Not all bridges look alike but they are crucial connections when we need to get from one place to another.
At its core, leadership communication is about building connections between people – who all have their own lived experience, point of view, culture and ideas. Communication gets more complicated when you want to connect genuinely with someone who sees the world differently than you do!
Authors Claire Raines and Lara Ewing in their book, The Art of Connecting, provide tips and ideas to help leaders communicate across all points of view. They describe five principles that help strengthen connection:
- There is always a bridge. Move from asking if you can connect to asking yourself what you will discover and use to connect. Remind yourself that with persistence there is always something to use as a bridge between two people.
- Curiosity is the key. Stay open to what you are hearing and experiencing when you are interacting with others. Remind yourself that everyone has something to teach.
- What you assume is what you get. Perception is reality when dealing with people.
- Each individual is a culture. Everyone is a complex and unique combination of factors. Don’t rely on one or two pieces to define anyone.
- No strings are attached. You can only control yourself. Your genuine curiosity and connection can’t be used as leverage to influence others. Authenticity is crucial.
If you look hard enough you will find a bridge to connect with anyone!
By guest blogger Josefina Landrieu
What if I told you that there is a practice out there that will get at:
- Driving growth?
- Fueling retention?
- Improving organizational outcomes?
You’ll likely question my idea by saying “there is no silver bullet!” And no, there is no silver bullet. But there is a practice that when implemented effectively, helps to address some of the greatest challenges in employee retention, workplace inclusion, and organizational outcomes. More importantly, THIS practice helps employers build a diverse and inclusive workforce, cultivate relationships with their employees and recruit/retain talent in an extremely competitive marketplace. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) deliver real value in promoting diversity and helping employees feel included in the organization’s culture. And it doesn’t have to stop there, ERGs help with retention, team productivity, and workplace climate. Although ERGs have been mostly used in the corporate sector, higher education is now following suit.
I was a member of an ERG at my previous institution and it served as a great opportunity to network with peers, to gain a stronger sense of belonging, and to experience mentorship opportunities. As an ERG, we co-sponsored events for professional development for employees of color that included bringing in speakers, conducting trainings, and delivering workshops. The group also provided less structured opportunities for employee socialization and engagement. It’s critical to allow the group to decide its focus while adhering to the organization’s principles, and mission for equity and inclusion.
What do ERGs look like in higher education? Here are some tips for successful implementation:
- They are supported by an HR/Equity & Inclusion lead
- They are open to all employees & participation is voluntary
- They promote diversity, inclusion, and understanding
- They adhere to the organization’s policies and procedures
- They serve as a vehicle for a more distributed leadership model
- They have organizational sponsors and sometimes funding
The first 60 to 90 days of employment are a critical time for any new hire, and they can be particularly challenging for members of traditionally underrepresented groups. That short window of time can mean the difference between whether an employee stays for the long run or leaves before the year is out. Research from the Conference Board shows that participating in an ERG leads to greater retention for employees from underrepresented groups. And, in addition to impacting employee retention, ERGs can provide key cultural insights, which can be critical to HR practices. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, has actively embraced this inclusive practice. They report that ERGs have resulted in increased workplace satisfaction among participants and provide insightful feedback to the organization, an excellent return on investment.
Josefina Landrieu is the Assistant Chief Diversity Officer for Minnesota State.
By guest blogger Clyde Pickett
Student retention is a priority for higher education. We all have a responsibility to support retention efforts no matter our role or position.
To serve our students inclusively, we must commit ourselves to providing our students with outstanding service in every interaction they have with us.
In an article on academic advising, Ricky Boyd* provides some specific action steps to provide quality service to all students:
- Treat students with dignity and respect.
- Give students clear directions on how to solve their problems and issues, rather than giving them a run-around or sending them on a wild goose chase.
- Be responsive to students and their parents/families.
- Give timely answers to students’ questions and provide regular feedback on their progress.
Excellent service and communication should be the norm for all of our students no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they look like. Implementing these tips is a step towards advancing a positive campus climate and creating a culture to support retention.
As employees we must ask ourselves “what else can I do to support students in my interactions?” For some of us it might mean additional training on best practices. For others it might mean reviewing policy and procedural best practices to support front line service to students. Above all it means understanding we are here to serve their needs. The work of retention starts with us.
Clyde Pickett is the Chief Diversity Officer for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities
*Boyd, R. L. (2012). Customer Service in Higher Education: Finding a Middle Ground. The Mentor, an Academic Advising Journal, 1. Retrieved from https://dus.psu.edu/mentor/2012/06/customer-service-in-higher-education/
By 2020, 45 percent of U.S. high school graduates will be non-white. Citing that fact, the American Council on Education says that it’s more important than ever to ensure diversity among admissions representatives. A 2017 blog post highlights the importance of admissions counselors in representing their institutions and in shaping the student body.
