My father, Frank Llopis, who was a victim of Castro’s Cuba, always told me that he never had any regrets in life. (He turned 96 years old last Friday!) He said he’d been given opportunities that allowed him to live a more complete life – a life full of joy and contentment. But he also said that if he hadn’t taken action when faced with adversity, he would have been an incomplete person.
Think of how many opportunities we miss because we didn’t tap into our passion when faced with adversity. What about the opportunities that others missed?
As a leader, do you ever step back and ask yourself about the consequences of your passion, or lack thereof? Are you only thinking of yourself, or are you thinking
about your team, your organization and the people who depend on you?
Passion is becoming a luxury because you must take some risks to live passionately.
How many times have you been in a meeting and had someone tell you, “That’s a great idea, you should do something with that?” And then what happens? Most of the time, nothing. A great leader’s passion is infectious, and if given the opportunity it can inspire action. Passion is only a luxury when not managed responsibly. Be mindful of how you put your passion into action.
Without strategy, change is merely substitution, not evolution.
As leaders, we all recognize that we need strategies for change. Unfortunately, most leaders just don’t trust themselves enough to define their strategy, since this makes them accountable for their own vision. I have noticed that most leaders want to be accountable more for what others want them to be than for what they seek to be themselves.
Your passion must define your strategy for change. In fact, your passion must always fuel your intentions. Think about what excites you most. Are you living this every day in your work as a leader? Don’t hold anything back, and like my father, you won’t end up with regrets.
Think about the people you associate yourself with. Are they supporting and fueling your passion? Do you fuel theirs? Is it a one-sided relationship? This is why most leaders feel stuck in the workplace. They give too much of themselves to people who don’t reciprocate. Passion means you care and you open your heart to take action and make a difference for those around you. If your leadership passion doesn’t impact others, your influence will be short-lived.
Once, early on in my career, a boss told me that I was too passionate. He said, “Tone it down a bit, Glenn.” When I shared this with my father, he told me not to ever stop being my natural self. My father told me that my boss had misinterpreted my passion as being emotional, rather than strategic behavior. My father told me that the day I stopped being passionate would be the moment I would stop caring about the business, and I would start missing out on opportunities. Without passion, he said, I wouldn’t be aware of my full potential, and I would never find mastery in anything. My father reminded me that my passion would fuel others to be just as passionate about their own work. My father’s wisdom never let me down - and six months later, my boss was unemployed.
What’s the passion that you can unleash to get you going in your business – that unlocks your leadership? When you go to work today, I encourage you to take a moment to share your leadership passion with your team. You’ll awaken new opportunities for yourself, your organization, and its people. Allow your leadership passion to create sustainable impact and influence in your work!
As I begin this series, I dedicate these blogs to young Latina professionals who are the leaders of the future. Women of my generation, baby boomers born between 1946-1964, have spent our careers fighting different battles and learning very different lessons than the next generations that follow us. Having said that, I believe that our experiences shed valuable light on the current political and economic realities that youngerLatinas are facing. My hope is that future leaders can stand on our shoulders and see further as a result of our struggles. Much has changed since the late sixties when I graduated from college and began my professional life as an organizational consultant, researcher and university professor. Unfortunately, much has not changed. Latinas were then and continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions in all institutions and sectors. I was considered a rarity when I achieved academic and organizational positions of authority. My background was traditional working class which meant that my father had a high school diploma and worked in a steel mill while my mother was a stay-home worker raising eight children. I had no role models for pursuing an education or a professional career. When I encountered sexism or racism, I was unprepared to even recognize much less confront those experiences.
One of my passions as a researcher and consultant has been understanding Latina professionals and supporting their development as leaders. Frequently young Latinas want to know how I have overcome the barriers I have encountered and want advice about how to deal with the challenges they face. Older Latinas tell me their “war stories” about how they have broken through glass ceilings and how they continue to struggle to balance demanding careers with their over-committed family and community lives. I see great benefit in having us engage as Latinas across these generational divides. There is much we can learn from each other. I can see that my daughter’s generation of young women have special skills and self-knowledge that my generation didn’t have. I want to better understand how gender roles have changed and how they are forging new partnerships with their male counterparts in the work world. I don’t agree, however, that gender is no longer an issue or that women have achieved equality in today’s society and I worry about the impact of naively claiming victory over sexism or racism. There are still too few Latinas seated around the table when significant decisions are made or where power is wielded.
