What are the barriers to leading across lines of difference?

Implicit bias is a harmful bi-product of living in a segregated world. Without understanding of one another, humans naturally develop bias based on their perceptions of those different to themselves. This can become an enormous obstacle to true diversity and inclusion.

What are the barriers to leading across lines of difference?

Closed Captions for Leading Across Lines Of Difference

Leading across lines of difference.

To lead across lines of difference

is a skill that will not only enhance

the productivity of your organization,

but will equip you with a unique skill

to truly operate in a global context.

One of the key areas of leadership
is communication.

So here are some barriers
to effective communication.

First one is cultural bias.

We spoke a little bit
about bias in this course.

And a bias is essentially a blind spot,

or a way of emphasizing one thing
and de-emphasizing another.

This can be both conscious
and subconscious.

In many ways, bias reflects ourselves,

and sort of assumes
that our cultural norms

and the ways in which
we see the world are uniform.

OK. That’s number one.

Number two: A lack of awareness
of cultural differences.

People who see

everyone as the same

and de-emphasize
the differences amongst people

are guilty of a lack of awareness.

As a leader, understanding the differences

and more importantly, the strengths
of each and every person,

is a very, very important piece

in tackling complex challenges.

So, awareness rather than
a lack of awareness

will increase your ability to communicate.

Third: Language differences.

Even though in many parts of the world
people speak the same language,

the way in which language is used

can often be interpreted differently.

Remember: There’s the language
that we speak,

and there’s the language that we receive.

And often there can be a disconnect
between those two things.

It’s very important
to ask probing questions, therefore,

about what someone interprets
your instructions to be.

For example,

if you tell someone,

“Complete this task by this date,”

they may not understand

what you mean by “complete”.

In their mind, “complete”
might be checking a few boxes.

Whereas you might interpret it
as not only checking the boxes,

but going back and assessing the quality

of those particular tasks, right?

So you have quality
and completeness in your mind,

the person may be interpreting it
as just going through and checking boxes.

So it’s important for you

to really dive in and probe

in terms of the language
that the person may be using.

The fourth one is ethnocentrism.

We spoke about this term earlier

where we believe that our ethnicity,

or in the ways in which we are,

is superior to the ways
in which other people are.

That can be
a large barrier to communication.

Because people can pick up

when they feel that one may feel

that they are superior to another person.

Remember, 90 percent
of communication is non-verbal.

And so be aware
of how you’re communicating

both verbally and non-verbally.

And finally, inactive listening.

Inactive listening describes a process

where someone is just…

putting out or responding in general ways

that don’t provide the space
for active listening.

So let me give you an example of this.

If I’m talking to someone
and they’re just saying “Yes, yes, yes”,

but I can see
that they’re clearly distracted,

That is an example of inactive listening.

However, if there were acting in a way
that was fully present with me

and engaged with me
in a culturally sensitive way,

then I could feel
that I am being listened to.

In other words, that person
is demonstrating active listening.

So as a leader,

if you can recognize some of these things

in your practice and address them,

you can improve
your cultural communication.

The next important point to bring up
is microaggressions.

Microaggression is a brief,
often unintentional bias

that people communicate
by virtue of what they say, do,

or the environment they create.

And this by someone
called Derald Wing Sue.

I provided three examples,

and the key thing for us here
is to think about the hidden message.

So the first one is when

a white man or woman clutches their purse
or checks their wallet

as a black or Latino man
approaches or passes them.

So this gives a message

that you and your group are criminals.

Right? That’s what
a microaggression looks like.

It’s very subtle in some ways,
and sometimes not so subtle.

Whistles or cat-calls are heard from men

as a woman walks down the street.

The hidden message is that your appearance

or body is for the enjoyment of men.

You are a sex object.

So that’s what a microaggression does,

it sends hidden messages to someone

and positions them in a certain way.

A blind man reports
that people often raise their voice

when speaking to him.

He responds by saying,

“Please don’t raise your voice,
I can hear you perfectly well”.

The hidden message here is
that a person with a disability

is defined as lesser in all aspects
of physical and mental functioning.

So that’s how microaggressions operate.

It’s important to manage

and be very, very critical and careful

about how these microaggressions
might operate in your organization.

The next piece that’s helpful
for you as a leader to work through,

are difficult dialogues.

And these are spaces where perhaps

you are thinking about how
to communicate around diversity.

And so there’s some eight ground rules
that are important.

The first one is
to be open and honest

as you feel you can be.

The second important rule is to respect
each other’s right to be heard.

So you’re being honest
as much as you can be,

but you’re also respecting
peoples’ right to fully engage

and fully be heard in the conversation.

Remember that you might be a manager,
but you also have

the space to learn from others.

So learn,

both as a teacher and a learner.

Become an active listener,

and remember we can all participate
in our own ways.

Do not judge other peoples’ feelings.

Focus on behavior rather than the person.

So don’t use terms like,

“You and your kind are like this”.

Rather focus on the behavior
of the person,

that’s easier to address.

Never ask someone to be
a spokesperson for their whole group.

So never ask a woman to talk
on behalf of all other women, for example.

And listen,
even when you do not want to listen.

Very, very important.

I myself am someone who is
quick to interrupt someone.

So that’s not a very good ground,

that’s not a very good practice
in a difficult dialogue situation.

So, you as a leader would be…

great of you and professional of you

to really hone in on these skills

when engaging in difficult dialogs.

How do you become diversity conscious?

Diversity consciousness describes an awareness and practice for diversity. This concept moves diversity from a passive activity to an active process of inclusion. 

The videos below outline this concept which was developed by Richard Buchner. You can view his book “Developing Diversity Consciousness” in my Book Club here

I hope you find the videos below valuable.

Defining Diversity consciousness

Assess your understanding of Diversity consciousness

Diversity Consciousness is an easy to read book that breaks down the fundamental components of diversity, equity and inclusion. It is very useful for those interested in deepening their understanding and application of diversity concepts. I often use this book in my research and teaching.

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