Unity in Diversity

Once you understand D.E.I., then what?

The inauguration speeches of incoming Presidents always inspire me. There have been 13 in my lifetime; 7 Republicans, and as of last month, 6 Democrats. Each has delivered tremendous and memorable statements, many of which were intended to bring people together. I genuinely believe they intend to unite us by leveraging our diversity as a strength rather than allowing it to divide.

Although I do not remember it, President Kennedy famously exclaimed, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” In part, his point was - regardless of any differences, the challenge is to contribute unselfishly in some way to the public good.

Our probing question must be, how do we inspire those we influence toward the best civic actions through equity and inclusion? History shows us that when we do this, then we are at our best. Indeed, in his inauguration address this year, President Biden said it this way, “America has never failed when we’ve all acted together.”

So, what goes wrong? Well, the President went on to say the following: “We will lead not only by the example of our power but by the power of our example.” Time will eventually judge the job of this President and his leadership. Regardless of our political leanings, I’m sure we always have the best high hopes as new leadership takes office – we always hope for the best and wish them well.

However, this post is about you and me. It’s about OUR leadership – not about armchair quarterbacking someone else’s decisions. Will WE lead this year by the power of our example? Remember this; “what we do ALWAYS speaks louder than anything we can ever say.”

Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. We all know we cannot just talk about it, but what can we do in our organizations? Many teams are struggling to address these issues within their four walls even though they realize there’s an opportunity to do something significant. Most organizations already have some amount of solid diversity, but they don’t even realize it. Worse yet, they don’t know how to leverage it.

So how can we start? Here are four imperatives to serve as the foundation for your approach:

1. Establish a formal starting point – We believe now is the perfect time to show that you care about your employees by helping to educate them – at least at a high-definition level – about DEI. Our experience indicates tremendous appreciation, across the board, toward leaders who take this step. In doing so, remember that the goal must NOT be to focus on policy and regulation alone, nor to react to the threat of litigation. These types of workshops and seminars DO NOT WORK.

In fact, a study of 829 companies over 31 years showed that standard diversity training had “no positive effects in the average workplace.” But here’s the good news, our collected data shows that organizations who honestly endeavor to develop and educate their teams, thereby starting meaningful conversations and expanding perspectives, will reap very positive cultural and team-building rewards. But this must be done with the right heart and through the lens of developing and broadening each person’s influence as a leader. This authentic effort is very powerful!

2. Embrace the truth that change starts with our THOUGHTS – Whether we realize it or not, our thoughts have tremendous power. We have over 6,000 thoughts per day, and we don’t realize that we hold onto specific thoughts. We fail to challenge them often enough. This is just human nature – to stay stuck in a stale mindset. But the best leaders always challenge themselves to both validate their thinking but also – to grow. We must learn to be intentional with our thoughts because our thoughts lead to our words, and our words lead to our actions. If we can lead our respective teams to identify their thoughts, examine them and challenge them, then we may have the chance to improve them - together. And subsequently, to change the way we speak and act.

3. Expand the awareness of the true definitions – It’s quite sad how sometimes we leaders have allowed politics and the loudest voices to define certain terms for us. We need to cut through the middle of all extremes and get back to the basics with the raw meaning of each word as follows:|

Diversity - Diversity represents all the ways people are alike and unalike – the differences and similarities in age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, capabilities, and socioeconomic background.

Equity – The quality of being fair and impartial.

In many DEI seminars – trainers leave out the “Equity part” of the discussion. They only teach Diversity & Inclusion. This is wrong. It’s important to realize that “equity is the glue” that actually connects diversity to inclusion. Understanding and appreciating our diversity allows us the ability to be fair and impartial – to provide equity. We must be fair & impartial before we can be inclusive.

Inclusion - The action or state of including or being included within a group or structure.

The key word here is ACTION. So often in the corporate world, diversity can feel like a numbers game – a requirement to have a certain number of people from different backgrounds. Unfortunately, this attitude never really works because inclusion MUST be a matter of the heart to make a difference. Inclusion is about developing the DESIRE to have an IMPACT. Inclusion is about the heart and the spirit. It is “wanting” to develop people – all people, bring people together, create a team, create a FLOURISHING CULTURE. And this must begin by properly defining the words that have become so manipulated by those with very biased agendas.

4. Express ourselves so our people may do the same – We have an enormous opportunity, based on an honest pursuit of these imperatives, to equip our teams to gain confidence in discussing social issues without screaming, fairly. But by listening and responding with empathy. We do not have to be perfect; just proactive and personal. To give our people this gift, to communicate with freedom and power, is not difficult. It simply means that we help educate them away from the bondage of fear and toward communicating with freedom. We can equip them in such a way to never be afraid of saying the wrong thing. We can show them how to understand another person’s point of view fully. We can help them see that each of us has blind spots that limit us. We can help them learn to ask questions rather than to being apologists for long-held dogma. We can teach them empathy, which will always serve to decrease the information we do not know.

As we begin to learn more about ourselves and others, we will increase our awareness – and theirs. We will build trust, which is the foundation for all meaningful connections and progress. In doing so, we will take a huge step toward true Unity in Diversity.

Remember, inclusion is all about a sincere desire to make an impact. Where will you make YOUR INTENTIONAL IMPACT in 2021?

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"My biggest takeaway from the Strength in Diversity Training with DREAM4 is that we all have biases that we need to be aware of. And what surprised me about the information was how it helped me see that I need to work on how I process things. I believe that everyone needs this training."
Jennifer G.
HR Professional, Hoover, Alabama

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