Diversity in Corporate America.
I recently did some research on trends in diversity and leadership coaching. As you may know, an international assignment is often mandatory for high potential employees in global companies. Recent research indicates that corporate leadership teams with more diversity yield higher shareholder values. Initiatives within companies designed to identify and promote internal talent lead to higher retention and engagement rates. Global markets require experienced leaders. Many companies want to increase cultural diversity for the employees who are relocated, and for those in the host culture. There is a subset of executive coaches who specialize in supporting the diversity goals of those companies. That subset is called “diversity coaches.”
One article is an interview with Bo Razak, a senior consultant and diversity coach, conducted by Wendy Conklin, editor of The Diversity Factor (2006.) Razak specializes in diversity issues, and developing leadership skills that can support organizational missions such as increasing diversity awareness.
Razak states that executive coaching “for diversity” narrows the focus or framework to specific leadership capabilities that support the leader in developing his or her capacity to incorporate diversity into all aspects of work (37). Also, the coaching engagement may be shorter term than another executive coaching engagement. The diversity coaching engagement may focus on “leading by feeling” so that members of subordinated groups may feel supported with examples of empathy, or awareness of group identity and its effects.
Group identity is so central to Razak’s description of diversity coaching that I include his explanation. “Everyone has multiple group identities, including age, ability/ ableness, class, education level, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, nationality, race, first language, religion / spirituality and sexual orientation. In organizations and society, the extent to which we are aware of the meaning and impact of these identities is key to understanding the impact of diversity and changing the status quo.” (38)
Razak describes 4 critical factors for diversity coaches.
1) The primary factor is organizational support for diversity coaching, and diversity issues, that are tied to compensation rewards. He states that leaders need to adopt a “diversity lens” and become inclusive in language, action, and words.
2) Leaders need to become comfortable with a common language that is inclusive and enables them to discuss words like “gender” and “sexual orientation” in any strategic or operational discussion,
3) Leaders must pay attention to the dynamics of difference, and multiple perspectives from multiple group identities, by engaging a broad range of perspectives.
4) And leaders must actively solicit feedback on how they are embracing the capabilities of diversity, and make open statements that reflect awareness of multiple perspectives.
My takeaways from this article include the following:
1) My 25 year-old nephew was recently promoted into a role that required an international assignment. That experience is exciting for him, and he is young for such an assignment. I cannot imagine that he will eagerly embrace that culture; he would benefit from such a diversity coach.
2) Diversity coaching requires a systems approach to others. The coach must be aware of the layers of corporate expectations. The leaders/ coaching clients must be willing to engage in anything called diversity coaching. If it is an EEO requirement for compliance, or an extension of a training, those requirements may minimize the impact of diversity coaching. Razak states that compensation must be tied to behavioral outcomes based on the diversity coaching. That point reminds me of Peter Drucker’s maxim that “what gets rewarded leads to results.”
3) Selecting and matching coaches with leaders/ coaching clients requires a high level of awareness of group identity. But there are no rules. It may be ideal to match people from dramatically different group identities in order to be more effective. For instance, if I were being coached by a Hispanic, lesbian woman from Brazil, and I am a Caucasian, heterosexual male from the U.S., we may be well matched. Or it may be a setup for failure.
4) Diversity coaching may be a shorter-term engagement than executive coaching engagements. However, the effects of diversity coaching may be more anecdotal than measurable, and longer term rather than shorter. And in a country that is more ethnically diverse, such as Canada, diversity coaching may be more effective than a country that is more ethnically homogenous, such as Japan.
Conklin, W. (2006). Executive Coaching for Diversity: An Opportunity for Leaders to Learn and Change. Diversity Factor, 14(2), 37-42.
What are some of your takeaways from this subject?
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