous, all-powerful physician. Or as Gawande put it, “We’ve trained people to be cowboys, when it’s a pit crew we need.”

If anything, today’s healthcare requires even more people contributing their street corners than ever, because a 360-degree vision encompasses more factors than ever before. After decades in which the mortality rate for war-wounded soldiers stayed the same, the U.S. Army tried new medical advances to lower the rate further, but without success.  What did prove successful were several initiatives outside the traditional bounds of medicine: mandating the wearing of Kevlar, for instance, and establishing mobile hospitals nearer the front to provide care faster.

Solutions like these might come from a team of physicians. More likely, they would come from a larger cohort of people who saw things from many different street corners.

At KJCG, we bring this message into organizations continually: The world is far too complex for a single group of people, with a single perspective, to even understand what is happening, let alone arrive at solutions. Organizations will only be successful if they hear from all relevant street corners in every situation. We find it encouraging that a thought leader like Atul Gawande would put the same approach to work on one of the most bafflingly complex systems of all: healthcare.

What Happens When the Consultants Leave?

Judith H. Katz and Monica E. Biggs At one client site—on our very first visit—we were pleasantly surprised to see our 12 Inclusive Behaviors posters already displayed throughout the facility. Signs accompanying the posters urged people to “pick two behaviors and practice them.”

The site was clearly off to a good start. Yet we were reminded just how far it had to go to make the change last.

Sustainable change ranks among the most challenging dilemmas that consultants and organizations face. Many change efforts thrive when the consultants are onsite—partnering with leaders, coaching people, modeling the new state—only to founder when the consultants move on. So “what happens when the consultants leave?” is a common and legitimate question.

The optimal situation, we believe, is when no one asks—because no one needs to ask. In that state, the change effort has gone beyond posters, the focus on metrics, or even the practicing of new behaviors. Rather, inclusion has transformed people’s mindsets. In day-to-day interactions, they use inclusion to make problems visible and create solutions—in other words, to conduct their business. No longer just a “tool,” inclusion has become foundational to the way they operate. No one worries about “when the consultants leave” because the mindsets and behaviors have been adopted, institutionalized, and internalized.

How does this happen? At KJCG, we use a version of the Commitment Curve (developed by Daryl Conner) to illustrate the journey from “poster on the wall” to “the way we operate.” On their journey along the curve, people in the organization move from simple awareness of the behaviors to experimenting with those behaviors. As those experiments bear fruit, they adopt the behaviors, applying them to every facet of their work; leaders institutionalize them into policies, practices, and processes. At the top of the curve, each individual owns and has internalized the behaviors as her or his own; living them is as natural and automatic as breathing.

How do we facilitate this movement up the Commitment Curve, particularly in organizations with large numbers of people? Part of the answer is to develop internal capability with a core group of internal change leaders from all levels of the organization, who together develop a deep understanding of—and passion for—making inclusive behaviors a way of life. They must learn not only the day-to-day application, but also how inclusion connects to the organization’s strategy, mission, and goals.

By providing peer-to-peer coaching and leadership, these internal change leaders shift the focus of the work from the consultants to the internal capacity necessary to ensure that the organization has the support and knowledge it needs to change interactions daily. The change leaders understand how to leverage inclusion as an essential lever to transform the organization, as well as how to incorporate it into every facet of conducting the organization’s business.

If we can develop a core of people who have internalized inclusion—and they subsequently engage and coach others—no one will have to ask the question “what happens when the consultants leave?” In that state, the people of the organization are living and practicing the change, whether the consultants are there or not. Consultants can then leave knowing that the change has every chance of becoming the way the organization does business.

 

 

Do We Need a Difference Pipeline?

Frederick A. Miller Next month, two of the consultants from our Firm will attend a diversity summit in London. The session descriptions convey that people at the highest levels of global industry are asking serious questions about diversity and inclusion. In one case, though, I wonder about a different way to approach the issue.

The summit brochure describes an event whose language resonates with our thinking in many respects. The Diversity Summit 2012 (6 December in London), sponsored by the organization that publishes The Economist magazine, is bringing together 150 senior executives from some of the world’s most respected organizations, including the World Bank, FedEx Express, Deutsche Bank, and Wal-Mart. Together with psychologists, anthropologists, linguists, and others, they will hold high-level discussions on “the value of inclusion.” One theme that runs through the brochure is the link between inclusion and performance, a key to our Inclusion as the HOW® framework.

But the description for one panel discussion, titled “Strengthening the Diversity Pipeline,” poses the following questions: “Why are most efforts to build diversity into the pipeline still not working—particularly those aimed at boosting diversity in the boardroom? What more needs to be done to improve the pipeline…and ensure potential talent, from any and every background, is not overlooked?”

