Rob Field Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Intuitively we probably all know that diversity is a good thing.

It is a current hot topic and most organisations are at least talking about what they currently do and don’t do. Some key benefits; According to the Great British Diversity Experiment, it can contribute to more creativity and improve job satisfaction, dramatically increase the possibility of new connections between experiences, perspectives, and insights that lead to distinctive, powerful and new creative ideas. Ideas develop via meritocracy, and not quick buy-in from the dominant cultural voice.

McKinsey found that there is a direct, linear relationship between increased ethnic diversity in senior-exec positions and financial performance. Companies in the top quartile of ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to outperform others in the industry; likewise, those in the top quartile of gender diversity were 15% more likely to outperform respective industry medians.

On that evidence alone we should ensure more diversity, shouldn’t we?

Even companies that want to foster diversity and inclusion don’t always get it right. They sometimes focus on bringing in a diverse workforce at entry-level positions, then expect the effects to permeate around the organisation and flow upwards. Trisha Howard from Worldatwork points out that organisations sometimes rely on informal systems of identifying and promoting potential leaders feeding into unconscious biases or setting standards that maintain the status quo. These informal arrangements can be influencing who participates in high profile projects or assignments that can lead to promotion.

So what’s the connection to leadership? Obvious in some ways: Leadership encompasses empowering and inspiring others, ensuring change and in today’s fast-changing world, enabling an agile organisation capable of reacting swiftly. Leaders need to support diversity and help maximise the benefits. There is a rethink required though. Personality is important! Diversity includes changing attitudes, often starting with our own. For senior leaders who are successful, might they be stuck in behaviour patterns that have helped them be successful and therefore be less willing to change?

Could they inadvertently be bringing their own bias and have these filtering through the organisation?

As new leaders join the organisation how are they assessed? In Hogan terms, there are some areas that could be helpful to know.

  • Tradition is the scale that is concerned with valuing history and convention

  • Security measures an individuals interest in stability, predictability along with structure and order.

Above-average scores on these may indicate a desire to maintain what is in place and stick to the way things are done. 

By comparison

  • Commerce measures the degree to which an individual values business activity, money and the bottom line. A high score here may provide the impetus to change in order to increase the success and profitability of the organisation. A final assessment connection

  • Sociability and affiliation provide insights on the desire to build networks and alliances and the enjoyment of interacting with others. This could be critical as a growing and changing network is likely to provide the desire and ability to access new tribes!

Leaders are critical to the action relating to diversity. They set goals and direction. Their selection and development will underpin several areas relating to diversity and inclusion. How authentic and transparent they are will have a strong influence over the engagement of those around them. As role models they will have their behaviours copied, multiplying their impact. Investing the time and resource to assess and develop them makes good business sense.