From Diversity to Inclusion

Diversity: the art of thinking independently together. ~Malcolm Forbes

Diversity. An Islamic Proverb states “A lot of different flowers make a bouquet.” I’ve experienced this firsthand. For some reason, I had the habit of buying a bunch of flowers (notice I said “bunch” and not “bouquet”) of all the same kind. Recently, due to the purchase of a ceramic gadget at an art fair that allows anyone to artfully arrange flowers, I started purchasing bouquets of different flowers. Interestingly, I have found myself pausing as I walk by the table to admire the assortment of colors and textures. It reminds me of “the art of being different together.”

DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) has become a frequent topic in blogs, podcasts, and boardrooms. It seems that while more leaders may have the desire for DEI, they struggle with how to implement the actual practice of DEI. This week I heard an example that I thought was both easy to implement and very effective.

Diversity Put Into Practice

How do you show up as an inclusive leader? Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Managing Director & Senior Client Advisor for Morgan Stanley provides a very practical (and easily doable!) example.

Harris says to do this at least the next four times you begin a meeting with your team.

  1. Start by saying something like, “Here’s the conversation (whatever topic or challenge you need to address) we’re going to have today. I’ll get us started.”
  2. Then say something like, “I’d like you, Abby, to add on to this conversation.”
  3. “Bill, I’d like you to add on to what Abby has said.”
  4. “Shonda, I’d like you to completely blow-up this argument, play the devil’s advocate, what’s the other argument, where are the gaps.”
  5. “Damien, I’d like you to add on to what Shonda has done.”

Harris says by doing this you’ve done two key things. First, you have essentially said, “I see you” because you invited each person into the conversation, by name. Second, you have said “I hear you” because you invited them to support or refute the argument on the floor. By doing this, you have ensured that everyone is equally invested (i.e., included).

Make the Mix Work

Andres Tapia said, “Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is making the mix work.”

My ceramic gadget helped me to make the mix of flowers work (i.e., become a bouquet). Just as Harris’ practice is an example of how to move from diversity to inclusion and also make the mix work.

A leader who enables a team to “think independently together” and “make the mix work,” is leading with bold grace.

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