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3 ways to champion diversity

3 ways to champion diversity

diversity and inclusions

“Tia, you make me crazy. Can’t you do anything without planning it to death? This work needs to go out now.”

“Hunter, this project isn’t ready to go. If we release it now, there’s going to be rework and more rework. Not to mention all the complaints we’ll get.”

“Time is money, Tia. All your dithering over getting it right is costing the company money. We’ve got to get moving.”

“Time spent on rework wastes money, too. Hunter. I don’t get how you can’t see that.”

“What I see, Tia, is you holding everyone up because of your ridiculous obsession with planning and perfection.”

“I’m not worried about perfection, you moron. I just want things to work right.”

Tia and Hunter’s raised voices had drawn the attention of their boss, Alonzo. It wasn’t the first time their disputes had disrupted the office. He called them into his office.

After a lengthy and passionate conversation, the three of them emerged with a plan—and peace.

Alonzo was a gifted leader who understood how to manage people through, and around, the perils, pitfalls, and polarization associated with binary either/or thinking, which leads to a lack of diversity in thinking and doing.

3 ways to champion diversity


Alonzo knew these three actions would help Tia and Hunter see beyond their “my way versus your way” thinking so they could work together to get the job done.

1) Always keep the end goal and what you need to accomplish in mind.

Both Tia and Hunter were passionate about their project. They believed they were doing purposeful work that would benefit employees and customers. However, in their zeal in promoting their personal vision for how the work should be handled, they got bogged down in details and lost sight of their over-arching purpose.

Alonzo helped them see how taking sides and pointing fingers only slowed their progress in reaching the common goal they shared.

2) Recognize there’s usually more than one way to get something done.

Tia was a methodical planner; Hunter was intuitive and spontaneous. Tia wanted to work out all the details in advance. Hunter saw work elements that could withstand a little risk-taking and could be released sooner. Instead of addressing the merits of what the other was proposing, Tia and Hunter fought over whose approach was right and whose was wrong.

Alonzo helped them appreciate how both of them were right but for different reasons. Some of their work did require thoughtful planning and testing to avoid unnecessary issues; other parts didn’t require such meticulous attention. Alonzo guided them in dividing their work into phases that could be released at different times.

Alonzo used the metaphor of taking a road trip to enlighten Tia and Hunter about using multiple approaches. He asked them to name what route they would take to visit a big city. Hunter said he would use the freeway. Tia wanted to travel back roads. Alonzo asked them if it mattered what roads they traveled as long as they reached their destination. Both Tia and Hunter agreed it didn’t.

3) Appreciate that standing up for what you believe in doesn’t mean being uncompromising or intolerant about other perspectives.

Convinced that their approach to their project was the right one, both Tia and Hunter had asserted their preferences as incontrovertible truths. Either/or thinking (and hubris) does that to people. They assert the rightness of their position, the wrongness of those who see things differently, and lose sight of the big picture.

Alonzo helped Tia and Hunter realize their inability to see possibility in each other’s position. He encouraged them to take a step back and think critically before jumping in, especially when they were so passionate about something. Alonzo helped them see that absolute and unyielding certainty is a flashing red sign signaling a lack of appreciation for diversity of thought.

Life, love, and leadership don’t lend themselves to cookie-cutter solutions. Understanding that diversity and inclusion play a key role in leadership helps us create and execute plans that produce better outcomes because the input was diverse and well-rounded.

Exclusion is always dangerous. Inclusion is the only safety if we are to have a peaceful world. ~Pearl S. Buck



Image credit before quote added: Pixabay



3 ways to disagree without being disagreeable

3 ways to disagree without being disagreeable



Every work group needs a contrarian.

People with different points of view, experiences, or attitudes move conversation and decision-making to a higher level. They aid in getting unconventional ideas and options noticed, comfort zones expanded, and results improved.

That’s the upside.

Some contrarians, though, bring work, ideas, and interaction to a complete halt.

The Urban Dictionary defines a contrarian as “someone who automatically tends to take the opposite point of view from the person to whom they’re speaking, or to disagree with society at large out of a sort of knee-jerk reflex.”

