Diversity Management Specialization M.A.

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Adapting to a Changing Global Economy: Developing culturally competent leaders who can lead and sustain change - November 16, 2016

Diversity and Inclusion efforts as we know them are dinosaurs, just like some of our fading corporations. Let me say that again. Diversity and Inclusion efforts as we know them are dinosaurs. I recognize that this will not be popular but it is true.

D&I initiatives in the majority of businesses are poorly implemented, implemented for the wrong reasons or are implemented so half-heartedly that the companies shouldn’t have bothered to do anything. These initiatives are perpetuated by antiquated responses to EEO regulations, implicit bias and other bureaucratic behaviors. It is much easier to buy a training package than to actually address fundamental issues of equity and exclusion across your organization. It’s messy work and many of us don’t really want to engage in it.

Let me make a “business case” for why we need to get serious about how we do Diversity work and why CEOs, their C-suites, and corporate boards need to get on board in a serious way… take it as seriously as they take the next quarter’s revenue results.

The U.S., along with the rest of the world, is experiencing a fundamental restructuring of their economies. We are living in a global economy and that will not change. We don’t know what that economy will look like ten years from now much less 50 years from now. We do know that international trade agreements have lifted literally millions of people out of poverty in third world countries and provided Americans with REALLY cheap consumer goods, which has driven our economy and standard of living. It has also made many Americans complacent.

We also know that international trade has hurt many working-class and increasingly white collar Americans and our policy-makers have not addressed this collateral damage to real people. We have been so caught up in this new, “revolutionary economy” that we haven’t noticed that we are repeating the past--- the exploitation of workers which took place in the Guilded Age of the early 20th century. The excesses of the Guilded Age proved that capitalism isn’t really capitalism if there aren’t checks and balances on our tendency toward greed and monopoly. More importantly crony capitalism isn’t good for democracy.

So let’s get back to diversity and exclusion. Most people agree that the key to business success is having the right people with the right skills in the right positions, especially leadership positions. But what are the right skills?

Technically competent people often make poor managers and leaders. That’s why tech startups reach a point where the entrepreneurial founder has to bring in a team of “adults” --- management experts who know how to lead growing companies.

Why? Because managing and leading people are entirely different skill sets from accounting, engineering, banking, teaching, manufacturing, doctoring, policing, or being an inventor. In fact managing and leading require different skills although they do overlap in some functions. Let’s set those differences aside for another day.

Assuming a manager or leader has the requisite IQ capacity to achieve technical competence, there are two key requisites of successful leadership in today’s economy: cultural competence and change leadership.

In less than thirty years, our economy will feature an American workforce that will be 40% under-represented “minority.” Our workforce is also international and they will ALL be lacking in light skin pigmentation. Between China and India alone there are over two billion people in a world of seven billion people. Americans only make up 325 million of those seven billion. 

These changing demographics require culturally intelligent leaders. Organizations that are unable to adapt to the changing workforce demographics and global business environment will fail.

Similarly, change is happening at the speed of light. Sounds like a cliché but it is true that new companies come and go within months. Very few survive to become an Amazon, Apple or Facebook. According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months and 80% crash and burn no matter how much financing they might have had, which means that many of them don’t even have basic managerial skills much less leadership skills.

As I said above, leading requires a particular set of skills. “Soft” skills are the hard skills of today’s economy! Let me say it again, “Soft” skills are the hard skills of today’s economy! And you don’t learn those skills in our current business school curriculum.

Today’s leaders need a cultural intelligence that allows them to flex to a changing landscape of people and business situations. They need to recognize that their perception of the world is just that: theirs and that others see the world differently… especially those from other countries and cultures. The GLOBE cross-cultural leadership study has confirmed that there are universal leadership attributes – both good and bad. The interesting thing is that those universal attributes are applied according to the needs of the culture in which the leader functions. For instance, decisiveness and charisma are two universal attributes put to very different uses in different countries and in different corporate cultures.

We also know that competent leadership is very much in the “eye of the beholder.”

Followers matter. Their perceptions matter. They have beliefs and biases about what constitutes a good leader too.

So what’s a 21st century leader to do? They need new skills. They need the capacity to scan for social cues that they may not have been socialized to see, to be curious about what these different cues mean and to challenge their own habitual assumptions. Mark Zuckerberg is learning Chinese, not just because he has a Chinese wife. He is learning Chinese so that he can better compete in that country!

Leaders will also need to understand how to be effective change agents. Change is the new normal. Change has always been a reality of life, but we are experiencing an acceleration never seen before. Successful leaders will need to understand that new external business imperatives require flexibility and nimbleness. They cannot afford to be ambivalent about change, neither can their executives and their employees! Leaders and their workers need to be able to respond in nano-seconds! Authoritarian styles of leadership cannot flex to this kind of change.

There will be a huge exodus of Baby-Boomers out of the workforce in the next 15 years. Incorporating new workers, whether they are generation Xs, Ys or Zs, minorities, or new immigrants, will require leaders to change work climates and cultures to integrate not assimilate these new workers. This means their organizations MUST change with their new employees. They cannot expect assimilation. These organizational dynamics require leaders who can lead and sustain change in their diverse organizations and communities.