In future posts I will explore the complex range of factors that maintain the current state – some are very real organizational barriers and others are equally powerful self-limitations that we have come to accept as normal.
A recent example demonstrates my point. In the current election frenzy, there is much speculation about the role Latinos will play in electing the next President in 2012. A recent article by Carlos Harrison on February 20th in the Huffington Post went so far as to ask “Who could be the first Latino President of the U.S.?” He conducted his analysis without a single mention of any prominent Latinas who would even be considered. It apparently didn’t even seem worth mentioning that only men were worthy of his speculation. If this were the 1950s, I might have been prepared to be ignored – but in 2012, really?
So the challenges to Latinas being taken seriously as leaders and power brokers in this country continue to be significant. Strategies to address these challenges require sophisticated and nuanced analyses. I invite Latinas from various generations, sectors and regions to join me in asking these tough questions. And I hope we won’t rest until we find answers that matter. Dondeestanlasmujeres? We are neither invisible nor are we silent – our voices need to be heard now more than ever before.
I read with interest recent speculation that Mexico’s next president could be a woman, Josefina Vasquez Mota. An article in the Los Angeles Times on February 19th emphasized that Vasquez used the “gender card” in order to succeed. The article goes on to describe the fine line the candidate must walk to be taken seriously – if she is seen as too conservative, she will alienate many women yet if she strongly pursues issues women care about, the male power brokers will not support her candidacy.
By the way, I wish someone would explain clearly to me what the card is and how I can get one. It’s as if some believe that there is a special deck of cards that we can suddenly pull out and all barriers are removed and the keys to the kingdom are ours – we become all powerful and supernatural wonder women. I seriously question whether the imagined advantages to being a woman struggling to be considered a serious candidate in the cut-throat political arena truly exist. Similarly, in most business and organizational environments that I live in, gender is considered either an impediment or at best ignored if women want to move into positions of power.
The article describes how being a woman will not be a considerable obstacle to her election as much as her connection to an unpopular government. Nonetheless, her gender was speculated to bring enough novelty to convince the public to give her a chance. The author finds it noteworthy that Vasquez is able to negotiate without losing her head as if acting calmly under crisis is an unnatural act.
The criticism of Vasquez Mota reinforces the fact that it is often NOT womens’ lack of leadership skills that is the real culprit but rather outdated and stereotypical expectations of women that create the greatest obstacles. Women can achieve remarkable outcomes and yet not be seen as great leaders as long as the eyes of the observers limit their perceptions. Until those blinders are removed, there will continue to be an absence of representation by women in positions of power. Gender card or not, we are not able to leap tall buildings with a single bound as long as our true skills are ignored and we are locked out of the board room.
One of the mysterious and annoying assumptions about Latinos in this country is that ‘machismo’ is somehow worse in our culture than in mainstream U.S. white culture/society. My belief is that male dominance and chauvinism are equally virulent and damaging in the U.S. as in any country in Latin America. One could argue that it is even more subtle and insidious in the U.S. which makes addressing it even less likely. Women are often lured into believing that we have achieved parity and therefore need not organize ourselves to gain greater economic or social power. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Even in situations where women have risen into the ranks of prominence and power, they often still face subtle exclusion and pressure to conform to male standards in order to be accepted. I have had the experience of being asked to coach women executives who have become “honorary men” by becoming harsh and unfeeling taskmasters. If women are too social and concern themselves with the well-being of employees, they are considered too soft and unsuitable for leadership at higher levels. Men with the same skill set are seen as having emotional intelligence and strong teambuilding capacities. In order to avoid negative stereotypes, some women go to extremes to downplay their femininity even hiding or minimizing their family involvement or commitments lest their seriousness about business or careers be questioned.