The articles says that, similar to other administrative roles, we have work to do to achieve that goal. The authors identified three issues that are limiting diversity in college administration.
Leaky pipelines – Students who graduate with four-year degrees are still predominantly white. This results in lower numbers of qualified minority individuals to fill administrative positions.
Insufficient recruiting – Search committees may not be skilled in recruiting and selecting diverse candidates. Members may not be aware of unconscious biases and strategies for mitigating them.
Lower retention – Even after hiring administrators who bring diversity to the campus, institutions may have difficulty retaining them. This can be especially true in high-turnover positions such as entry-level admissions counselors.
The article proposed some strategies that can help retain all administrators, including administrators of color.
- Offer diversity and/or cultural competency training for all staff
- Emphasize diversity in the recruitment process
- Establishing orientation and mentoring programs for new administrators
- Foster open communication
- Invite administrators to be part of decision-making
- Support administrators’ professional development goals
Building a faculty and administrative staff that reflects our student body is an ongoing challenge for Minnesota State. What effective strategies have you seen?
Dee Anne Bonebright
“How did they treat you?”
“No such thing as color blind.”
“Being comfortable being uncomfortable”
These are strong words that capture the essence of a TED talk I want to share with you. Mellody Hobson says that mentioning race is the conversational equivalent of “touching the third rail.” It can feel risky and people don’t know how to respond.
As leaders, Hobson says it is important for us to step bravely into the conversation about racism and discrimination at work. Acknowledging the realities of discrimination and overcoming our fear of talking about it is the first step to creating inclusive workplaces.
Join over 2 million people and take a few minutes to watch and listen to her 2014 TED talk.
It’s hard, but we need to be “color brave, not color blind.”
Posted in chief diversity officers, Diversity, equity, inclusion, Leadership, racial tension
Tagged blind spots, cultural competency, diversity, equity, self-awareness, trust
When you see wire-rimmed glasses, do you think of John Lennon or Harry Potter? Or maybe John Denver? It might depend on your age.
The Mindset List is an intriguing way to think about the diversity of our student body. Each year Beloit College puts out a list of facts about the incoming freshman class. For 2018, it included:
- During their initial weeks of kindergarten, they were upset by endlessly repeated images of planes blasting into the World Trade Center.
- In their lifetime, a dozen different actors have portrayed Nelson Mandela on the big and small screen.
- FOX News and MSNBC have always been duking it out for the hearts and minds of American viewers.
- Female referees have always officiated NBA games.
- Bill Gates has always been the richest man in the U.S.
- One route to pregnancy has always been through frozen eggs.
- Their collection of U.S. quarters has always celebrated the individual states.
- When they see wire-rimmed glasses, they think of Harry Potter.
As interesting as it is, the list makes some assumptions about our freshman students that may nor may not be the case. For example, that they have always lived in the U.S., or that they have always had access to mainstream U.S. media.
As our higher education workforce ages, it can be harder to understand the mindset of the students we are serving. Activities that worked well may not work anymore, or new options might exist. For example, Beloit suggested that students who are used to binge-watching TV programs might also want to binge-watch video portions of their coursework. Whether or not that’s desirable, what might it mean for course development?
What can you do to include a reality check in your planning?
Dee Anne Bonebright
Last week I met with two leaders in our colleges and universities to explore how we can do a better job to support diverse hiring in our system. Increasing our diverse hires not only helps us mirror our student population better, but increases the potential for greater innovation in our colleges and universities. That said, it’s often a struggle to make sure that your applicant pool is truly diverse, especially if hiring managers are crunched for time or are relying on the traditional “post and pray” method of recruiting.
So what can leaders do to actively recruit for diversity? Here are a few ideas and resources gathered from the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC):
- Post positions in diversity publications in your region. See HERC for a good list of publications and membership discounts
- Search directories of minority doctoral students, such as the Southern Regional Education Board’s State Doctoral Scholars program or Faculty for the Future. Links to various directories can be found at: WISELI
- Work with your HR representative to search CV or resume databases. Minnesota State has access to 60,000 resumes through its HERC membership.
- Connect with job seekers on social media; Minnesota State leaders can tweet hard-to-fill positions on the HERC website.
- Meet potential candidates at regional or national conferences
- Participate in job fairs to promote your open positions
Last fall, chief diversity officers and human resource officers in Minnesota State had the opportunity to participate in a virtual job fair. It was a new concept for many of us. Still, I’m amazed at what came out of the virtual job fair for those leaders who took the time to spend a few hours meeting potential applicants in online chat rooms. One chief diversity officer garnered 26 contacts, which he then distributed to leaders in his university, so they could follow up with people individually. While I’m not sure how many eventual hires resulted from those contacts, it was well worth the time and effort to actively reach out, promote Minnesota State as a good place to work, and develop a potential pool of diverse candidates for future searches.
