Although we praise the multi-cultural complexity of Canadian society, it never ceases to amaze me that there is such a general lack of diversity in business and government. Diversity has so many “personalities” that it should not be a hardship to incorporate into current and future plans. Do not be misled that only a difference in culture will create diversity. To be fully inclusive you need to embrace all the Equality Rights in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
At Cats Media we have always attempted to embrace the Canadian Charter’s Equality Rights. As a matter of fact, we have them all covered. Our eclectic group consists of an equal mix of men and women; we have employees whose ages range from 20 to 80; we have black, white, Asian and South Asian employees and we have employees with disabilities. This variety makes for some very interesting and creative discussions. It also makes for some very interesting and creative solutions.
Outlined in the 1991 U.S. study Managing Cultural Diversity by T. Cox and S. Blake, the six key advantages of corporate diversity are: recruitment, greater creativity, problem-solving, flexibility (better reaction to change), cost (employee turnover) and marketing (i.e. – stronger financial performance). In a research report from Kristyn Scott, a professor with Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management and lead author of the study The Diverse Organization: Finding Gold at the End of the Rainbow, the researchers broadly defined the term ‘diversity’ to include ethnicity, age, gender, educational background and professional experience.
While the researchers found mixed results on individual elements, they theorized that overall, the more an organization embraced elements of diversity in its corporate culture the more prosperous the company became and the happier and more loyal its workforce.
“When you have an inclusive corporate culture, recruiting top talent becomes easier, group processes will be enhanced, which means employees are more likely to stay, which, in turn, increases the company’s bottom line,” said Scott, whose study has been published in the current issue of the journal Human Resource Management.
As stated by Chrystia Freeland in a recent Globe and Mail article, “If you believe talent isn’t determined by gender, race or sexual orientation, but is instead a roll of the genetic dice, then the most productive society will be the perfectly fair one. A society blind to gender, race and sexual orientation will choose the best person for the job”. This type of inclusion is far removed from that of the 1960’s and 1970’s when approximately 90% of all the professional and management jobs were filled with white, straight men. The “Mad Men” days are, fortunately, moving behind us but even today, many unconscious prejudices still exist. Although there is a great emphasis put on eradicating the inequalities, the cycle has become one of tolerance but not yet acceptance.
When people of differing backgrounds come together in the workforce it creates a dynamic which makes a company much stronger. The different experiences that ultimately brought everyone to the same place ensure a more creative environment. Companies need to embrace this integration into their business plan. To be a truly global company we must interact with those of various cultures, lifestyles and values. Creativity increases when people of differing backgrounds work to a common solution. Productivity increases when those of varying cultures, ages and lifestyles collaborate to a mutual goal. New attitudes, languages and processes will be integrated into our corporate culture once we embrace and accept diversity. Granted, there are many challenges in creating this culture. Old biases may come to the forefront and new weaknesses may surface. The comfort zones may be rattled and the desire to keep everything the way it has always been may be compromised. There may be resistance and dissention at the implementation stage but what do we have to lose? The ultimate completion and integration of true diversity and acceptance of such, will result in a happier, more engaged, more loyal, more productive, more profitable workplace. Not a bad ROI for a very pleasant and rewarding interaction. Why not try it?
You own the company. You are the boss. Obviously you have been a part of the day-to-day business of running the company from its inception. However, leading it should now be your primary role. It can be difficult to make the transition from being hands-on to being the leader but leaders we must become. We often resist taking on that role because we think that because we own the company we should be ‘slugging it out’ day to day. Wrong. There is nothing more important than providing strategic leadership to your team. Your company needs you to be the strategic thinker; your company needs you to direct growth. As its strategic leader you will provide the vision and direction for the growth and success of your business.
One reason this transition can be so difficult is because most people don’t know what strategic leadership is.
Leaders envision the future
Strategic leadership is having the ability to think ahead, to study the industry and to seek out what opportunities are available. Leaders have to search for future gains and advantages. They have to network and constantly be on their toes to stay ahead of the market.
Leaders refuse to maintain the status quo
Leaders must think critically. Challenge everything. Find better ways. Leaders must change current mindsets and current methods. The most important thing is that as leaders we must constantly strive to make our products or services better and better.
Leaders analyse and make decisions
A good strategic leader holds steady. Don’t jump on new thoughts or waves until you’ve analysed the market, opportunities and trends. Thoughtfully review options. Make a decision before you become paralyzed by too much information and too much time to think about it. Have an opinion and take a stand.
Leaders motivate their team
Good leadership involves building trust with your team and engaging key players and partners. Even when different points of view exist, good leaders can bring the cause to the foreground and make a difference.
Leaders never stop learning
Never stop talking to other professionals. Constantly encourage feedback and dialogue with those around you. If you go off track, get back on course quickly. Celebrate successes and failures. Keep reading and stay in touch with your industry. Someone is always better, stronger or faster.
All successful companies have high-level executives who set the marketing tone. Whether they are small business owners or CEOs they teach the rest of the company how to promote their products and services. They also educate their clients and, indeed, the market itself. The higher up the ladder you go, the more passionate, inspired and inspiring you must become.
The old system is no longer adequate. Something happens, usually unexpectedly, that forces us to realize this. Not challenging the status quo because we don’t want to ‘rock the proverbial boat’ can cause a serious situation to become one of crisis. When something happens to threaten our organizations we go into ‘crisis mode’, which at least means that the status quo will finally get turned on its head. The key of course is not to wait for a crisis situation. Possible threats should have already been assessed, understood and identified. The plans should have been in place, the training done and the policies written and communicated long before. Intellectually we all know this, but the reality is it is easier to accept the status quo than to demand change.
Good leadership respects the rights and dignity of others. Good leaders demonstrate a level of integrity that in turn develops trust. Good leaders are not self-serving. They are keenly aware of how their decisions affect others. Good leaders create a desire in others to be self-sufficient by empowering them. Good leaders motivate others and put the needs of the team ahead of their own.
Sometimes even the best of us are afraid. Change is challenging and it is often hard to embrace it. But that knot in the pit of your stomach dissolves very quickly when you lead a project through to a successful conclusion. Focus on the courage you need to innovate. Put fear behind you and visualize your success.
If you are so busy you don’t have time to think there is a chance that nothing is really getting done. Having a jam-packed calendar and running from meeting to meeting usually means you are accomplishing less than you should. Taking time for reflection and analysis is imperative. We all need the time to absorb what we have heard, learned and experienced so we can analyze it and turn it into something productive and innovative.
Today, anything that remains untouched for even a short length of time becomes outdated very quickly. Company policies and procedures need to be updated regularly to stay relevant. I’m not suggesting you reinvent the wheel at every turn; I am a major proponent of ‘building on’ rather than ‘tearing down’. But if we don’t stay fresh in our daily approach to the tasks of doing business we may end up with a status quo that will stint us. We musn’t stop thinking.
If you are smart you will question the status quo. In fact, you won’t only question it, you will challenge it. Often we know that something isn’t working but we keep doing it anyway. Something nags at us but we ignore our inner voice because we prefer to think it doesn’t really matter, or we don’t accept responsibility for it, or we are too focussed on other priorities and don’t think it’s important. It is important. Discipline your mind to pay attention to that inner voice.
If you are passionate about something it gives you more energy, more purpose and a zest for living. Your heart needs to be engaged to keep your brain going, especially a business brain. Passion gives you an edge. Passion takes you from being competent to being extraordinary. Passion is contagious; it makes everyone around you extraordinary also. If you are stuck in neutral, develop a new business or project that makes you passionate.