I have seen women in non-traditional roles such as firefighters or police officers forced to walk an impossible line – if they act like one of the guys, joking, cursing, or being physically competitive, they are chastised. If they act too much “like girls” they are seen as threatening and unreliable. There seems to be a narrow range of behavior that is acceptable and many potholes that can easily short circuit the careers of women in most fields.
One of the most powerful things we can do as Latinas is share our stories with each other and seek out ways to provide mutual support and encouragement. There is nothing to be gained by working alone and keeping our nose to the grindstone in our careers. When I ask women what they do to take care of themselves, the most common response is a blank stare. We are often so busy taking care of the needs of others and getting the job done that we often forget to attend to our own needs and desires. I challenge us to use our voices and collective influence to support each other. There is much untapped power we can draw from but the barriers to our success are real and require our best collaboration to overcome them.
Today’s workplace is a reflection of the times: uncertain and unstable. As employees navigate this short-term, fast-paced, tension-filled terrain, they develop an attitude that creates an uneasy environment: survival mode.
The workplace used to be focused on the planning and execution of short, mid-range and long-term growth objectives. It was a place where careers were born and legacies were created. A place that encouraged teamwork, unity and advancement, fueled by collaboration, partnerships and client relationships. Today, long-term business goals have been eclipsed by short-term personal goals: survive the unknown long enough to stay in the game. For employees this means adapting to a role where time management is unmanageable and where everything is a priority.
As you think about the dynamics in your workplace, watch out for these five signs that your employees are in survival mode:
1) Relationship Building Amongst Peers is Fading
In the past, having lunch with the colleagues you worked most closely with was normal. But now, you’re lucky if anyone in the office can spend time with you during work hours. Because employees in survival mode focus specifically on people who can salvage their jobs and careers, socializing is infrequent and relationships are fading.
2) Meetings Are Frequently Cancelled or Rescheduled
Today’s survival-mode environment has made it increasingly difficult to get a team of people in a room, because they each have a different set of urgent issues to deal with. Canceling and rescheduling meetings has become more common than ever because people want to make sure that the right people are in the room so they can sell themselves, rather than advancing the organization’s initiatives.
3) People Don’t Trust One Another
Because everyone has their own survival agenda, employees have grown to distrust one another. Since people don’t know their colleagues’ hidden agendas, employees are wary of engaging with those who may violate their trust to advance themselves. One example might be two people who were once close colleagues competing for the same promotion within their department.
4) Turnover is High and Employer Loyalty is Low
People become disenfranchised when survival mode takes over. Think about it: When you go to work and people are only interested in themselves, what’s the incentive to give more. For example, when your manager is focused more on his or her own advancement than the betterment of the team, it sends the wrong message. Over time you realize that you are not valued and thus you begin to lose that fire in the belly and you lack the desire to give it your all. You become a victim of someone else’s survival strategy and thus begin to lose loyalty for your organization. Ultimately, you leave the organization.
This year I have seen this scenario play out more often than not. In fact, people work more on their resumes than their own jobs.
5) Self-Promotion is Out of Control
Self-promotion is the ultimate sign of survival mode. When employees get desperate they begin to sell themselves in ways that become irresponsible and that can harm the organization and client relationships. Survival mode creates a fierce dog-eat-dog mentality. Even the least likely employee can turn on a dime. Keep your eyes wide open, so that you don’t get blindsided by the lack of organizational loyalty the survival mode can create.
They don’t teach survival mode in school. None of us started our careers hoping to work only for our own short-term goals. But survival mode takes over in more and more workplaces each day, as uncertainty looms and the future becomes unclear.
There is a well-documented and dramatic absence of Latinas in leadership positions in many organizations in this country. In my experience as a researcher looking to identify Latinas in upper management for my research and as an organization consultant focusing on building inclusive organizations, I have consistently noted that the higher one looks, the fewer Latinas one sees at the decision-making table. While there continue to be more examples of Latinas assuming prominent positions in many industries, the numbers are far from adequate when one considers our representation in the population.