These questions point to a critical reality. In many organizations, the “diversity pipeline” is missing. They have no consistent way to move individuals, including their differences, up the organization (as opposed to simply asking them to assimilate), providing a wider diversity of leadership around the globe.

Still, our experience at KJCG tells us that we can address this issue more effectively by thinking of inclusion on a foundational level: not as a pipeline to be filled, or an objective separate from the organization’s mission and strategy, but rather as the foundation for everything the organization does. When all people in the organization feel included, heard, and seen as individuals—when they have a sense of belonging, and there is a level of supportive energy and commitment from people around them—they contribute more of their best thinking and their best work, and their leadership abilities become visible. There is no need for a specific pipeline because more people have more opportunities to emerge as leaders—and be recognized as such—just by operating in an environment of inclusion.

Several foundational elements can help to create this environment:

  1. A systemic “inclusion breakthrough.” Many of our systems conspire to keep people in boxes. In particular, our long social history has sorted people into hierarchies of difference, conferring privilege on certain “one up” groups and withholding those privileges from those who are perceived as “one down.”  An awareness of, and attempt to erase, these hierarchies can free people to bring their differences without fear and make their leadership capabilities visible.
  2. A joining mindset. Most of us have been taught to approach others through judging: evaluating them before we even consider trusting them. This creates distance between people in organizations and prevents them (particularly those in categories perceived as one-down) from contributing fully. A shift to a joining mindset, however, enables people to approach others as worthy partners who can add value, unleashing their ability to do their best work and exhibit leadership.
  3. Inclusive behaviors. Such behaviors (like our 12 Inclusive Behaviors below) are the concrete expression of the joining mindset. They remove obsta­cles to participation, create a greater sense of safety, enable trust, and facilitate “right first time” interactions. Individuals feel valued, respected, and acknowledged for who they are; they add their value to the organization and are more willing to give their thinking and their discretionary energy.

 

Such an environment of inclusion not only fosters leaders but transforms the way the organization works. Through Inclusion as the HOW, the organization creates a safe place for everyone to bring their uniqueness, including their differences. Their different perspectives (or “street corners”) are seen as an asset to the organization, and they are sought out for opportunities to make larger and larger contributions to the organization.

When linked with performance in this way, inclusion gives organizations a competitive advantage in a world that is getting smaller and at the same time more complex. In such a world, differences in perspective—which together produce 360-degree vision of any issue or opportunity—are needed more than ever. By contrast, sameness in thinking is just not good enough anymore.

More than in many conferences, the global leaders at the Summit understand the value of inclusion and now want to move the conversation forward. We are looking forward to hearing from them and taking our part in that conversation.

Why Do Some Leaders Still Resist Coaching?

Editor’s note: This post is based on responses to Atul Gawande’s article in The New Yorker, “Personal Best: Top Athletes and Singers Have Coaches—Should You?” (3 October 2011).

Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player who ever lived. Renee Fleming is a force in the world of opera. Both of them had coaches throughout their careers.

Why, then, do professionals in other fields resist coaching?

Atul Gawande wrote his New Yorker article for one of those professions: medicine. But the resistance to coaching happens just as often among educators, psychotherapists, and others—including organization leaders. Several related factors conspire to create this resistance:

  • Some professions, particularly those that require years of advanced education, look askance at coaching as part of their basic mindset. The prevailing attitude is “I have worked hard to achieve my status in the field, so I shouldn’t need to be coached in my own craft.”
  • Leaders believe that coaching might erroneously be seen as an admission of weakness or incompetence. We have often heard this concern from leaders in our client systems—together with the point that the widespread perception of weakness in a leader could be fatal to her or his career.  
  • Leaders worry that nothing is off-limits to the coach’s purview and evaluation. The coach could probe areas that the leader deems too sensitive for discussion—or too trivial to waste time on.
  • Leaders confuse coaching with advice giving, which carries nuances of presumptuousness and even condescension. Coaching, by contrast, is a highly facilitative endeavor that builds trust while enabling new ways of seeing, thinking, and acting through reflective dialogue.  
  • The broader U.S. culture promotes several themes that run counter to using a coach: the emphasis on rugged individualism, the myth of the “self-made person,” the pressure to project an image of perfection.

Even so, these objections are losing their hold in many organizations, particularly as evidence of coaching’s value mounts. The use of coaches at the highest level of leadership has soared in recent years. In a survey of top business and human capital leaders, 78 percent said they viewed executive coaching as credible and valuable (DBM & Human Capital Institute, 2008). Michael Hehir, CEO of Rand McNally, and Ken Weller, who became CEO and chair of The Good Guys, have used coaches to good effect (Sandlund, 2002).

