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 Does Diversity Benefit Your Organization?

Understanding and practicing diversity benefits a company at the individual and organizational levels.

As companies search for talent to compete in the global market, they seek candidates who demonstrate skills to execute the job and work in diverse teams. Mastery of cross-cultural skills leads to the creation of new products, increasing the efficiency of processes, and improved  customer service.

The benefits of individuals with good diversity related skills spill over into the organization. Organizations can also benefit from a diversity aware workforce through better communication, increased retention of good employees, and reducing the likelihood of incurring costs related to workplace bias.

How Does Diversity Benefit Your Organization?

The benefits of individuals with good diversity related skills spill over into the organization. 

Organizations can also benefit from a diversity aware workforce through better communication, increased retention of good employees, and reducing the likelihood of incurring costs related to workplace bias.

[Exercise] Shifting Perspectives in your organization

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What is Diversity And Why Is It Important?

An important question I asked often is: What is diversity and why is it important?

I believe that diversity means strength in difference. Diversity includes everyone, encompassing the differences between groups, among groups, and within our own identities. I embrace diversity as an asset in my relationships with others as I seek to foster equity and inclusiveness.

I have put together a video below to explain how diversity can add value to your life, your business and the world.

Lesson 1: What is Diversity and Why Is It Important?

Follow along with the Closed Captions Below

Hello and welcome to this course.

I’m going to kick us off by giving you

some of the most important pieces
of information that you need

to get through and learn,

and gain
some deep understandings of diversity.

The first question is,

“What is diversity
and why is it important?”

I’m going to tackle this

by looking at
these three concentric circles

right here on your left hand side.

You exist in connection to other people,

so that have you in the center,
and then on the outside

you have
your immediate family or relationships,

whether those be friends or family.

So you exist in connection
to those people.

However, they exist
in connection to others as well,

and so you have yourself, your family,
and then your broader society.

Now, why this is important,

is because you act in ways,

as we all do, to shape the outcomes
of your close connections,

as they do for you.

You act to shape those outcomes,
and in turn,

those people are shaping
the outcomes of the society, right?

So I’ll give you an example.

In places where people come up with
an amazing idea,

they share it with their family,

and sometimes that idea

can ultimately lead
to global governmental changes, right?

And so that’s the impact
that you as an individual can have

on the close connections around you,
and ultimately the society around you.

However, in the same way,

the society shapes the ways
in which our close connections operate.

And those close connections in turn
shape the way we operate.

So think about perhaps growing up,

how certain things that you do

were put inside of you, or…

you learned those habits and techniques
from those closest to you.

But the truth is that many of them
learned those same things from others.

And so that’s how the society

and the individual relate to each other.

The reason why diversity is so important,

is because understanding the way
these things operate

can make us more effective,

and can help us understand

ourselves that much better.

Understanding diversity

and bringing
a deeper understanding of yourself,

and how you, your…

experience of being influenced and shaped

from the family and society,

can help you be
incredibly successful at work,

and can help you build
stronger family relationships.

And so that is one of the core reasons
why diversity is important.

It’s the ways in which
we can operate in the world

which is made up of multiple people
of different perspectives.

And how we can be

both culturally sensitive, affirming,

and, in the work place, productive.

So with that information

let’s talk a little bit about…

some diversity myths.

These are some of the key things

that people say often about diversity.

And these might be on your mind

before you’re getting started
in this course.

I’m going to debunk them right here.

And the rest of the course
I’m going to do is

spend time with you working through
some of the main components.

So I hope you’re excited.

Myth number one.

Diversity only applies to women
and minorities.

OK, let’s debunk this.

Diversity is not only
about certain groups.

Think about

a man for example, like myself.

I am both a middle-class man,

I exist in a city and not a rural area,

I have a certain religion,

I am of a certain age,

I speak a certain language,

I have a certain nationality.

And each of these things

makes me diverse in certain places.

Makes me different in certain places.

Therefore, because I have
these differences, and so do you,

diversity applies to all of us.

Right? It doesn’t just apply
to certain groups of people.

So that’s myth number one, debunked.

Myth number two.

Diversity is a new phenomenon.

Diversity is not a new phenomenon.

If you look at the world map,

we have over 8.5 billion people
in this world.