The question becomes how one explains this absence. Of course, there are those who are quick to attribute this dynamic to the lack of leadership competencies or experience among this group. Latinas are seen as lacking the ambition or competitive drive to move into senior positions. Instead their consideration for the well-being of others and concern for the collective needs of the whole are seen as deficits which make them unfit to lead. The problem, however, lies not with Latinas themselves but rather with how leadership is defined and enacted in most organizations which is based on a stereotypical model of a strong, competitive, individualistic, rational, task-focused male leadership style.
Leadership theories have typically focused on what was called “The Great Man” approach, which described the ideal leader as a hero of superhuman ability to inspire and lead his followers into battle. In this model leaders were born with traits like charisma and dynamism. You either had it or you didn’t. Other theories framed leaders as demanding task masters who got the work done by holding people to high standards and providing incentives to workers to perform in a fairly transactional manner – a days pay in exchange for a days work.
Though today’s workforce has changed dramatically from the 1950’s and 60’s when these theories were developed, many organizations have not significantly changed their ideas about what leadership is or needs to be. Today’s younger, more diverse workers are looking for new models of leadership that allows for power to be shared and provides them with opportunities to have influence on the context in which they work. The skills needed to work well and manage these new workers are more related to collaboration and team engagement than the top-down styles of the past.
Now is the time where Latina leaders are most needed yet their talents to lead are under-recognized and not fully leveraged to meet the needs of these changing organizations. Organizations and their leaders need to take off their blinders and appreciate the unique style of leadership Latinas exemplify and provide developmental opportunities so these qualities can flourish and mature. While Latinas interact and lead in non-traditional ways, the results they are able to produce speaks volumes about their abilities.
Part of the equation involves Latinas themselves recognizing and amplifying their leadership skills. They sometimes take for granted that their emphasis on the well-being and productivity of the work group or team are important. Their upbringing taught them that success in any endeavor is related to attending to the needs of a diverse group in order for each person to contribute to the overall task. Their ability to build long-lasting relationships and networks allows them to create cohesive teams and build trust among diverse co-workers.
When the mystery of the missing Latina leader is solved, organizations will see that the leadership ability they bring are exactly what is needed to inspire today’s workers – and these powerful “mujeres” have been hidden in plain sight for far too long. Perhaps 2012 will be the year when these patterns are recognized as unworkable and Latina leaders will gain the exposure and prominence they deserve!
The United States is undergoing great change -- and at an ever-accelerating pace – during these tough post-2008 economic times, with upheavals in the political, social, and economic spheres all at once. The political mood is bitter, the social fabric is ripped in many places, and the economy continues to deliver bad news in terms of foreclosures, business failures, and high unemployment.
How to survive in this tough, fast-changing terrain? When my Cuban parents came to the United States in the wake of Castro’s revolution, the most precious possession they brought with them was their perspective. It was that perspective – their immigrant values – that enabled them to adapt, reinvent themselves and ultimately thrive in a new country, a new culture, and a new set of challenges. That’s what we need today. The following represent the six (6) characteristics that define the immigrant perspective on business leadership that will be essential for business leaders to embrace in 2012:
1. Keep Your Immigrant Perspective:
Like an immigrant who comes to a new country with nothing but faith, hope and love, all employees must not have myopia where opportunities are concerned. We need to see that opportunities are everywhere, every day, and we must make the most of those that cross our path. We need to see the opportunities that others don't see.
2. Employ Your Circular Vision:
My family – like most immigrant families – experienced crisis and change in our mother country – strengthening in us a sort of essential sixth sense, an ability to anticipate false promises and unexpected outcomes. Because our immigrant perspective allows us to see opportunities others cannot, we have wide angle vision and are proficient at anticipating crisis and managing change before circumstances force our hand. All leaders in 2012 will need to develop this ability to see around the corners up ahead.
3. Unleash Your Passion:
Our ability to inject intense passion into everything we do makes us potent pioneers. We not only blaze paths few would go down, we see them through to the end. Our passion opens new doors of possibilities that we aim to share with others. When the terrain is difficult, only passion for the quest will see you through.
4. Live With an Entrepreneurial Spirit:
In America, you might be an entrepreneur. In Latin America and other developing countries, you must be one, just to survive. The ability to see and seize opportunities to build relationships, advance commerce, and better humanity is an inborn survival mechanism for immigrants – and must become one for all business leaders in 2012.