The trick to being a valuable contrarian versus being a pain-in-the-you-know-where-one is your orientation and attitude.

Why are you a contrarian?


Are you being the contrarian because you have a “me” focus rather than a “we” one? Because you believe your opinion is always the right one? Because you love to argue just for the sake of arguing? Or, are you pushing for something important the rest of the group has failed to see?

When the Catholic Church determines whether an individual should become a saint, a person is assigned the role of devil’s advocate. It’s their job to poke holes in the evidence. Additionally, there’s also a “Promoter of Justice” whose role is to argue in favor of the facts.

What makes a contrarian valuable


Purposefully poking meaningful holes in a position or idea is priceless, invaluable, and always needed.  Being antagonistic just for the sport of it isn’t.

By design, there was a contrarian on nearly every team I lead. I wanted someone who was willing to shake up the status quo.

Their orientation and attitude had everything to do with whether their team mates were initially receptive when they shared a point of view.

Concepts introduced combatively or with an air of superiority were ignored or quickly dismissed. The disagreeable messenger killed his own idea.

Often they [contrarians] haven’t acquired the tactical skills of developing their ideas. They tend to blurt them out, making them hard to accept, or else they disagree with others in a clumsy way. ~Karl Albrecht, author

3 things good contrarians do


Pay attention to social graces. People instinctively pull back from comments laced with anger, bitterness, and frustration because they feel like they’re being attacked. Your idea may well be the right answer, but if your present it with contempt, expect a cool reception. Learn to introduce and frame your ideas with tact and diplomacy.

If I see you as different and I view you with suspicion, or at the best with cold neutrality, it is unlikely that I will feel kindly disposed toward you. If instead I look at you knowing we both belong to the human race, both have a similar nature, different experiences but the same roots and a common destiny, then it is probable I will feel openness, solidarity, empathy toward you. In another word, kindness. ~Piero Ferrucci, The Power of Kindness

Think more about we and less about me. Present your thoughts less in terms of how they benefit you and more in terms of how they benefit the team, organization, community, etc. Promoting the greater good is good; hogging the spotlight isn’t.

Scientists have discovered that the small, brave act of cooperating with another person, of choosing trust over cynicism, generosity over selfishness, makes the brain light up with quiet joy. ~Natalie Angier, writer

Keep sharing. Poking holes in existing thinking or advancing something totally new is what moves business, careers, and personal growth forward. Make your voice heard.

We have it in our power to change the world over. ~Thomas Paine, political activist

What tips do you have for being a good contrarian?



From tolerance to acceptance to celebration

From tolerance to acceptance to celebration

acceptance inclusion

I was working with a leadership development group on the topic of conflict and was using a colleague’s slides.

I put up a slide (which I’d sadly missed when running through the materials, seeing somehow) that suggested a session norm of “develop a tolerance for others’ beliefs and norms.”

While my first thought was How did I miss this awful slide?, the class’s reaction made me glad I’d missed it.

The class took a turn into chaos, which is a great ally for learning. Some participants were offended by the word tolerance, others didn’t understand what was wrong.

The root meaning of the word tolerance is a person’s ability to bear pain. So if I proclaim how tolerant I am, I’m citing my ability to bear the pain of others’ differences.

Tolerance is condescending. It’s most often touted by the dominant group within a culture, organization, or bureaucracy (like school systems). Being on the receiving end of being tolerated is rarely uplifting.

When we’re responsible for leading others, it’s important to move past intolerance and learn acceptance. The word acceptance evolved from words meaning to receive willingly. How much more powerful and inclusive is that than tolerance?

I tolerate your difference, I accept our difference. Which position promotes better understanding?

When we grow comfortable with acceptance, we can progress to celebrating our differences—the deepest meaning of celebrate to is assemble to honor.

What if our workplaces celebrated our differences? What if schools moved from tolerance of difference to a celebration?

When we start changing the language we use, our understanding will follow.

Acceptance and celebration are for people. Tolerance is for injuries.

BTW, the class agreed to change the slide to acceptance. That moment was a turning point and well worth the chaos that got us there.

