Home Education The common reason. Initiatives on a variety of failures

The common reason. Initiatives on a variety of failures

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How L&D can create a person-centered workplace

Protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have inspired many corporations to look honestly at their own diversity – or lack thereof. Last year, the CEOs of large companies made well-prepared statements of support and promises of real change on social media. With good intentions, they often sounded deaf, because words without deeds do not significantly increase diversity. There is a misconception that closeness to other people will lead to significant change. However, without action to close the gaps and without thinking about one’s own experiences first hand, diversity initiatives will be superficial at best and offensive at worst.

The task: to lead a monotonous life

Although hiring different staff is a necessary first step, diversity of the workforce does not guarantee an inclusive workplace. Without real integration these efforts address diversity just scratch the surface. Unfortunately, I have worked with many people who claim to be in favor of diversity but who are not working to develop a trusting relationship outside of their comfortable and familiar identity group.

My work as a cross-cultural consultant began with working with Japanese expatriates in Fortune 50 companies that were sent to destinations in international destinations such as London, Houston and Sao Paulo. The vast majority of these emigrants were middle-aged men, Japanese, and they were hardworking, smart, and committed to success. However, they often did not have strong trusting relationships with the local population.

They often called “language differences” the reason they didn’t go to dinner, talk, or invest time in nurturing relationships. But I knew there was more to it. Learning English in Japan begins in the early grades of high school, so while many immigrants may have been uncomfortable speaking English, they had a basic understanding of the language. Instead of chatting with local staff, they constantly spent all their time with other Japanese. They lived outside of Japan but lived a Japanese life.

After years of working with thousands of Japanese immigrants, I realized that many of them were not involved because of two factors: first, they did not want to do or say not something that they often chose not to say anything at all. Some would not even engage in simple morning greetings. Second, they did not see significant benefits in communicating with the local population. Because they were able to continue the work process and report back and forth to Tokyo, they were unable to figure out what they were missing. It usually took them some type of crisis or complaint about human relationships to see that their failure to integrate was a poor choice for business. It took them even longer to realize that by living a monotonous life, they were losing enriching experiences for the company and for themselves.

The behavior of Japanese immigrants reflects the behavior of some leaders in the United States, especially leaders who identify with the white cultural majority. They may hire for variety, but they do not interact with people who are different and do not develop trusting relationships with them. Fear of doing or saying the wrong thing can make them avoid actions that can eventually lead to a trusting relationship. Even simple actions, such as inviting someone to dinner or engaging in a small conversation, are not going the way they should. For many leaders, including in learning and development, it is more convenient to deal with a variety of data and spreadsheets than to look at their own monotonous lives.

Like the Japanese immigrants I’ve worked with for years, some white leaders don’t accept diversity because it can mean sharing power, trusting other decisions, and giving in to people who may not fit the cultural majority. Until recently, white leaders had little incentive to expand the circle of those who belong, especially at the top of the organization.

Solution: self-reflection

The most effective solution is for leaders to reflect on themselves and consider the many choices they make, large and small. Do they live in different cities but live a monotonous life – eating lunch with the same people and consulting with people who watch, sound and pray like them? If so, don’t worry; there are simple steps that all leaders can take to begin the process of expanding their circle and extensive experience.

One of the useful tools I have used for years is the simple question of 10 “Self-assessment of us against them” which allows you to quickly measure the level of integration of a person with a particular cultural group. Anyone can first take part in the process of introspection by choosing a target cultural group that can be specific or broad. This target group should be relevant in some way, but should be chosen only by a person who conducts self-assessment.

The 10 “yes” or “no” questions need to be answered personally and honestly. Any “no” answers become possible actions that a person can take in a deliberate process of expanding face-to-face interaction, of ever greater depth with people who are different from them. This process, when conducted with a genuine desire to close the gap, can provide a pathway to meaningful relationships that will help leaders go beyond superficial initiatives and to a culture of “we” where everyone is safe, willing and productive.

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