5. Work With a Generous Purpose:
It is our nature to give. We are raised to consider others’ needs as much as our own. This begins with giving inside our family when we are young, and then, when we are older, we are taught that we are a part of a larger family all around us. Our propensity to give to others from our harvest ensures us a perpetual harvest. Business leaders who adopt this abundant, glass-half-full attitude will find 2012 a year of surprising opportunities.
6. Embrace Your Cultural Promise:
Our familial style of relating brings potentially everyone within the circle. The strongest bonds in business, across the entire value chain, occur when employees, partners and distributers alike are treated like family. The treatment is reciprocated and opportunities continue to arise. Our cultural promise is that success comes most to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue. Business leaders – and their companies – that embrace this attitude, and practice this skill, will thrive in 2012.
2012 – the year of the immigrant perspective. Because the times demand it, and all business leaders need to embrace the opportunities this perspective provides.
The successful recall of Russell Pearce in Arizona shows what a powerful political voice Hispanics can have when we work together. It is critical that in the next decade our community unites to exercise similar influence in the corporate world.
When I founded the Center for Hispanic Leadership (CHL), one of the first things we did was to carefully listen, observe, and learn from other Hispanic professional organizations and their leaders. Our findings were disturbing: our community is overly protective, we don’t trust one another, and we don’t often collaborate with one another.
There is no central agenda that each organization can act on to support the advancement of its Hispanic professional members. Hispanic professional organizations operate in silos, they are territorial, and they don’t do a very good job of finding ways to unite to accelerate the advancement of the Hispanic professional community. At the current rate of development, the Hispanic identity crisis will last for generations.
We Hispanics continue to create barriers to our own advancement. In the next decade, we must unite to empower ourselves as Hispanic professionals. This begins by being transparent with one another and sharing our intentions, challenges, goals and objectives – openly. We must activate our generous purpose within our own community.
It’s time to learn from the lessons of other cultural groups that have been faced with similar challenges in the workplace. Let’s employ our circular vision. If we don’t manage our Hispanic brand, the marketplace will do it for us.
The challenges for Hispanic professionals could overwhelm the resources available to all Hispanic professional organizations - combined. We must not view one another as competitors, but as strategic allies. At CHL, we want to unite, empower and expand the leadership of our community, so that those from the outside can begin to experience the cultural promise that is inherit in the ways we think, act and innovate as managers and leaders.
It’s time to unleash our Latin Passion - with proper focus - to engage those around us in ways that can create opportunities and innovations to create and benefit our whole society.
The next ten years will define our Hispanic leadership legacy. Instead of thinking why we shouldn’t unite, let’s think about our entrepreneurial spirit and how we have limited our potential for advancement because we continue to find reasons to disconnect.
Let’s connect our immigrant perspective and our powerful voices to work as one. I have been told by many corporate diversity and talent management executives that we are unlikely to unite. Collective leadership is the only solution to our problems, and it must be developed within our community. We must embrace the unique cultural difference and the deep-rooted diversity that exists with our community. We must educate the doubters by being more accountable than ever.
Hispanic professionals have been forced to assimilate to seek equal opportunity in the workplace. In the next decade, we must teach others the value of assimilating to some of our ideas, by focusing on being our whole selves in everything we do.
Hispanic professionals are in a unique position to take advantage of the many untapped opportunities that the post-2008 economy has created. But that will only happen if we can unite as Hispanic leaders, and create a platform for sustainable impact and influence.
In the new normal workplace, corporate social responsibility (CSR) must come alive in how employees express their generous purpose in meaningful ways that touch the business every day. An undervalued behavior that must represent the core of an employee's generous purpose is their ability to have executive presence; a critical success factor to support a healthier, happier and community-minded high performance workplace culture.
