Leaders must be open to thought diversity in order to create growth, attract new talent, and generate new marketplace opportunities.
Sure, we all recognize that we should create and act on strategies for change. We have countless meetings about them and talk them to death. Then what happens? Nothing. All those ideas vanish about as quickly as it takes to get up from the table and shut off the video feed. The end is like a Purell for ideas. The main reason? Not laziness. I believe many people want the change they seek and would like to act. The problem is most people just don’t trust themselves enough to take the first steps and define their strategies. This is the basis for accountability, and they would rather be held accountable to others’ expectations than their own.
This is also the basis for courageous leadership, which we need in times of prosperity and adversity. Good times, bad times, it doesn’t matter: Leaders cannot wait until those around them begin to take the actions that they are hesitant to take.
But they can’t just act. Leaders also need to develop an ability to take calculated risks by seeing around the corners up ahead and thus lead by example, allowing their people to do the same. Yet most leaders they don’t, because they lack diversity of thought. They refuse to allow all people on their teams help define strategies and directions. They expect them instead to comply with the company directives.
This is why even the most innovative and disruptive companies can be more like-minded than we think. They focus only on what inspires them and makes them comfortable. When I work with companies, I always want to see how the people in the room respond when there is genuine discomfort. Whatever they are considering – from diversity and inclusion to global sales strategies – I make them think about uncomfortable truths and embrace them.
For the first hours, there is always uneasiness but soon they open their minds and become vulnerable enough to see the truth: that focusing only on what inspires us and thus what we understand and are comfortable with reinforces like-mindedness and creates cultures that expect everybody to act the same. They see this in how traditional approaches to initiatives like diversity and inclusion typically promote and result in the exact opposite of inclusion: marginalization and victimization. That’s why the conversation about diversity has not evolved – and this is true not just about the conversations surrounding diverse populations but all people: They have become dialogues around like-mindedness rather than the power of individual contributions.
As a result, initiatives like diversity and inclusion as currently defined in the workplace and marketplace are solving for the wrong things and silos between groups are widening. To change the conversation, we must get beyond diversity and embrace the diversity of thought.
You must allow diversity of thought not just of population touch your business and leadership every day and serve as your competitive advantage to stimulate new growth, attract new talent, and generate new marketplace opportunities.
Here are eight steps leaders can follow to embrace thought diversity in the workplace and marketplace:
Focus on the things that disrupt us not just the things that inspire us
Give up control and allow people to have influence
Allow individuals to define the business not the business to define the individual
Stop being comfortable with the words that create no tension
Align the company values to reflect the realities and goals of the people in your workplace
Challenge old templates and ways of doing things
See vulnerability as a strength
Break down silos between departments
Think you are embracing diversity of thought? I invite you to take my “Diversity of Thought Assessment” by clicking here. The free assessment measures your ability to be open-minded enough to think differently in your quest to achieve workplace and career goals through different pathways and approaches.