Leadership and Fostering Genuine Diversity

This past month was “National Women’s Small Business Month.” As a woman-owned business, Arden Coaching recognizes the economic, social, and cultural importance of women in leadership positions across all industries, and appreciates the public awareness.

Declaring a particular month, a week, or a day for “women’s small business,” or “black-owned business,” or “LGBTQ-owned business” is an excellent start. As executive coaches, however, we know that leaders need to move deeper — much deeper — into diversity to make a real difference and to improve and strengthen their organizations.

Beyond building awareness and creating a broadly supportive environment for employees and leadership of all types; beyond “hitting the numbers” with hiring and promotions, we urge you to consider the following.

1. Cultivate your curiosity about differences in point of view

It is natural, normal, and easy for people to gravitate to people, teammates, and vendors who work like them, act like them, look like them, and think like them. Build diversity by starting with your own intellectual curiosity. 

How does a strategic challenge or leading a project team look from the point of view of someone who is not like yourself? What do people from varied backgrounds experience, assume, and believe? Ask questions. Listen carefully (read “Leadership: Developing Level Three Listening Skills”).

Develop your interest in learning more and exploring potential options and alternatives from another’s point of view. As a leader, your own inquisitiveness will serve as a model for your colleagues and employees, and help them adopt the same behaviors.

2. Promote an organizational culture shift that supports diversity of thinking

Your journey may start with the demographics of diversity — gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity — but also embracing diversity in patterns of thinking will ultimately have a bigger, positive impact on your organization.

The more we respect and consider different patterns of thought and encourage curiosity about different points view within our organizations, the more true diversity will show up in team meetings, hiring and recruiting, innovation, and strategic decisions. For more about the organizational benefits of diversity, read “Diversity, Including Diversity of Thought, Benefits Your Organization.”

3. Train and coach your dominant class/gender of leadership as well

Providing coaching for women and people of color, for example, to develop their leadership skills is a very positive thing to do. But the most difficult part of fostering diversity is talking to the dominant class/gender in your organization. Unconscious bias among the dominant group — embedded mindsets and patterns of thinking and perceiving — is real.

Coaching is needed for these groups too. Through these programs, you can support an organization from the inside — educating the leaders already working at your organization. This will open doors from inside your organization and help you avoid the need to rely on going outside your organization to create diversity.

An executive coach will help

It is very difficult to look in the mirror and objectively assess your strengths, challenges, preconceived notions, and areas of opportunity. Diversity is more than an employee check-off list based on demographics. Full diversity is seeking out and celebrating a diversity of patterns: patterns of thinking, perceiving, and behaving.

Coaching is all about considering and reflecting back patterns of thinking and patterns of behavior to help people and organizations move forward. A knowledgeable executive coach will help leaders and organizations work through these changes and opportunities and build a genuinely diverse organization.

To learn more about developing leadership skills and harnessing the power of diversity, contact Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.