7 Things to remember when practicing allyship for diverse leadership
1. Don't hire clones of your personality.
It's hard because we are naturally gravitating to those, who are similar to us. But in order to counter company group think, to mitigate having one dominant style of communication and to avoid excluding people who think and act differently, it's essential that we actively search and recruit people who are different to ourselves.
2. Actively search for people who tend to disagree with you.
Decisions get better when more diverse input is involved and considered and when hidden consequences of the decisions are reflected before it is taken. That's why I keep a book with names of people that tend to disagree with me. I run every important decision that has implications for many by them - it sometimes makes me change my mind, it always make me think harder.
3. Rethink your target group
This is one of the moments where I actually go back to something I learned in a training. Communicating to different personality types (the why, the what, the how, the when). Since I'm definitely not a type that is interested in the how or the when, I tend to forget about this information. Keeping an audience of four different persons in my head and expanding my communications so that all of them are addressed ensures that my message is actually received.
4. Invite silent voices to the conversation.
I'm one part extrovert and I have a face that shows my emotions like an open book. Which makes it pretty easy for me to jump into a conversation because everybody already notices that I don't look happy before I've said a word ;) This sometimes feels like a burden to me (I'm definitely never gonna win Poker) but it is also a huge privilege. That's why I make double sure that I actively ask those people to share their opinion who would not speak up by themselves. In the next meeting: Notice who hasn't said something and let them speak their minds. Usually they have very valuable things to say.
5. Have your colleagues back - always.
We all try to be inclusive and diverse, but shit just happens. Sometimes because we are all humans and make mistakes, sometimes because there are assholes in the room. Make sure that you stand and speak up for those people, who are treated disrespectfully. It not only lightens up the mental load they are carrying anyways, it also sometimes (very sad but true) has a more powerful impact than if the people themselves are speaking up.
No, it's not enough to pad their backs after the meeting or offer your condolences or feedback in private. It's about taking a stand in public. In front of everybody, even if it means challenging your boss.
6. Give those people a vote, who are not in the meeting room.
I haven't worked in one single company where the audience was so diverse that all meetings represented all interests that should have been taken into consideration. An easy way to avoid ignoring their interests is to imagine them in the room. Next time there is a decision to be made that has an impact on people who are not in the room, imagine they are part of it and cast a vote (whether it's some minority group that isn't represented in your staff or the next generation who hasn't born yet to support meaning long-term decision making)
7. Ask for help from the outside
It's hard to change and even harder to transform as a group. Don't be shy or embarrassed to ask for outside help. There are experts available who know how to assist you in making the next step towards a more diverse culture. But keep in mind that this is not a nice-to-have or free gift from the world, not a PR activity to fake a purpose and also not a political gesture born from generosity. It's a management task and prerequisite for staying competitive as a company, so it needs investment of money, work and people.