Lessons Learned Along the Way about Diversity and Inclusion
Thoughts from Reginald L. Ollie
Ollie Scholarship Namesake & BOMA/Chicago Lifetime Member
As far back as I can remember, the concept of diversity in all aspects of life has intrigued me. My involvement with diversity initiatives through BOMA/Chicago and its membership should come as no surprise. In the continuation of my journey as a
without a portfolio, there are two important things I have learned that I want to pass on to you.
Sports is a Diversity Model to Emulate
With any sports teams, be it the celebrated USA Women’s National Soccer team or Super Bowl Champions, these teams have a common goal: Winning. This cannot be accomplished by a team where everyone is alike. When you are part of a team, sports or otherwise, the team members are diverse. Through this experience and exposure, team members learn to embrace and respect others’ skills and talents rather than focus on race, sexual orientation, political views, ethnicity or other types of diversity that exist.
Sports embrace diversity in its traditional form. The business world should be no different. We do not have to be best friends with coworkers, but we need each other to succeed. The lesson to learn: the more an organization can embrace all aspects of diversity, the greater successes the organization can achieve.
Leaders rarely equate diversity with the notion of transformational leadership because the concept has been politicized and distorted over time. For many in the business community, the word “diversity” immediately brings to mind ideas of boring seminars and workshops along with forced interactions. In reality, diversity is one of the most critical components of successful team building. The power of diversity is found in the collaboration, chemistry and continuity that comes from a group of people who respect, embrace and work to leverage each other’s differences. “Differences” can be a difficult thing to appreciate, but teams that leverage their uniqueness are able to create a tapestry of dynamic interconnectedness that is difficult to beat.
Solicit Input About Diversity from the Historically Excluded
Decision makers and all leaders should invite the historically excluded to the organization’s table to discuss their feelings about diversity. This "inclusion" aspect cannot be overlooked or sidestepped. The assumption too often is made that managers and decision makers know how their colleagues feel. Leadership, in many cases, has relied on input from either a diversity consultant, a member from the historically excluded group within their organization or both. Like any other group, there are individual perspectives and opinions from each member of the team. Assuming that there is a monolithic perspective and opinion about diversity is a recipe for failure. Honest conversations and an invitation into that conversation are crucial. And this goes both ways. The historically excluded should seek out persons outside of their group to solicit their feelings about diversity within the organization as well.
How Can Your Organization Be a Leader and a Champion?
"Wheaties is the breakfast of champions." If only a simple breakfast could give us all a clear path to success. But
as our passionate Foundation members and volunteers know
in order to be a winning organization, diversity, inclusion and honest conversations are the fuel. Do you have what it takes to lead the way? The Foundation and Diversity Committee will always be here to help!