This also means that organizations must constantly question the systems they have in place and change those structures when they no longer serve the realities of external competition. Bureaucracy brings necessary order to organizational life—to keep the proverbial trains running but too much bureaucracy stifles innovation and the capacity to respond to market shifts.

Leaders are not the only one who need to change! Shifting demographics and economic realities also require that employees develop their own cultural competence as well–after all, they will be working with each other every day. We all need to develop these two key 21st century skills: cultural competence and change agency. The new economy will require millions of people to overcome their cultural hard-wiring and embrace the new cognitive/neural wiring to learn new skills, effectively apply their old skills to new situations and to develop the cultural capacity interact  appropriately with whomever they encounter --- with one another, their customers and their constituents.

Lisa (Tong) Parola Gaynier, M.A.

Director, M.A. Program in diversity management

 

The Power of Mentoring Women Across Generations - May 5, 2016

My daughter is currently in law school and working part time on Capitol Hill, providing legal writing support for one of the House committees, and my heart is warmed by the number of women who are guiding and generously offering their mentorship to her. My own professional experience was a real mixed bag in terms of female mentorship. There were probably more women threatened by my ambition in my youth than those who were confident enough in themselves to appreciate it, and I could count the women on one hand who were actually willing to nurture it.

In contrast, my daughter calls me every week to tell me about the number of introductions being made on her behalf, facilitated by her phenomenal female mentors, the priceless insights that they have shared with her on how to navigate the Washington D.C. political landscape, and the vital information that they are providing regarding the various paths  that she can take toward achieving her professional goals. She is highly optimistic about her ability to make a difference in her area of expertise and these women through their guidance and encouragement are facilitating that probability.

She has just completed her second year of law school and has already taken several first year students under her wing in an attempt to duplicate the effort, making things a little bit easier for the next group. These dynamics have created a multiplying effect and now a number of additional young women will be the recipients of some of this collective wisdom.

She has informed me about the heroic accomplishments of her mentors and discusses the hurdles that many of them have had to overcome with gleaming pride in her eyes. The experience has been an incredible confidence builder in a variety of ways. The powerful impression that these inspiring women have made is deeply ingrained. I'm pleased that she understands what a valuable gift that she has been given. I find it reinvigorating to know that a lot of the old insecurities of the past between women have diminished.

Even though Washington D.C. has a high concentration of women my daughter is headed into a specialized and highly male dominated area of the law. All women need male mentors, yet there may be some dynamics that younger women are less comfortable discussing with men, and men are less likely to take up the mantle as many of them might resent the presence of females in the field altogether. There are special bonds forged between women, and other women are keenly aware of the unique challenges with gender roles that women face.

Young women are often not aware of the unconscious attitudes, unwritten rules and unspoken norms present in their professional environments and need guidance. In order for seasoned women to increase their collective power in the workplace they have to be willing to bring younger women into the fold. An increase in the number of confident and successful women of any age in the workplace is a win for us all!

Normella Walker, DMP Staff

 

The Masters Program in Diversity Management - Developing culturally competent leaders who can advance and sustain change - April 7, 2016

Most people agree that the key to business success is having the right people with the right skills in leadership positions. But what are the right skills? Technically competent people often make poor managers and leaders.

Why? Because managing and leading people are entirely different skill sets from accounting, engineering, banking, teaching, manufacturing, doctoring, policing, etc.

There are two key requisites of successful leadership in today’s economy: cultural competence and change leadership. Increasingly, our economy will feature a workforce that very soon will be 40% “minority”. These changing demographics require culturally intelligent leaders. Organizations that are unable to adapt to the changing workforce demographics and global business environment will fail.

Today’s leaders need a cultural intelligence that allows them to flex to a changing landscape of people and business situations. This means they need the capacity to scan for social cues that they may not have been socialized to see, to be curious about what these different cues mean and to challenge their own habitual assumptions.

Leaders will also need to understand how to be effective change agents. Change is the new normal. Successful leaders will need to understand that new external business imperatives require flexibility and nimbleness. They cannot afford to be ambivalent about change.

There will be a huge exodus of Baby-Boomers out of the workforce in the next 20 years. Incorporating new workers, whether they are generation Xs, Ys or Zs, minorities, or new immigrants, will require leaders to change work climates and cultures to integrate not assimilate these new workers. These organizational dynamics require leaders who can lead and sustain change in their diverse organizations and communities.

The shifting demographics and economic realities also require that our employees develop their own cultural competence as well–after all, they will be working with each other every day. We all need to develop these two key 21st century skills: cultural competence and change agency. The new economy will require millions of people who can overcome their cultural hard-wiring and can create the new neural wiring to effectively interact with one another, their customers and their constituents.

Lisa (Tong) Parola Gaynier, M.A.

Director, M.A. Program in Diversity Management, Cleveland State University, OH 216.523.7266

Dept. Phone: 216-687-2587 Email: diversityprogram@csuohio.edu