It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to get it wrong as long as you are willing to try again to get it right. It’s okay to be a beginner.
All too often I see the fear of failure holds so many people and businesses back from creating a diverse and inclusive organisations. And I get it. “What if I say the wrong thing and offend someone?”, “If I include that person am I excluding someone else?”, “I’m a small business, I’m not hiring anyone else so how can I be diverse and inclusive?”, “It’s something we want to look into, but we just don’t have the budget at the moment.”
These are all valid points and ones which I have seen over and over again, so if any of these resonate with you, you are not alone. The topic of diversity and inclusion can feel like uncharted territory with no clear starting point or final destination and with nothing but obstacles and pitfalls along the way. But here’s the thing I have travelled this path with so many organisations and teams and individuals over the years, I’m rather a seasoned traveller my friend so let me be your guide. And trust me when I say it is a beautiful journey and most definitely a destination worth heading to.
First things first we’re going to throw the business case out the window. Looking for the bottom line rationale will never get you where you want to be. There’s more than enough evidence out there for the business case. Proof that diverse and inclusive organisations are more innovative, thriving businesses. Places where employees want to be and customers want to connect with. But people don’t connect with the business case, and D&I is all about people.
So now we’ve let go of the belief that the business case can be our road map, we need another type of navigation system. Our compass for our journey my friend is our WHY. Why do we care about D&I? Start with your personal why. There’s no right or wrong, no winning golden ticket answer. just sit for a minute and think of your ending to this sentence…..
I care about Diversity and Inclusion because………….
What’s your story? You don’t need to share it but you do need to listen to it. Stories bring things to life. As much as we look for the 5 star ratings it’s the comments underneath we turn to. If I hand out a collection tin, you don’t simply hand over your money without asking me what I’m collecting for. The ‘why’ I rate a restaurant or the ‘why’ I’m collecting money are what leads you to take action. My why for D&I is because I believe my daughter should have the same experiences in life as her brothers. My why drives me and grounds me at the same time. Its my true north that keeps me on track.
No man is an island. No business exists in isolation. Even if you’re an entrepreneur doing everything in your business by yourself, you’ll have clients or customers. Even if you’re Micheal Jordan the best player the NBA has ever seen, you need to be a part of a team to win championships. So alongside your personal why, connect with other peoples why. Not everyones, but those in you inner circle of influence. Your colleagues, your team mates, your customers or clients. As humans we are hardwired to connect. Even the introverts amongst us don’t want to feel invisible. We want to share stories, we want to find connections. Listen to the experiences of those you care about. Connect the dots to these stories and you will find the why.
Now chances are you will at some point say the wrong thing and offend someone, at which point you come back to your why. You apologies for the offence, you learn from the experience and you come back to your why. If you have 10 seats around the table and you want to invite someone new to the conversation, then yes one of the original 10 will have to give up their seat. Come back to your why. And remember not letting one type of person take up all the space is not the same as exclusion. And diversity and inclusion is not a hiring exercise, so even if you are a one man or one woman show you can still create a diverse and inclusive business, unless of course you only want to sell to the person in the mirror in which case you keep doing you my friend.
Now I know I told you to throw the business case out the window but I am going to finish by talking numbers. Once you connect D&I to your why, you will start to truly value it. The more you value it, the more you want it. At this point you need to treat it like any other business unit. Not a project you give to HR but a stand alone business unit with the resources and KPIs and bells and whistles and accountability you assigned to every other aspect of your business. And for now if you are at the point of looking into it, you got this far my friend for free, so hats off to you. You have started your journey, you are on the right path and I’m here with you every step of the way.