Executive presence is not about selling a business transaction, or showcasing your knowledge, capabilities and skill-sets. Executive presence is one’s ability to create a moment; an experience that ignites others to want to know more about you, your personal brand and your business. Executive presence is mastered over time. It requires self-trust, confidence, self awareness and the ability to navigate the needs of people. Executive presence is about being a good listener and the ability to quickly connect the patterns of conversation in order to detect ones personal interests, leadership style and business needs. Executive presence is about earning the right from others to explore a more meaningful and purposeful business relationship. Executive presence is not about you; it’s about others. The one with highly effective executive presence is invited to the next meeting with the opportunity to create a more formal relationship. Executive presence is about having impactful, long-lasting presence that inspires others to want to know more.
I have worked with many prominent corporate executives. The most successful executives, visionaries and pioneers had the best executive presence. They made you feel that you were an important part of their initiatives. They allowed you to learn more about their personal life and always seemed highly engaged to learn about yours. They took the time to ask questions and you never felt that they were trying to sell you or convince you about anything. They always made you feel important, wanted and needed. The most effective executives always do. Executive presence is not about exercising your power and influence; but rather the ability to make others feel your powerful presence in a safe environment. For those that desire to intimidate others with their power; their executive role and influence will be short-lived.
As a fast track executive in my 20’s, I remember the wisdom my father shared to help me successfully navigate the dynamics of the corporate world. He said, “if you ever want to start a conversation with a person of high authority and influence, always be prepared to ask questions that are important enough to them – that it will ignite a meaningful dialogue. In order for people to take me seriously in the United States in the mid-60’s, as a Cuban immigrant who had an accent, I realized that to build new and / or sustain existing relationships that were meaningful and purposeful, I had to always add-value (lots of value) to the lives of others first. I treated them like family. When people realized that my intentions were genuine and responsible - actions ensued; opportunities became abundant for me – and the treatment was reciprocated. I always expressed my generous purpose. I built a reputation of being authentic, reliable and trustworthy. These are the types of relationships highly influential people desire. They don’t have time to waste.” In retrospect, my father’s immigrant perspective represented the tenets of Executive Presence.
One point of caution: many people in positions of authority do not always have executive presence. Their self-doubt, lack of confidence and preparedness may not lead towards developing a more formal relationship. Most often, they are concerned to reveal their own personal and professional limitations and insecurities. Just because someone has an important job title doesn’t mean they have character, and / or are well intentioned. In the end, it’s all about people.
Take a moment to observe some of the world’s most influential leaders like as Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Barrack Obama, Bill Clinton and others (see 2010 Time List). What makes you want to know more about them (whether you like them or not) is their mysterious appeal driven by their Executive Presence.
Here are a few characteristics of executive presence:
• Your presence is felt once you walk into a room
• You inspire people; you are likeable and trustworthy
• People are very curious to know more about you
• People want to be your friend; build a relationship with you
• You are perceived as important, valued and respected
• You have an elegant way of approaching, engaging and getting to know others
• You ask timely, relevant and thought-provoking questions that ignites a dialogue
• You are social, well read and share fresh perspectives
• You always leave behind a thought-provoking message that people remember
• You relate equally well with different types of people (regardless of hierarchy or rank)
• You positively impact others and those around you immediately
• You share and create opportunities for others
• You smile, maintain eye-contact and always make people feel important and hopeful
I welcome your comments, thoughts and experiences with executive presence in the workplace.
May this Immigrant Perspective on Business Leadership, serve you well.
It’s not what you think. Yes, the Census counts more than 50 million Hispanics in the US. But the new prominence of the Hispanic population shouldn’t just matter because of their votes and the 2012 election cycle.
It’s time for America as a whole to understand the real value, the unique characteristics and the new types of opportunities that Hispanics can create for the country. The identity crisis that Hispanics are faced with each day has made it difficult for them to advance, thus damaging their identity and limiting their contributions to the economy.
Today, we need the Hispanic professional and the broader Hispanic community in this country to start bringing their unique immigrant perspective to work and to help solve the enormous problems facing America today.
The news media are obsessed with the illegal immigrant discussion, but that should be a side issue in a country overrun with debt, mired in a recession, and -- most importantly -- stuck in a morass of self-doubt.
