Why does the word “diversity” provoke so much fear and passion in today’s world? More importantly, why is diversity so often misunderstood or misappropriated?
From the classroom to the boardroom to the factory floor to virtually every corner of our modern world everyone is clamoring for more and more diversity. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
I have developed, managed and facilitated diversity programs and training. While doing so, I have seen both its benevolent and malevolent sides. While I continue to applaud diversity, as both a business and social strategy, I do so with a profoundly deeper understanding today than I did several years ago.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE “DIVERSITY”?
Ask most people what they think diversity is and they will most like say, “It is a program that aims at creating a balance of people within a group based on race, gender, and religion.” Some may go so far as to add education, age and ethnic origin to the mix. The business case for diversity is much more than the affirmative action, gender equality and identity issues most people think it is.
The truth is, based on information from the Society for Human Resources (SHRM) these characteristics are just the tip of the iceberg.
Look at this graphic from SHRM.
The chart helps you see that diversity traits are both visible and invisible. Whether you are leading or speaking to a group, you can be assured that there will be people in your group filling a multiple of these traits most of which are invisible.
DIVERSITY AND THE SPEAKER
As a speaker, you must do your research before you speak. Ask the organizers of your speaking opportunity to provide you with data regarding the composition of your audience. Once armed with this information you can use it to craft your presentation to be more inclusive both in terms of content and language selection. Possessing this information will make you a better speaker, providing you with insights that will help you deeply connect with your audience.
DIVERSITY AND THE LEADER
True diversity in the workplace allows leaders opportunities to create a complex composition of individuals who can be given a seat at “the table”. The more diverse the individual traits represented at “the table”, the greater the opportunity for gaining new insights into a variety of business-critical issues from product development to process improvement to employee engagement. When you are leading a team, think beyond the obvious visible traits that tend to placate most drivers of diversity. Think, “How can I best serve my customers, employees and company by pursuing the most diverse range of thinking I can assemble.”
THE HIDDEN VALUE
The hidden values in diversity are by-products of its practice. When you think diversely and seek diverse opinions you strengthen your own sense of what you know, why you choose one option over another, and why it’s okay for people to disagree while working together to build a consensus and strategy for progress and growth.
For a leader this means developing an understanding of how people think and express themselves when given the opportunity to freely contribute to the “conversation”.
For a speaker this means learning to listen not only to what you are saying but to what others are saying about those topics near and dear to your heart. Avoiding isolated thinking is a powerful way for a speaker to connect and make an impact.
In the end, diversity really is about the art of thinking independently together. It is no secret that no one ever achieves success alone. Increasing the diversity of your thinking, research, and experiences is the strongest case for practicing diversity in everything you do. Diversity forces us to seek the most common ground. And, it’s on the common ground where the most bonds of goodwill, cooperation and understanding are initially forged and tend to endure.
As always, please feel free to share this post with a friend or colleague. I appreciate a diversity of ideas and comments as well, so please share your comments on this post or suggestions in the comments section below.
To Your Speaking Success.
The Speech Wiz