Embracing Our Diversity – What Most Diversity Initiatives Miss

As I note in many of my posts, we live in a time of ever-increasing ambiguity, change, and complexity. Our times require us to be more creative in our approach to building high performing, results-focused organizations that emphasize value-creation. Such a creative approach requires we tap into people’s passion, initiative so that they step out of their comfort zones to share ideas and be willing to be innovative in their roles. Catalyzing innovation also requires organizations to fully tap into the diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, and approaches.

The Current State of Diversity Programs

Most organizations understand this and generate initiatives that attract and honor a diverse workforce. Examples of the best efforts organizations make include:

  • various training and education programs
  • organizational policies that mandate fairness and equity for all employees
  • mentoring programs for minority employees
  • more systematic career guidance and planning programs
  • performance appraisal systems that are non-discriminatory
  • outreach programs, such as internship programs, scholarships, targeting recruitment in the community, and lectures at schools.

These initiatives aim at minimizing bias, attracting a diverse workforce, and supporting ‘minorities’ to both contribute as well as grow in their careers. And all of these approaches are admirable. After all, we live in a society where racism and bias still rear their ugly heads. Thus it makes sense we have laws to protect people’s rights.  And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission exists to ensure organizations play fair in their employment practices. But as necessary as these laws and protections are, they also increase the complexity and are only band-aids that overshadow a far simpler solution.

The Simple Solution

In short, there is an underlying truth that is missing when we seek only to honor differences. The truth is, at our core, human beings share the same fundamental experience. This understanding is so critical because when we experience and recognize our oneness, we instantly appreciate the myriad of differences. Not doing so is akin to walking in the forest and desiring it to be full of maples. At their core, all trees are made of the same stuff. But thank god for the myriad of diversity but without this bio-diversity nature would deteriorate and be far less enjoyable.

We All Share The Same Experience

So, what do I mean we are all the same at our fundamental core? I am honored to have worked with hundreds of executives and their organizations to develop their leadership. And the center of leadership development is the development of self-awareness. At its essence, expanding self-awareness is the becoming aware of the one who is always, already aware. When we tune into the part of ourselves that is always aware and observing, the experience is the same for every human being. When my clients and their teams connect to this place they commonly report a sense of:

  • Spaciousness
  • Peace
  • Center
  • Deep relaxation
  • Seeing the ‘playing field’ more clearly
  • Feeling a more genuine connection with others
  • Knowing what the appropriate response is to any situation they face.

In this center, we are all the same. The differences emerge from our conditioning, beliefs, desires, preferences, and what we have been trained to place our attention on across various circumstances. The best in human beings emerges when they operate primarily from awareness and allow their diversity to express creativity in service to each present moment. In my view, the reason we see heroic actions in times of tragedy is that the pure essence of the human being comes to the forefront and responds appropriately and uniquely to that moment. In such a moment, the person takes the back seat, and their real power comes forward and at the same time what expresses is the most beautiful aspect of the person.

A New Approach That Guarantees to Heal and Help Everyone Rise Above Bias

While organizations must continue their attempts to honor diversity and laws must engage to ensure equitable treatment, there is a power move they could make to enhance them. And over time, this move would lessen the need for such programs and laws. This addition would be to add programs that strengthen mindfulness, self-awareness, and presence – for all employees. Such programs would in time make such diversity initiatives less necessary over time. Such programs would introduce all employees to their deepest core, and when this happens, they will begin to sincerely appreciate different viewpoints and backgrounds – just as we enjoy the bio-diversity on a nature walk.

I would go so far as to say most suffering experienced by diverse populations as well as most obstacles to innovation would dissolve for organizations if everyone came to experience the oneness, typically missed. When the world says, it craves more leadership, what it really means is it desires more human beings who direct their actions from awareness and heart. When we act from this place, we are in awe and have a profound appreciation for all the diversity in this world.

About the Author David

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