Embrace Your Employees' Differences to Become a Stronger Business Leader
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Today’s employees want more from the workplace. They need their leaders to have their backs. But too many leaders are operating in survival mode and thus don’t share enough of themselves to protect their own domain. Without leaders to sponsor and mentor high-potential employees, many are reckoning with the changing terrain on their own, which puts their organizations at risk.
When brands don’t invest in and retain the right people intelligence, they lose marketplace opportunity. And with a workplace and a marketplace that are becoming younger, more diverse, technologically savvy and globally connected, leaders should become more intent on seeing what lies around, beneath and beyond what they seek for their businesses as a growth strategy. But too many leaders today don’t create workplaces that value diversity of thought. Millennials, women and other diverse populations are more inclined to see, show, grow and share -- and value them all -- but cannot manage in the wrong types of environments that don’t allow them to be more of themselves.
We see this in the demands Millennials are making on the companies they’re willing to work for -- and the kinds of companies they’re creating. They want transparency. They want community environments that give back. They want a new kind of trust based on clarity, consistency and contact rather than hierarchy and authority. They want to agree to devote their talents to a particular organization for as long as it allows their personal brand and its value proposition to develop and remain relevant. And when they can’t get what they require, they move on.
In today’s fast-paced, talent-based, trust-demanding world of work, remaining competitive requires alignment around a set of values, beliefs and behaviors. These values must then become part of and define a company’s culture beyond words in training manuals and annual reports. Culture must be a conscious choice and created by design, not by accident. Without shared values that everyone can embrace and act on, corporate cultures harbor contradictions and conflicts, creating environments where leadership agendas abound and disengaged employees lack the right mindset to perform at their best. By contrast, the shared values that cultivate the best corporate cultures serve as the ultimate platforms to drive growth, innovation and opportunity.
Nurturing shared corporate values to support and protect long-term success requires vigilance and constant attention from leadership at all levels. In a world of rapid change, increasing transparency and competition for the best talent, leaders who fail to commit to who they are as individuals and what the company stands for as a whole will put their companies and their people at great risk as they fail to connect internally and externally to consumers.
It takes great leadership to keep these corporate cultures on the right path and continuously improving. The values they propagate within their organizations should be explicit, thoughtful and authentic as they focus on what everyone should be solving for simultaneously -- the opportunity gaps in the workplace/workforce, among external partners and within marketplace/consumers -- so they continue to evolve and grow stronger. That’s how we create high-performance environments that enable the full potential in the people our leadership and businesses touch.
Leaders, regardless of hierarchy or rank, must be held accountable to communicate, illustrate and reinforce the values that will help the company achieve its missions, goals and objectives. Effective corporate cultures support high-performance through both diversity of thought and likemindedness in approach, style and attitude. Strong corporate cultures blend the strengths of people while celebrating their individuality and authenticity in support of an organization’s vision and mission, goals and objectives.
Leaders need the resiliency the innovation mentality gives them to constantly move people forward and avoid falling into complacency traps. They must use diversity of thought to make sure that everyone’s contributing and embracing their personal brands and adding value -- value that’s measurable and sustainable. They apply the six characteristics of the innovation mentality to break free from templates and create organizations led by those personal brands and their value propositions, not job titles or descriptions. The characteristics of the innovation mentality empower all of us to:
- Share our identities. Be proud of who you are. Our differences are our strengths. (See opportunity in everything.)
- Own our development. Invest in yourself. Anything is possible. (Anticipate the unexpected, unleash your passionate pursuits.)
- Bring others along. Invest in the development and advancement of others. Make dreams come true. (Live with an entrepreneurial spirit, work with a generous purpose.)
- Define our future. Improve the experience for everyone. (Lead to leave a legacy.)
The days of taking a one-size-fits-all approach are over. Our goal as leaders is to convert the melting pot of differences into a mosaic that fuels strategies for growth, innovation and opportunity to maximize the full potential of people, brands and businesses.
All business today is about “people intelligence.” Regardless of functional responsibility, leaders must become “chief people officers” who evolve and allow their staffs to confidently renew, reinvent and refresh their departments. This means having a purposeful intention to become more aware and engage with the differences of the people and more effective at connecting the dots of opportunity embedded within these differences and then translating them into business outcomes. When business is about people intelligence, wisdom is the new growth currency.
You discover and develop your personal brand to fit best. You broaden your perspectives and those of your team, enable creativity and strengthen teamwork and the value we place on one another. You create new best practices and improve output. You problem-solve, plan and execute more effectively. And you propel innovation and seize opportunities previously unseen.
So, how do you get going in the right direction? How do you get started? Ask your employees. If you give them the safe space free from judgment, they’ll tell you. They’ll unleash their passionate pursuits if you’re courageous and vulnerable enough to listen to them, and advance them into roles of influence as a strategy for growth.