What methods have you tried to actively recruit for diversity?
In 2007, social scientist Scott E. Page generated what seemed like counter-intuitive findings about problem solving. When modeling outcomes for various kinds of groups, he found that random groups almost always did better than groups of the best individual performers.
What was going on? In his book The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, he explained that a group with a diverse range of viewpoints is typically able to generate the best solutions. These groups include:
- Diverse perspectives
- Diverse interpretations
- Diverse ways of generating solutions
- Diverse ways of understanding cause and effect
Within higher education, we can seek diverse viewpoints through a number of strategies. Admissions, hiring, and appointment policies need to promote a diverse environment for learning and working. Reaching outside of traditional disciplinary silos is essential for solving complex issues.
Page says that leadership in higher education needs to have a fundamental belief in the value of diversity. That belief needs to be acted out in the way we form committees, who we consult with about decisions, and who is at the table when we’re deciding what to do and how to do it.
Google wouldn’t want only freshly minted graduates from MIT and Caltech. People with different training and experiences often add more than people who score better on measuring sticks. . . . All else being equal, we should expect someone different – be their differences in training, experiences, or identity – to be more likely to have the unique experience that leads to the breakthrough.
— Scott E. Page, The Difference
What have you done to generate diversity on your teams and work groups?
Dee Anne Bonebright
Are you reacting differently to these quotes? Would it be different if they weren’t attached to the photos or attributed to a specific person?
This isn’t a new phenomenon but it seems to be getting worse. We are not very good at listening to people we perceive as different from ourselves. That makes it hard to build inclusive work teams, share diverse points of view, and leverage the strengths of everyone on your team.
The founders of Living Room Conversations want to help people actually listen to each other rather than debate and talk at each other. Recently a number of leaders at several of our campuses have used the Living Room conversation agreements and topic-specific conversation guides to tackle the tough topics of status, privilege and race with diverse groups of faculty and staff.
- Be curious and open to learning
- Show respect and suspend judgement
- Look for common ground and appreciate differences
- Be authentic and welcome that from others
- Be purposeful and to the point
- Own and guide the conversation
The actual conversations become structured “deep listening sessions” that include an orientation to the process, intentional time-keeping and facilitation and a closing period. An example of the status and privilege guide can be found here – Conversation Guide.
I can attest to the almost magical listening and sharing that occurs during a living room conversation. People stop interrupting each other, they smile as they hear the stories others share, and they are surprised by how easy it is to share their own story with people who are actually listening to them.
When we asked participants after the conversations the majority responded that they had not changed their personal points of view but they now could see more common ground with their colleagues, despite their differences. Further, there was universal support for more dialogue.
Using a structure to help people actually listen to each other can provide a starting point for greater inclusion, in the workplace and beyond.
Posted in building teams, chief diversity officers, Diversity, equity, racial tension, resources
Tagged blind spots, cultural competency, diversity, equity, listening, trust
In his 2016 book, Driven by Difference, David Livermore makes the case that high-functioning, diverse teams outperform homogenous teams. However, he says diversity by itself doesn’t contribute to organizational success unless it supports your organization’s mission. And, he adds that unless leaders leverage diversity’s potential, it can actually erode performance and productivity.
So how can a leader leverage the potential of diverse teams? The secret is to minimize conflict while maximizing the informational diversity found in varied values and experiences. To overcome inherent frictions among diverse team members, Livermore says a leader needs to develop their workforce’s cultural intelligence or CQ.
Drawing on success stories from Google, Alibaba, Novartis, and other groundbreaking companies, Livermore identifies key leadership practices and elements of cultural intelligence that fuel innovation:
CQ drive: Build a desire to learn about other cultures and a willingness to adapt.
CQ knowledge: Cultivate appreciation and understanding of cultural differences.
CQ strategy: Be aware of the perspectives and ideas of different people and how their viewpoints affect the work of teams.
CQ action: Adjust to cultural differences and leverage diversity into results.
Leaders can increase their teams CQ by encouraging curiosity, listening, respect and “perspective-taking” among diverse team members. Drawn from real-life examples, Livermore demonstrates that innovation is fueled by cultural intelligence and the ability to see things from others’ perspectives. Encouraging employees to consider their co-workers’ points of view and to mix their colleagues’ perspectives with their own can pave the way to developing innovative solutions that borrow from many ideas and work for everyone.
What advice do you have for increasing your team’s or your own cultural intelligence?
Posted in build organizational talent, building teams, chief diversity officers, Diversity, equity, inclusion, Innovation, Leadership, leadership challenges, racial tension
Tagged cultural intelligence, diversity, inclusion, innovation