Who’s going to get America moving again? The fiercely competitive global market requires everyone to begin contributing in newly meaningful and purposeful ways to the global economy. Hispanics must embrace this to-do like everyone else. They cannot afford to continue thinking of themselves as victims, and the US economy cannot afford that victim thinking either.
It’s time for Hispanics to bring their immigrant values and resourceful thinking to bear on getting America moving again. The crisis of confidence is the important issue now, and Hispanics can help.
The time has come for Hispanics to embrace their unique cultural differences and realize the power that this diversity gives them. Hispanics must recapture their authentic identities and train non-Hispanics to understand them. Hispanics must embrace their immigrant perspective, circular vision, Latin passion, entrepreneurial spirit, generous purpose and cultural promise – the natural characteristics that are inborn in their culture and that allow them to be highly effective contributors to the economy. It’s time for Hispanics to take it upon themselves to break out of their identity crisis and claim influence amongst their non-Hispanic peers.
Hispanics need to stop being viewed as victims of lost opportunities in their mother country and start being held accountable as new sources for innovation, economic prosperity, global influence and the economic revival of our country.
It’s time for Hispanics to earn the right to be more influential in America. Population growth alone does not entitle Hispanics or any other group in society to own the resources of our great country.
Until Hispanics discover their authentic leadership role, they will continue to be misrepresented and misunderstood. Today, many non-Hispanic whites believe they are financing the Hispanic population growth. Hispanics must seize the moment, take on their responsibilities, and change the role of the Hispanic immigrant in the United States. At 50 million strong, and growing faster than any other group, Hispanics must grow up now.
As I discuss this issue with executives in the boardroom and professors in the classroom, they often refer to Hispanics as second-class citizens. And because of this, Hispanic professionals, adults and children would rather assimilate and reject their essential identities. If this assimilation continues, we will lose the brilliance and innovative flair of the Hispanic population, and the US economy will suffer as a result, in the competition with the rest of the world.
Diversity management is the key to growth in today’s fiercely competitive global marketplace. No longer can America’s corporations make excuses about their lack of cultural intelligence. Organizations that seek global market relevancy must embrace diversity – in how they think, act and innovate. In today’s new workplace, diversity management is a time-sensitive business imperative.
To better understand this fast-changing terrain, I reached out to three notable diversity executives -- pioneers within their respective industries – to share their insights and perspectives regarding the future of diversity and some of the new best practices that will allow diversity to play a more strategic role in cultivating sustainable business growth:
- Dr. Rohini Anand, Chief Diversity Officer, Sodexo
- Ron Glover, Chief Diversity Officer, IBM
- Kathy Hannan, National Managing Partner, Diversity & Corporate Responsibility, KPMG LLP
Make it Real or Lose Your Authenticity
Most corporate leaders pay lip service to diversity but don’t really live it. Diversity is more than employee demographics and support for a few non-profits. You can’t buy diversity, and organizations that continue to embrace this approach will tarnish their brand. If you are not authentic, consumers and employees will begin to question the sincerity and leadership of your organization.
As Rohini Anand says, “The traditional representation perspective originated from the Civil Right era. This will never go away entirely. However, diversity must go beyond this mentality. At Sodexo, diversity is embedded in our brand. The Sodexo brand is synonymous with diversity. Though the Sodexo brand is not a known consumer brand, diversity leadership defines our brand – it’s all about talent. Diversity is about responding to the needs of our clients in a holistic way.”
And Kathy Hannan adds, “Companies must take a long term strategic approach to engage diverse talent. Companies must define their role in the global marketplace. The train has left the station. You may not be where you want to be with your diversity strategy, but you need to get started!”
Executives Are Still Short-Sighted
I’m reminded of a pre-recession discussion I had with a consumer goods executive who said: “Diversity is another way of saying affirmative action and we are forced to support it in order to protect our brand in the trade and amongst our consumer audience. Diversity has no real value tangible to the growth of our business.” Unfortunately, many executives still share this opinion today.
