How to share your diversity story and create a stronger inclusive leader presence
There is a business case for diversity – better ideas, better decisions, higher revenue and improved profitability – for starters. There is also a human case for diversity – fairness, justice, personal experiences to name just a few I have heard in diversity training over the years.
The human case is often overlooked in organizations. This is a big miss because humans are wired to make decisions emotionally, then support them rationally. That means that the human case is necessary to drive cultural change. By only focusing on the business case, it rarely ignites the passion necessary to sustain deep behavior change fostering inclusion. Our brains need emotion and a deeper “why” to change behavior.
This is especially important for the majority group (white, cisgender, male, straight, able-bodied, etc.). Those that identify in the majority group often do not feel included in the diversity conversation. This leads to withdrawal behavior with excuses like “diversity is not for me” or “they don’t want me talk about this.” This is a problem because the majority group are likely the decision makers and leaders in most organizations.
How to spark the human case for diversity and inclusion?
The entry point is storytelling
Often, a nice entry point to get to the majority group to connect with the human case for diversity is an activity I call diversity storytelling. Even those in the majority group can see themselves through the lens of diversity when given specific prompts to think about a time…
- They felt different than a group
- They felt as if they did not belong in a group
- They felt they had to minimize or maximize an attribute(s) of themselves to fit into the group
Inclusive leaders share their stories
Once leaders have crafted their stories – have them practice sharing them with their teams. A good story has a compelling who, what, where, when, why beginning building up to a climax or change in the middle with a resolution at the conclusion. This is a recipe we learned in middle school English class that we often forget as adults.
Leaders that share their stories are likely to engage their teams at higher rates, build trust with their teams, and facilitate meaningful dialogues about how to be more inclusive through openness to feedback. This builds their leadership brands through improved presence and influence.
Diversity is not a zero-sum game
Diversity is not a contest or comparison game. While some have experienced multiple diverse identities and stories, tracking score does not drive change. Instead, the more all leaders identify with their own diversity story, the more they will be inclined to participate in diversity training and conversations.
Inclusive leadership is embracing that everyone has a story to share, and that we all have something to bring to the diversity conversation. The more leaders model this, the more the door is open to inclusion. By facilitating a culture where diversity storytelling is common place, inclusive leadership thrives and all people can be their true selves at work.
Like this content? Then, you will love my new book Lead Like an Ally. Click on the link to order your copy, watch complimentary videos, and begin your ally journey. A great place to start is by taking my free online assessment and printing my free inclusive leader checklist to kick start efforts at your organization.