Today’s guest contributor is Mac Bogert, founder of AZA Learning, which provides leadership coaching and learning design support.


Image credit (before quote added): Pixabay




5 ways to make “this diversity thing” work

5 ways to make “this diversity thing” work

conflict is part of diversity

“This diversity stuff just doesn’t work. We’ve been hiring women and minorities like crazy,” shared a client. “Our culture is in worse shape than it was before.”

This fellow isn’t alone in his doubts and frustration when first trying out this “diversity thing.” Unsure of what diversity really is but feeling internal and external pressure to have more of it, companies opt to simply define it as “making the numbers.” They then task HR with hiring more women and minorities, and that’s when their troubles begin.

Women and minorities dropped into an intolerant environment recognize early on that they’re just tokens, numbers on a spreadsheet. When the work environment fails to become inclusive over time, issues escalate—destructive conflict, lowered employee satisfaction, and turnover.

When these problems occur in less evolved and less aware organizations, the “diversity initiative” is labeled a failure, and the folks in HR lose their jobs, especially those who had the audacity to advocate that diversity was needed.

Have you ever worked at a company where you saw this scenario unfold? 

“We’re so quick to go to make things black and white, and to put things in their box.” ~Matisyahu, aka Matthew Paul Miller, musician

Two key “gets”


However, there are organizations where none of these downsides happen after a commitment is made to having greater diversity. Why not? Because these companies do two things differently:

1) They “get” differences. They broaden the definition of workplace diversity beyond the obvious items of sex, race, ability, and age to include the less obvious but highly impactful and unseen differences of thought, opinion, and perspective. They “get” that differences don’t have to be divisive. These organizations see differences, despite how uncomfortable they are to manage, as the particles of sand that create the pearls of success.

2)  They “get” paradox. Paradoxical situations involve a pair of interdependent and interconnected forces that define each other and represent a continuum of choice, such as long- and short-term or quality and quantity. The dynamic that exists between the two elements is ongoing, recurring, often complicated, and sometimes contentious. However, long-term success requires paying attention to both elements. In companies where there’s been little emphasis placed on valuing and practicing diversity, the status quo has gotten comfy dealing with only one element of a paradox. Results are preferred to building relationships. Efficiency gets the nod over effectiveness. Competition, not collaboration, is the default.  

In organizations that successfully manage difference and paradox to capitalize on diversity, The B Team has identified the existence of four attributes: cooperation, individual accountability, inclusion, and respect.

For these attributes to surface as the norm, five paradoxes—cooperation and competition, inclusion and exclusion, respect and challenge, freedom and accountability, and results and relationship—have been effectively managed and rewarded.


5 leadership paradoxes that maximize diversity


Cooperation and competition

Staying ahead of the competition will never go out of style. Yet that should be an external facing mindset, not an internal one. There’s no “gotcha” when dealing with a colleague—everyone is on the same team.

In companies that “get” differences and paradox, the focus on who is in the “in-group” and who is in the “out-group” has been replaced with shared focus on achieving company goals. Everyone plays in the same sandbox; and they are expected to, and held accountable for, playing nice.

Inclusion and exclusion

This one might seem a little counterintuitive, but not everyone can be a part of everything that happens at work. In the organizations that “get” diversity, expectations, roles, and responsibilities are clearly defined and communicated before, not after, the fact.

People understand that their knowledge, skills, and abilities are directed to the work that makes the overall greater good possible. People are included where their contribution is the greatest while understanding that they, along with their co-workers, all play an important role in achieving company goals.

Respect and challenge

Conflict is a normal by-product of diversity and should be encouraged, not ignored or tamped down.

People who use paradoxical both/and leadership assure that conflict remains healthy and constructive, practicing what philosopher Theo de Boer calls epochè, which is a “temporary suspension of the truth of one’s own conviction,” as they interact with others. Values aren’t allowed to harden into dogmas that stifle creativity and innovation.

Freedom and accountability

This pair is the classic push/pull of preserving the core while stimulating progress.

