When old guard members of the other party reached into their bag of tropes and stereotypes with the intention to befuddle and buffoon Black people in Georgia, Georgia handed their insult right back at them. No thank you. We will not vote for any candidate because we liked how he performed on a football field. That’s like expecting my mechanic to perform my heart surgery. We will not vote for a candidate because of their skin color. We vote for substance, intelligence, performance, values, integrity, and grit.
There is a lesson in this for organizations seeking to create more inclusion, equity, diversity, and belonging in the workplace.
There is no room for assumption. The old guard in Georgia assumed a certain mentality that is rapidly disintegrating.
Organizations to often assume, if we could just hire more black people, more diversity, we will look good and by extension attract the best talent out there. We will achieve our DEI scorecard metrics and DEI pledges and stated commitment to DEI.
However, people, Black or otherwise are looking for substance and aware of how you interact. Not what you say. Your employees are looking at what you do. Do you lead, perform, and engage with courage? Integrity? Authenticity? Do you really see me? Am I subjected to micro aggressions and your unexamined mental models of me? Do you realize my talent, my peace , and my life energy is too precious to not be seen, appreciated, and rewarded?
I was talking to a coaching client who holds a senior analyst role in a Fortune 50; and who is really over qualified with a PhD and a gift for creating profitable order out of chaos like no one I’ve ever seen. She recently gave a brilliant presentation to her Senior Leadership Team. During her prep for the meeting she met with her boss, who as he was reviewing her brilliant presentation, asked her “Who helped you with this?”
That right there. Because her leader didn’t “see” her, he assumed the stereotype. It was insulting and infuriating just like putting a clearly under-qualified candidate in front of the people without checking the bias that thought that was alright.
If leaders don’t do the work, the challenging, courageous growth work of inclusive leadership. Followed up with accountability to check bias, engage in critical thinking and mindfulness instead of recklessly saying, doing and choosing behavior that is increasingly seen and rejected as intolerable, you will lose. People are not puppets. Nor will they tolerate leaders and organizations with a track record of inequitable outcomes for diverse populations.
Some call it “woke” I call it seeing the mental model. The mental model that underpinned the interaction. A mental model that increasingly larger segments of your employee base current and potential, that just isn’t having it.