IBIS shares news, insight and best practices about pressing Diversity & Inclusion and Unconscious Bias topics in today’s workplace.

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Why should your organization invest in Diversity and Inclusion focused coaching?

What difference will coaching make in relation to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) challenges facing your organization?  Are there disconnects between your vision and goals regarding D&I and what’s actually occurring in your organization?  Have you invested time, energy and resources into D&I initiatives and are waiting to see results?  If so, I encourage you to take a look at how D&I coaching can close the gap between vision and results and support the sustainable success of your D&I initiatives.

There are five core values to what makes D&I coaching so valuable.  Read further and learn how D&I coaching can serve you and your organization.

1. Safe – judgment free space – to explore and discover
D&I coaching can provide a safe – judgment free space – for individuals to explore their own biases and identify actions to overcome them.  Take a look at this Ted Talk by Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments as she discusses the difference between being color blind and color brave.  One of the biggest challenges around diversity is that we are all afraid to talk about it.  We think it’s better to ignore it and pretend there are no differences.  Or perhaps we really don’t see any difference.  Unfortunately this color blind mentality is what results in valuable employees seeking employment elsewhere or not even joining your organization in the first place. It can of course also result in low productivity and low morale within the work place.  Ms. Hobson points out; having the courage to pro-actively seek out interactions with individuals different from you is a simple step to gaining understanding and awareness.  A D&I coach provides the space where concerns can be voiced and addressed instead of remaining ignored and unresolved.  A D&I coach can support practices that allow you to become more comfortable with the uncomfortable conversations around race, disabilities or frankly any difference.  D&I coaching can take an individual from a passive bystander to a proactive advocate who not only embraces diversity but also engages, encourages and supports other peers and colleagues to do the same.

2. Take D&I training from learning to action
A D&I coach can provide support, feedback and accountability that will allow you and your organization to take D&I training from the learning stage to actual implementation.  The Milton Bennett developmental model of intercultural sensitivity suggests that there are several stages on the cultural competency continuum.  By partnering with a D&I coach you can begin to work through the various developmental stages.  As Christian Hoeferle, a business and cross cultural coach shares, “A coach will work you through drills and exercises to flex your behavioral muscle and to gradually make you more comfortable with behaviors that may not come natural to you right away.  Cultural knowledge can be learned.  Cultural competence needs practice.  If you want to become a successful global leader you may want to get a workout buddy to practice with; one that holds you accountable.”

3. Paradigm/Mindset Shift
One of the challenges with D&I work can often be how it is perceived or presented to teams, organizations and individuals.  If it is seen as a ‘have to’, an ‘add on’ or a ‘separate from’ as was pointed out in the April 2014 article Diversity & Inclusion Training: A Practitioner’s Perspective, it will likely be treated as something separate from the everyday work in your organization.  D&I coaching can support a paradigm and mindset shift that has D&I issues transition from an ‘add on’ to an imperative for your organization’s bottom line.  Adult learners have unique needs one of which is repetition, repetition, repetition to fully establish a new habit.  Henry David Thoreau articulates it well. “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again.  To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”  If we really want to see change in our thoughts we need to consistently think new thoughts over and over.  D&I coaching is a structure that can provide support to truly shift our thought patterns.

Adult learners also need to see the value in new learning in order to be willing to make the effort to do the work. Providing examples of the importance of D&I implementation within an organization can support adult learners in recognizing the value in making the effort to learn and understand.  When we share examples where no D&I effort is made we can see how certain organizations may fold or witness significant decline in a large customer base that selects to purchase or partner with competitor organizations adept at D&I.  One can also explore positive examples where the acceptance and immersion of D&I throughout an organization can change a hiring process to include and retain more diverse employees, where product innovation and expanded markets and customer bases expand due to D&I practices.  There is a clear difference between being taught content and comprehending a shift in mindset to achieve your D&I goals. D&I coaches can support that mindset shift through thoughtful planning and implementation of individual practices.

4. Follow through at all levels
D&I coaching is a tool that can be used with individuals at all levels of your organization.  D&I coaching is truly valuable for senior leaders, managers as well as individual contributors.  Senior leaders can benefit by having a D&I coach that is willing and able to share any shortcomings that an employee or colleague may not feel able to share without fear of being fired. In order for D&I initiatives to be successful, senior leadership not only needs to stand behind it but also stay behind it.  Talking is not enough action is required as well.  Consider a President and CEO of a major organization who talks about the value of diversity and inclusion, yet year after year his organization sees no change in the numbers of senior leadership from underrepresented groups.  Enter a D&I coach and together the leader and coach can shed light on any blind spots and individual and organizational biases.  A potential outcome of this D&I coaching intervention would be the CEO rethinking his approach to the organization’s hiring practices and hiring manager accountability.

Managers can also benefit from D&I coaching.  It is not enough to simply support senior leaders, for change to permeate the entire organization all levels of employees must be engaged in implementing it.  Managers can also operate with blind spots, biases and/or unawareness to the value of investing in the work it takes to achieve sustainable D&I success. A D&I coach can be a great partner in identifying, exploring and ultimately overcoming individual biases in order to move forward.

Effective organizations know they need to provide resources for employees from underrepresented groups at all levels. Professionals of color, women, persons with disabilities, veterans, for example, can be challenged by dysfunctional work relationships and organizational culture that undervalues their contributions.   In Sustaining an Open, Collaborative Workplace Culture we shared about the Center for Hispanic Leadership and discussed their Leadership Impact Training for Hispanic Professionals.  The participants took away an ability to leverage their innate skills and characteristics that are directly influenced by their Hispanic cultural values. D&I coaching takes this type of intervention to the next level.  D&I coaching can support a sustained transformation from being marginalized, undervalued and perhaps even ignored to a valued, appreciated and included leader.  This in turn can increase productivity, reduce turnover and encourage innovative thinking.

5. Become Comfortable with the discomfort
Another valuable benefit of D&I coaching is the support provided with overcoming our fears, inhibitions and doubts.  D&I issues are not often associated with comfort and ease, therefore they are often ignored.  D&I issues require individuals to be willing to explore areas unfamiliar to them, be willing to be uncomfortable and be willing to make mistakes.  D&I coaches can support individuals in acknowledging their concerns, addressing their discomfort and encourage action anyway.  A D&I coach can be a sounding board when one needs to vent frustrating situations, clear out negative experiences and release tension.  It is human nature to become defensive when we get criticized or ridiculed.   A D&I coach can diplomatically and strategically support an individual to separate fact from interpretation and distinguish what choices or options exist.  The discomfort surrounding D&I issues is not likely to disappear however, one’s ability to deal with that discomfort can certainly improve through the support of a D&I coach.

That concludes this exploration into the values of D&I coaching. Hope you’ve enjoyed the journey.  In full disclosure, I am a passionate, firm believer in the power and impact of D&I coaching as I am both a product of and current contributor within this field today.  Let’s work together and become Color Brave, culturally competent and increase the creativity, productivity and positive outlooks of our ever growing diverse workforce.  Let’s start creating new deep mental paths together!  And last but certainly not least, let’s have some fun – learning new things, engaging with people, exploring the world of difference.

We invite you to take a moment to learn about Ibis Consulting Group Coaching Services.