All of them are different

and have strengths in different areas.

And so diversity is not a new phenomenon

we’re just talking about it
in a way that is inclusive,

in a way that brings people together.

In the past, if you think about
the history of colonialism and slavery,

there has been a very big push

to push out any kinds of difference.

And what diversity is doing

is naming the fact that the reality is

that we have a lot of difference already.

That’s myth two, debunked.

Myth three: Diversity equals deficiency.

This is probably one of the biggest myths.

Diversity is actually a strength.

Think about the fact

that when you have people
of diverse backgrounds on a team,

the creativity, the adaptability
and the innovation increases dramatically.

Once you learn the skills to communicate,

to understand the ways
in which culture operates,

you can then use those skills

in a productive way to produce outcomes.

The problems in the world
have been created by a certain mindset.

And it takes diversity
to shift that mindset

and create new solutions.

So that’s myth three, debunked.

Myth four: Diversity equals divisiveness.

It is not diversity
that equals divisiveness,

it is the way we approach diversity

that divides us.

Through this course you
will learn skills to bring you together,

to make sure that diversity
is actually inclusiveness,

that diversity is actually a strength.

And so divisiveness comes from the way

in which we interpret difference.

Inclusiveness comes from the way
we embrace difference.

Number five: Diversity is to be feared.

Once again: Diversity, difference,

we are all different in multiple ways.

I listed a number of them

in the beginning of this slide.

If we were ostracized, or…

oppressed based on
all the different identities,

we would have 8.5 billion people
would be living in isolation.

The truth is, diversity is something
to be embraced.

It is something to be…

utilized as a strength,

and our human capacity

can be exponentially accelerated

based on the ways
in which we deal with each other,

and the ways in which we work together.

So myth five, completely debunked.

In the next parts of this course,

we’re going to be diving
into the diversity and leadership,

we’re going to be looking
at anti-bias training.

We’re going to be looking at ways in which
you can transform your organization

to be inclusive,
to bring people together,

to be productive members of society,

and to have some fun along the way.

I hope you are enjoying
this course so far,

and I look forward to seeing you
in the next lesson.

[Interview on 702] ‘Are Elite Schools Failing South Africa?’ (Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, Nhlanhla Makena, Warren Chalklen)

A snapshot of this panel discussion can be found below. See article here.

Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh standing in for Eusebius McKaiser discussed the issue with urban education policy, social enterprise and program evaluation professional Dr Warren Chalken, a former head boy of St John’s college and digital marketer Nhlanhla Makenna.

These elite schools offer the premium in terms of education. You get there to this fanfare but you very quickly realise there is a price you have to pay for this.

— Nhlanhla Makenna, Digital Markerter

Ten years later, going back to the schools and speaking to students, you realise the struggle have not changed. You are taken from wherever you come from and you absolutely assimilate your blackness, religion and all those things have to take the second level. You are a ‘whatever’ boy or girl first and foremost.

— Nhlanhla Makenna, Digital Markerter

Because you have been conditioned to believe that this opportunity is the only way, it’s the best way. The conflict comes from a sense of gratitude that you feel you have to have. And that gratitude comes with a sense of not being able to honestly criticise an institution and look at things that are happening and be able to say hang on, how are we in the top school in Africa and my name still can’t be pronounced the right way at an assembly.

— Nhlanhla Makenna, Digital Markerter

Who controls the gun controls the land, who controls the land, controls the economy, who controls the economy controls the government, who controls the government controls the schools and who controls the schools reproduces society.

— Dr. Warren Chalken, Urban education policy, social enterprise and program evaluation professional

If you think of elite South African schools they were built for a purpose. They were built to dispossess black people of their land with the sole purpose of exploiting them.

— Dr. Warren Chalken, Urban education policy, social enterprise and program evaluation professional

When we look at elite schools, we have to look at how they produce and reproduce power in our society.

— Dr. Warren Chalken, Urban education policy, social enterprise and program evaluation professional

We would have western food as a norm and African food as a treat. When we really look at the traditions and the legacy of these schools, we actually see that they are reproducing bullying, whiteness and they are not really transformed.

— Dr. Warren Chalken, Urban education policy, social enterprise and program evaluation professional