The Business Case for Diversity

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FountainBlue’s November 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of The Business Case for Diversity. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a wide range of perspectives on our panel, and that our panelists shared their insights, suggestions and advice with poignant humor and candor. Although each panelist spoke with a different viewpoint and perspective, and approached diversity from a different angle, they shared many common traits: early experiences which helped them think more broadly about people and about the world; ongoing exposure to a wide range of environments throughout their professional and personal careers which exposed them to diverse settings, people, perspectives, situations and companies; successes and failures in a business setting, working with people, teams and management who did not think just like they did; and the desire to continually learn and grow, embracing new thoughts and perspectives for themselves, their teams and their companies.

Our panelists agreed that diversity was a business advantage for many reasons. First and foremost, welcoming people of different backgrounds into a team, into a business relationship as a partner, customer, or other stakeholder, or otherwise into the business ecosystem will in the end foster momentum for the organization, through sales, marketing, relationships, etc. Secondly, with the inclusion of people with different perspectives into the team, an organization is much more likely to create solutions which meet the needs of its diverse partners, customers, investors, etc. Thirdly, a person, team, or organization which truly embraces diversity in words and deeds, in general have a more resilient culture, a more tolerant mind-set, and can attract and retain the most prized and talent employees. Fourthly, as a company, the broader your perspective, the larger the market opportunity.

Below are some guidelines they suggested, to help embrace diversity for yourself, your team and your company:

  • Know and Manage Yourself.
    • Have the self-awareness to know who you are, what you’re good and not-so good at, and what pushes your buttons.
    • Act and speak in an authentic voice, standing behind your core values.
    • Condition yourself to embrace change, to question how-you’ve-always done things and what you think is right and wrong.
    • Embrace change, and people who welcome change, as complacency is the antithesis of innovation.
    • You are your biggest cheerleader, so cheer for your own cause. It’s OK to raise the bar for yourself, but not at the expense of your confidence.
    • Leverage a mentor to help you know, manage and accept yourself, and stretch your view of yourself and of the world.
  • Be Curious about People Who Don’t Think and Act Like You.
    • When someone pushes your buttons, think ‘Different is different, not wrong’.
    • Don’t clump people by gender, age, ethnicity, etc., but do evaluate them on what they do, how they behave.
    • Communicate to others in a way they understand. The use of idioms for example can be quite confusing for those who are not native English speakers.
  • It’s Not Personal, It’s Just Business.
    • Make a stand for your colleagues in work situations who are singled out and/or penalized for presenting a differing point of view, just because it’s different.
    • In managing conflict between people who think different, keep it professional and stick to the facts, staying away from personal attacks.
  • Always Focus on the End Game.
    • Build deep relationships of trust to help manage inevitable conflicts between people who think differently.
    • Think first about the goal, and embrace diverse thinking and suggestions, provided it helps achieve that goal.
    • Insist that your team and organization advance people based on merit, not politics.
  • Be a Leader.
    • Whether or not you’re in a position of authority, work with people and teams around you to embrace change, to welcome diversity.
    • Support high-potential men and women in your team, and actively participate in groups that also do so.
    • Always focus on doing the greater good in the short term and the long term. Know what that greater good is, and be transparent in your communications about why you are taking the actions you’re taking.

In the end, our panelists agree that diversity is a business advantage, and that people, teams and companies who truly embrace diversity will reap the rewards.Image

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We would like to thank our speakers for FountainBlue’s November 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Tips for Enlarging Your Sandbox: Learn to play with people who don’t act right (like you):

Facilitator Radhika Emens, CEO, Tanjah Partners

Panelist Shari Begun, Regional Sales Manager, Texas Instruments

Panelist Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue

Panelist Priscilla Knoble, Director, Product Management, Strategic Growth Markets, Intl Market Development, Adobe

Panelist Christine Westland, Director of Account Management, Intl. OEMs, Japan Channel, Brocade

Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Adobe.

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