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Diversity is not enough.

Diversity in organizations has been at the forefront of conversations for some time. Diversity is important. Diversity however, is not enough. Diversity in some organizations is about ticking a box so they can publically say, “Look at us. We are a diverse organization.” Diversity is just part of the picture of a healthy organization. Inclusion and Belonging are two other pieces that are often overlooked in building great cultures.

Regardless how diverse your organization is, if the people inside your organization feel like outsiders, like they are not valued as people, that their opinions, ideas, input and concerns are not valued, then you do not have a strong culture.

While hiring is usually the domain of Human Resources, you can strive to create a diverse team by recruiting people within the organization to your team. As a leader it is part of your job to create a culture of inclusion and belonging in your team or work group. This means creating rituals around welcoming people to the team and letting them know that they belong, and are now part a group of people committed to something bigger than themselves and to the pursuit of excellence in everything you do. Let them know what they can expect of you and the rest of the team, and let them know what is expected of them. Let them know that yourself and their new teammates value his or her input, opinions and contributions.

Once you have told them, you need to show them. Humans tend to cynical as they have likely been burned before when they were given a similar welcome speech, then shut down, embarrassed, belittle or demeaned the first time they spoke up.  Hearing from their peers that this is in fact a safe space to speak up, ask questions and offer suggestions will help break down the skepticism, but may not eliminate it.  You need to model the behaviors you promised. This might require soliciting their input or feedback early in their time with your team until they understand that the culture of inclusion and belonging you promised, is the reality.

Diversity is a great start, but without a culture of inclusion and belonging you are doing a great disservice to the people in your organization.

Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning and enjoy the journey. Register Now for the Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop.

Brian Willis