In companies where diversity is leveraged for positive economic and engagement results, leaders use paradox to encourage ideas and change, acknowledging that’s the path to innovation and ongoing relevancy. They hold people accountable for making results happen, yet make room for learning from failure.

Result and relationship

Ah, the eternal issue leaders and managers face.

While effective leaders never lose sight of the bottom line, they don’t favor profits to the exclusion of all else. Rather, they foster and maintain an equal emphasis on profits, principle, and people. Additionally, they hold those around them accountable for doing the same.

Recognizing and managing differences and paradox requires time, effort, and awareness, but what a worthwhile payoff it delivers.

Ready to flex some leadership muscle to “get” difference and paradox?

What say you?


Image source before quote added: Pixabay



Women are good for your company’s bottom line

Women are good for your company’s bottom line

women do betterWhen you let women be women in the business world, they do better.

That’s according to a recent report from the Harvard Business Review, which makes the case that traditional thinking – that women should be treated no differently than men in corporate settings – is both flawed and regressive.

A major point made in HBR post is that only about 20 percent of businesswomen make partner. By expecting the same performance and outcomes from women that we expect from men, the corporate world is consciously and unconsciously excluding female leadership.

That’s a very bad thing, according to many. Kevin O’Leary of “Shark Tank” fame says that of his 27 companies, only the ones with female CEOs make him money.

Women are good for business, so it follows that what’s good for your best women will be good for your bottom line. I believe that women have the ability to elevate business results, which will provide a better return for stakeholders. I see an essential role for them in leading businesses into a new paradigm.

I see an essential role for women in leading businesses into a new paradigm. ~D. McLaughlin

4 Reasons Why Women will Lead the Business World Forward


1. The old way doesn’t work.

Since 1955, more than 90 percent of the companies on the Fortune 500 list have gone bankrupt, shrunk in size, become inconsequential, been mopped up by their rivals or closed their doors. Sixty percent of CEOs think their current business model is only sustainable for another three years.

So with statistics like that, sticking too closely to old practices and beliefs, such as discouraging the female nature in the corporate world could likely involve your company in those dismal failure rate numbers.

2. The business world has already changed.

Technology hasn’t only revolutionized how we do business—it has also changed the workforce.

Today’s employees are smarter, more innovative, more creative, and full of potential. As Generations X and Y emerge as tomorrow’s leaders, Millennials are proving to be very resourceful workers. Old models like “command-and-control” don’t fit with a company’s most precious resource—its people.

3. Women are more social and excel in collaboration.

We shouldn’t generalize too narrowly along gender norms. However, it’s probably fair to say that women are more nurturing, and lead and manage differently, being more prone to sharing influence and fostering a creative culture of collaboration. While this outcome isn’t strictly a gender rule, it is a workplace reality because much of today’s traditional management methods focus on centralized authority.

4. Momentum will continue to build for women leadership.

Momentum tends to build upon itself, which includes social change. While this change has been slower in the corporate world, we’re already seeing signs and opinions of change, such as the experience shared by Kevin O’Leary.

If the Harvard Business Review post is an indicator, women in business will feel more comfortable being themselves in a professional environment, and this is a reality that will be a game-changer.

What do you think? Is the gender nature of workplaces changing? What’s been your experience in seeing these four ways exhibited where you work?



LeadBIG welcomes back guest contributor Debora McLaughlin, CEO of The Renegade Leader Coaching and Consulting Group, executive coach, and author. Debora helps  women, business owners, executives, and managers ignite their inner renegade leader to unleash their full potential, drive their visions, and yield positive results both in business and in life.  


Image credit before quote added:  Gratisography





3 ways to successfully manage difference

3 ways to successfully manage difference

3 ways to value differencesBeing together again after so many years was pure delight. The connection seemed as if we were finishing a conversation begun only the day before.

Familiarity is so comforting.


…there’s too much of it and its dark side surfaces: lack of innovation, narrow-minded thinking, ingrained and unquestioned bias, outdated practices, and failure to grow as a person.

Boredom, too.

So, what’s the antidote to inflexible comfort zones with self-imposed boundaries that limit our potential? (more…)