Achieving Diversity with 8 Billion continued…
Achieving diversity is a challenge. One of our in-roads into the talent of Chicago when I was at UW-Platteville was the fact that the Chicago Bears (National Football League) had their pre-season camp in our community. That helped open some doors in the city of Chicago.
So did the relationships I developed during my career. The student-athletes I recruited alongside the head coach, Bo Ryan, represented themselves exceptionally well while at Platteville. Besides earning their degrees, they also won the first ever national championship.
Our differences made us better. Our relationships grew out of respect and a strong work-ethic. We found common ground.
Relationships are important in the world of economic and talent development, too. The sale will not happen without the relationship. You must put on your own oxygen mask first and make sure the relationship within yourself is right. Then, you can develop those relationships with the communities to develop a sale. This leads to a better understanding of differences, the differences that make us better.
Personal Achieving Diversity Lesson
When I stepped into the non-profit world at United Way of Dane County in Madison, I got another lesson in diversity, equity and inclusion. I was blessed to be promoted from the position I was originally hired to Vice President. I then had the opportunity to hire my replacement. During the process and reflecting on it later, I first went to a safe, comfortable place.
That place initially was NOT focusing on those differences that make us better.
My top candidate was someone who looked and acted much like me. When I shared the candidates with the President, someone who I would consider part of my inner circle, she challenged me to look again at my choices.
I thought about whether or not I wanted to hire somebody who would have my same strengths or someone who would help me grow my weaknesses and strengths and, more importantly, get me out of my comfort zone, through fear and into learning and growth.
I’m proud that she challenged me, and I made the right decision.
The person I hired not only helped me better understand diversity, equity, and inclusion, but also helped the entire team.
Her differences made us better.
I had the opportunity to speak at the Leadership Forum of the International Economic Development Council. It was in the same city where that hire now lives. We were able to re-connect and we spent three hours reminiscing about our experiences and how they help developed who we are. It didn’t matter what we are.
In my community, we are attempting to tackle diversity, equity and inclusion head on. Early in the pandemic I was on a webinar with John Maxwell and Simon Sinek. It was shortly after the George Floyd shooting. Simon was relating how he was reaching out to his friends, one-on-one, to have uncomfortable conversations about the issue.
I gathered a group of community leaders representing K-12, law enforcement, university, United Way, community foundation, arts, and our county diversity committee. We had those uncomfortable conversations.
The challenge, as we all know, is how to reach the people in our community that need to hear the message about diversity, equity and inclusion. Following Martin Luther King’s words is a start. Our university has done an excellent job of recruiting a diverse population, especially in our environment.
We all are committed to the fact that differences make us better.
Now, how do we make that real and invoke positive change?
Certainly, communication is critical. We also all realize it is a process and not a moment in time where we flip a switch.
Now as I speak to groups about core values, harmony in life, inner circle and the comfort zone, I share these experiences and lessons. Growth can only come through experiencing failure, fighting through fear and meeting the process head on.
Regardless of your background, you can make a difference and make sure differences make YOU better.