These leaders, and many others like them, have learned why coaching is so valuable for any professional. None of us can ever have a completely objective picture of our own performance. Coaching provides a “fresh set of eyes” to view the leader’s behaviors with the distance required for greater objectivity. Moreover, contracts can help leader and coach agree on the boundaries of the assignment—what is “in bounds” and “out of bounds.” Even so, these boundaries should not be drawn too restrictively: often the coach’s most important contributions involve areas of improvement that the leader never noticed or asked about. What may seem trivial at first glance may lead to substantial improvement in the future.

In addition, the fact that “no one of us is smarter than all of us” calls for a longer-term solution even beyond individual coaching. This is where the Executive Feedback Pod is so valuable: a group of six to eight people, selected by the leader, who meet regularly to give candid feedback on her or his progress toward practicing the desired behaviors. Group members reflect a diversity of backgrounds, functions, and levels to give the leader a 360-degree vision of her or his performance. In other words, the Pod models the unmatched power of inclusion to bring broader perspectives to any issue, resulting in deeper insights and continuous improvement for more effective performance.

In an intensely competitive world, where continuous improvement is an absolute necessity even to stay in place, leaders cannot afford to dismiss any strategy that would make them better. Coaching—individually and in Executive Feedback Pods—provides the same kind of help to executives that, for decades, has propelled promising athletes to the top of their game.

Charles Pfeffer, Cassandra Caldwell, David Wilks, Frederick A. Miller, Monica Biggs, Peter Norlin, and Yvonne Alverio contributed to this post.

Notes

DBM and Human Capital Institute. (2008). Trends in executive coaching: New research reveals emerging best practices. Quoted in New research reveals increased credibility and positive returns for executive coaching (14 August 2008), http://www.dbm.com/us/en/doc/DBM%20Research-TrendsInExecutiveCoaching-08-14-08.pdf?obj_id=5255.  

Sandlund, C. (2002). Coaching takes to the couch. Chief Executive 184 (1 December), http://chiefexecutive.net/dev/coaching-takes-to-the-couch.

A Sense of Exclusion at an Inclusion Conference

What is it like to be different in a roomful of people who specialize in difference? One KJCG member found out recently—and her experience holds lessons about the work of inclusion and why it is so important. Before attending the Institute for Leading Diversity & Inclusion™—an event sponsored by Linkage, Inc., and held in Atlanta—participants were assigned to small learning groups based on their experience with the topic. Ideally, this grouping brings together people at similar levels of knowledge to match the right learning with the right individuals.

Sometimes, however, the result is less than ideal, as KJCG financial analyst Ruhama Eshete discovered.  Her specialty in finance put her in a different place from the other group members, all of whom worked in human resources. Nine of the 14 group members came from the same company, an equipment manufacturer. This was no one’s fault—the manufacturer sent a sizable delegation to the conference, which created logistical challenges for the group coordinators—but it did create dynamics that left Ruhama feeling excluded.

Just as the group members’ situations were vastly different, so were their challenges. Most were struggling to make change happen at all in their organizations. Ruhama, like everyone at KJCG, struggles to manage the change that happens every day—continually holding conversations about process, creating and revising Standard Work, and taking other steps to navigate the chaos and keep everyone aligned.

Moreover, the group spent a great deal of time talking about issues within the equipment company. This was hardly surprising, but it did little for the others in the room. “It reminded me of what it is like to be different, to be excluded from contributing my best thinking,” Ruhama noted.

Without a doubt, it also prevented the group from being the best it could have been. Ruhama found no place to contribute her street corner (or perspective) on various issues. As a result, the rest of the group members missed an opportunity to deepen their knowledge—to get closer to a 360-degree vision of diversity and inclusion and what they can do for organizational performance.

The fact that this exclusion was not intentional highlights another learning from KJCG’s inclusion work: the lack of awareness of people in the dominant (or “one-up”) group. For the individuals who worked at the equipment manufacturer, discussing their own problems may well have seemed utterly natural, “the way things are supposed to be”; it may never have occurred to them that others in the group might benefit from focusing elsewhere.

Exclusion can happen for many reasons. Overcoming it requires a change in mindset—a decision to join rather than judge, to broaden the scope of the conversation rather than restrict it to the predominant group’s concerns. As it turned out, the conference held valuable lessons about inclusion—delivered in an unexpected way.

Ruhama Eshete and John Backman contributed to this post.