Federal Conference on Diversity: Real commitment is key for change

Why are we still asking the same questions and exploring the same issues? What needs to be different?

This is how Sharon Fitzpatrick opened her discussion, “Diversity and Inclusion”, during today’s Federal Conference on Diversity.

“We have the wrong conversations about the right things – lack of commitment, unwillingness for change, lack of resources,” she stressed – and the problem is somewhat ubiquitous. Even organizations that are committed to fostering diversity and inclusion often don’t get it right, but there are ways to fix this.

Commitment. Real commitment.

The diversity and inclusion goals of most organizations aren’t achieved because of the lack of commitment. Many managers and leaders establish goals and plans without truly addressing the level of buy-in and commitment they’re going to need.

In order to solve this problem, Fitzpatrick recommended focusing on three key verbs:

  • Indulge – imagine a positive vision of the problem solved
  • Dwell – think about the negative aspect of the current situation
  • Contrast – first imagine a positive vision of the problem, then think about the negative aspect of reality

The final verb — contrast — really allows people within a group or organization to make commitments not just to what they WILL do, but what they WON’T be able to do. This allows leaders to effectively weed out what doesn’t work and achieve goals faster.

While these types of reality checks can be both painful and difficult to face, they do allow organizations to address the facts, clarify expectations and create true plans of vision.

“We don’t make commitments to things until we change our minds,” she stressed, explaining that this is often the most difficult hurdle anyone wanting to facilitate change must overcome. Often, this is only achieved when an individual embraces his or her own imperfections first.

In other words, most of the time change can’t happen unless we look inside of ourselves before looking around the office.

After this, though, Fitzpatrick said change can – and should – go viral. Viruses, she added, are good things to examine when thinking about change. They replicate, evolve and are not limited to a single host. Members of an organization, she said, need to figure out how to make this happen in terms of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

She explained that it is important to keep these things in mind:

  • Diversity and inclusion need to have an impact on everyone
  • Best practices should be able to be replicated
  • Diversity should be integral part of organization’s culture that evolves over time and should not be limited to the HR office

There are several ways to accomplish this, Fitzpatrick said. You can utilize mechanisms that help things spread quickly, instead of relying on traditional channels (like a thick HR manual). And you can make sure that what you are doing sparks positive emotional reactions and allows others to share their ideas and opinions.

The bottom line … when you commit minds and resources, you create a more open culture, increase employee engagement, increase your ability to focus on work and innovation instead of inequities, increase adaptability and provide broader range of service, and provide an opportunity for everyone to be successful.

Fitzpatrick concluded, “You are your best resource. . . . If you don’t know, then you need to find out. . . . Be a change agent.”

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