When life gives you lemons, make lemonade…

WonderWoman

As 8th March rolls around again, there are countless requests to do a webinar, record a video or an audio byte, do tweetchat, upload photo of smiling successful women at work or at home, mount the stage, hold the mike and talk about gender equality, diversity and inclusion, women in leadership and such! You know what I mean. Like many of you, I’ve been there, done that and more…

While I still do this, what started to disturb me was, these were all “Doing” acts rooted outside of my inner “Being”, ignited and fanned solely by the external world. That’s why while all us women feel a heady rush of an adrenaline on 8th March (after all who does not like flowers on desk, free lunches, time-off, thank you notes) the day soon recedes leaving us with a residual feeling of at best a charming memory and longing if not complete cynicism and apathy.

Having undergone intense crucible moment recently, on deep introspection I slowly started to realize that it’s not the “Do” that I need to search but the “Be” that I need to build! Rumi said “What you seek, is seeking you” and that’s what precisely started to happen. The conversations around me changed, I met people who spoke about deeper meaning of life, higher level of consciousness and I started to “hangout” with those who were in the search of fulfilment and larger purpose of life. They were on the voyage to “Believe In Yourself” exactly the journey I wanted to take and my life took a turn! Do look around, these people are in your life too!

Soon the journey to fortify “My Authentic Self” began and today I walk the path with a surer tread and a stronger “Being”. And now whenever my trainer in the gym tells me to do push-ups and sit-up’s (groan) to harden my core, I smile, give myself a shot of “Believe In Yourself” thought and strengthen my inner core alongside too!

Life is going to throw a few punches now and then! What will matter in the end is “How we took those knocks! It’s time to “Believe In Yourself”, learn and live by these famous lyrics:

I’ll never fear the mountains in the distance, never take the path of least resistance, I’ll give faith a fighting chance, Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance, And when I get a choice to sit it out or dance, I will dance, I will dance!

Are Leaders drivers of Diversity or is Diversity riding in a driverless car?

cars

This decade is perhaps the last port of call for the companies still thinking about Diversity and Leadership. Diversity is not just Gender and Leadership is not just CEO, CFO, COO or the person who owns the company. But alas even after there have been countless articles and blogs written to this effect, endless academia research and white papers that have been published, scores of management lectures and panel discussion on the subject, it’s still the 1st thought that pops up even in most progressive leaders mind and companies. Are leaders the torchbearers of diversity in organizations? The question that begs to be asked is – Not why not? But why? It’s an idea whose time has come and gone!

To my mind, it’s because we have allowed ourselves to think like this, HR and Diversity leaders across the world have risen in unison in last decade or so and drilled the concept of Diversity and role of leadership into every leaders mind, hard-wired it into HR core processes of hiring, learning, performance management etc, to the extent that it’s now become a muscle memory of all leaders! If that be the case, why do we bemoan it?

My viewpoint is that in the corporate world, we have reduced the power and potential of Diversity to the point of trivialization and metricization. It’s a contrarian viewpoint but backed by experience and tons of data.

Let’s look at some other worlds to see how the concepts of Diversity and Leadership play out. If we reflect on any movie award function such as Oscars or Filmfare or IIFA, we will remember that on stage every performer/actor who wins an award starts by saying “I won this because of my team – my director, choreographer, screenplay writer, music director, stunt man, make up artist, publicist and so on” – what they are really saying is – They won, because diverse skills came together to create a perfect mosaic – catapulting them into realms of leadership. The producer and director of the film knows this well and spends time, money and effort putting this magic potion together. Another example is of our armed forces. There is Army, Air Force and the Navy. There is perhaps no one better in the country than the Chief of Armed Forces who knows the immense power of Diversity because it is he who brings it all together in times of unrest, war, riot, revolt etc. As an eg: the diverse skill set of different part of India’s armed forces show various aspects of  diversity – the strength of the Punjab regiment, fearlessness of Maratha troops, Guerrilla war-tactics of the Nagas and valour of Gorkha regiment among many others are legendary.

Hence, it’s the proverbial writing on the wall in the corporate world that says, indeed shouts: that leaders need to appreciate diversity, manage diversity and learn to leverage diversity to ensure competitive strength in the market place as well demonstrate their core moral value system of “opportunity for all”, “fair play” and “equal playing field”. If we continue to hire just men over women believing there are not women out there in the job market who meet our role needs, if managers continue to hire clones of themselves, if leaders vociferously keep defending that “all is well” in their organizations, we have lost the plot even before it’s even begun. I find it fairly a waste of time to keep convincing leaders of the merits of diversity, it’s perhaps the most unproductive job anyone could do in today’s age and times!

So based on my own experience of leading the Diversity agenda in large corporations for over 15years, my call to action points are as under :

1.   Weave Diversity and Inclusion into the language of the company. Sprinkle all leadership communication with the words which position Diversity in the right spirit – Get the verbiage right

2.   Articulate, document and publish your Diversity agenda and then measure it. Drive it relentlessly, with conviction and passion. Slightest of doubt and hesitation will kill it

3.   Continuously check how your diverse population feel – conduct pulse surveys, do focus groups, set up coffee chats – what you don’t know, you can’t solve for

4.   Set up employee resource group – there is power in togetherness. Groups as  Newbies to the company, First time mothers, Far from hometown…derive comfort & feeling of oneness.  Do not fear them getting together – Let them learn from each other.

5.   Run unique programs so that the leaders truly understand nuances of Diversity, such as have a diverse employee from across the company in a structured manner and rotational way attend boardroom meetings, sit through critical project discussion, travel for important client meeting, attend key marketing presentation – the insights and perspective are bound to add value to both the parties

You decide – shall we continue leaning on leadership to drive diversity or Is it perhaps time to – Explore, Experiment and Execute on diversity agenda akin to Driverless cars?