Rohini Anand says, “Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies have been particularly effective with diversity from a marketing initiative standpoint. However, this is different from embracing diversity holistically. Companies must think about diversity beyond addressing niche needs. Diversity is not just about accessing multicultural markets. Companies must look more broadly to reinvent the way we think about how business is done. How can diversity be pulled out of this commoditized mentality? Diversity leadership must drive innovative perspectives. Companies have not yet figured out how to unlock the potential within markets and processes that must be enabled globally.”
Diversity is much more than just a multicultural issue. Diversity is about embracing many different types of people, who stand for different things and represent different cultures, generations, ideas, and thinking. As Ron Glover says, “Innovation is about looking at complex problems and bringing new views to the table. Diversity has allowed IBM to be innovative and successful for 100 years and to work across lines of differences in 172 countries, amongst 427,000 employees.”
For example, are you paying attention to the Internet and how online communities continue to grow and represent different voices and points of view – and opinions about your company?
Kathy Hannan notes, “Diversity has moved from a nice-to-have, to a must-have for companies as a strategic business imperative. KPMG has a multinational client base. We must understand their protocols, their ways of doing business. Diversity must move from just a value, to being operational.”
Anand adds, “Diversity must drive the formation of new business models. Leaders must think about the changing landscape. The economy is changing, how business is being done is changing, so the question is how can diversity be utilized as a strategic enabler in today’s changing landscape.”
And Glover says, “Diversity is a core belief of IBM in how we succeed in business. In order for IBM to successfully expand globally, we need a workforce that understands the local market. Our clients are as diverse as our employees. And there are now 5 generations in the workplace. We must focus on building communities inside of IBM to embrace differences to drive innovation globally.”
Diversity needs a Refresh
Diversity clearly needs a refresh. The misinterpretations of what diversity means and what it truly represents have limited its ability to have the real impact and influence it warrants in America’s corporations. In fact, the executives who get it today will tell you how concerned they are for their business, because their people, products, and services do not connect naturally with the new faces of America. As one executive told me, “Our business demands diversity and we are more uncomfortable with our lack of diversity preparedness than ever before. We are in trouble if we don’t fix it!” As a result, most companies have been forced to react not only to the changing face of America and but the mindsets of the global marketplace. Consequently, executives have started to confront the inevitable: a new business model that fully integrates diversity as a business growth enabler.
Kathy Hannan says, “No homogeneous talent pool can be innovative. Diversity is essential. And, there are broader implications across the whole supply chain. Diversity is about how you do business across the board.”
The Future of Diversity
To better understand the future of diversity management and its role as a business growth enabler, think back to when Information Technology (IT) was viewed as just a cost center. IT was not associated with driving business growth 20 years ago, but rather as a required cost of doing business. Just like diversity today, many people then thought IT got in the way of business. Today, IT is considered a profit center by many and a high priority for organizations as a business growth enabler. In fact, many CIOs (Chief Information Officers) are next in line for the CEO role.
CDOs (Chief Diversity Officers) will experience many of the same functional role and responsibility shifts as have CIOs. They will not only be required to assume their practitioner responsibilities, but they must also learn to play a more integral strategic role in the design of new business models. Glover notes, “Diversity is a critical leadership success factor at IBM. Globally diverse leaders are maximizing the effectiveness of our teams. IBM has recognized the importance of building teams across the company from different countries. It’s not just about leadership, but capability. Diversity is fundamentally focused on talent! Those differences create real opportunities for those who learn to master them and a disaster for those who do not.”
Diversity management will begin to develop rapidly, out from under the traditional human resources and talent acquisition roles, to assume more dotted-line responsibilities that will touch corporate strategy, corporate social responsibility, organizational design & effectiveness, corporate marketing and even sales. Therefore, the requirements to be an effective CDO will mean that they must include operating more holistically in a general management and operational capacity to ensure that diversity becomes an embedded mindset with common threads that touch all functional areas (internally) and the supply chain (externally).
Hannan notes, “Good intentions are not a substitute for accountability. Everyone must be accountable for advancing diversity.”
How you manage diversity in your organization from today forward will determine your long-term success or failure in the global marketplace.
|"Adversity is very big when it is all you can see. But it is very small when in the presence of all else that surrounds you."|
|-- Glenn Llopis|
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