Dr Lynda Folan shares her top tips on strengthening cultural diversity, dialogue and development within the workplace
We have known for a long time that diversity delivers better decision-making, improved results and more innovative outcomes. And a lot has been written about the organisational benefits of embracing diversity and enhancing the quality of dialogue.
However, we are still not seeing the systemic shift that we know is required to embrace diversity and open dialogue. Individuals and teams need to fully embrace the fact that innovation and change does not result from a homogenous group of people who think and do things the same way due to their cultural scripting. Instead, strengthening diversity in the workplace needs people to effectively cognise the positive impact of a diverse group of people in creating something better, different and unique.
The key to creating the shift? Two key transformations, which will make inroads into strengthening cultural diversity and dialogue:
- A change in the mindsets of the dominant culture
- A shift in the thinking and behaviours of leaders concerning diversity and open dialogue.
A change in the mindsets of the dominant culture
Here, we need much more than tokenism and being seen to do the right thing. If we are going to have an impact on the issues of cultural diversity and dialogue, we must systemically shift mindsets.
The internal processing of individuals drives destructive thinking, which is the basis of discrimination. So, if we don’t shift the internal processing, we won’t achieve sustainable change. Even if we teach people how to cover it up, they will never truly embrace diversity.
Unconscious bias is a hot topic and there is a lot of talk about shifting this. But in organisations, we still see daily demonstrations of unconscious bias in action. Until we hold people accountable for this and demand they shift their attitudes, we will never truly embrace diversity. Beware that when people talk about needing to be ‘politically correct,’ they’re unlikely to have changed their mindset on diversity and inclusion. Instead, they may be holding on to unconscious bias and attempting to cover up attitudes to appear politically correct. To fully embrace diversity in teams and organisations, everyone must shift their mindsets and embrace diversity in all forms.
A shift in leadership thinking and behaviours
Leaders are the key to delivering an organisational culture that enhances diversity, open dialogue, and engagement. If we are going to shift the dial on these issues, it needs to start with a shift in leadership mindset and thinking, resulting in a change in behaviours.
Actual change happens when leaders accept their unconscious bias and actively shift their thinking to embrace diversity and open dialogue. It is no longer enough for leaders to be emotionally intelligent and do the right things on the surface. They need to change their mindsets and thinking to bring about systemic and sustainable change in how they do things. This change in behaviours will help deliver a positive organisational culture that embraces diversity and transforms communication and engagement levels.
We live in exceptional times and leaders must step up and make changes to deliver a sustainable shift in your culture. But the most significant barrier to this shift is not the shift in behaviours. The biggest challenge for leaders? Being brave enough to face their unconscious fears and biases, then being disciplined in shifting their thinking and mindset…