Martin speaks on his provocative topic, “Embrace the Weird,” at the Rotman School of Business Initiative for Women in Business speaker series, Toronto, Canada. Here, women learn how to be better leaders and better decision-makers at every stage of their careers by learning new ways to leverage what they do best. Click for more information.
Posts Tagged ‘diversity and inclusion’
05 MAR 2013 Initiative for Women in Business, Rotman Leadership Experts Speaker Series, Toronto, CanadaSunday, March 10th, 2013
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to give a talk on the importance of being offensive (or at least risking being offensive). The occasion was a celebration of Love is Love 2013 Campaign, an annual event at Darden and the University of Virginia focused on promoting inclusion of the LGBT community in the workplace and in the Darden community. My remarks were part of a daily Darden ritual, “First Coffee,” where the community gathers to take a break between classes, connect over coffee or tea, and sometimes mark important events like Love is Love.
Talking about being offensive was strange in this context. Here I was, a heterosexual man, addressing an event with community members of diverse sexual orientations and embarking on a topic that is charged. LGBT members of society are routinely confronted with offensive words and behaviors and, at first glance, my message should have been about ways to diminish those affronts.
But I also think it’s useful to look more deeply at the challenges I see in my consulting, teaching, and research when it comes to the diversity of sexual orientations and identities in our communities. Often, we are so concerned about not risking offending one another that we walk on eggshells. Our goal is to be conscientious and committed advocates for equality and justice for people of all sexual orientations and identities. But my experience is that being overly careful is one of the things that undermines that goal.
I know that I often walk on eggshells with my colleagues and friends of different sexual orientations, especially my gay and lesbian friends. Upon deeper reflection, I‘m learning about why I do. To be honest, I’m often scared and anxious. My anxieties when it comes to sexual orientation include:
- My worry that I will say something offensive when it comes to sexual orientation—that people will label me as clueless or as a homophobe and that will make me look like bad person.
- My worry that if I am too strong an advocate people will utter under their breath “I’ll bet he’s really gay,” which freaks me out. Despite my ongoing work in diversity, I still internalize the fear of being seen as gay which somehow equates in my mind to being less of a man. It also feels threatening because I imagine the ways my life and relationships would change if people thought I was gay.
- I worry that sometimes if I am too strident and too sympathetic, maybe that means that deep down, I might really be gay (see bullet point 2, only bigger)!
The results of these anxieties make me frequently hold me back and keep me from doing what I believe is the right thing to say or do.
So I try three practices that help me overcome:
- Adopt a learning attitude—I work to remain as open as possible to new information and perspectives. It can help to adopt at attitude of curiosity and to ask questions. One of my most powerful experiences in learning about sexual orientation happened when a friend who lived in Provincetown, MA invited me to visit. “P-town” is a predominantly gay community and I got to feel what it was like to be in an environment where being heterosexual was not a given.
- Separate intent from impact—This means realizing that even though my words or actions may not be in intended to be harmful or offensive, they can nonetheless be experienced by my audience that way. Separating the two—intent and impact—is important because it helps prevent me from getting defensive when I make a mistake. And if I am not defensive, it is easier to understand why my action was hurtful and to discover other ways to express my sentiment.
- Practice everyday courage—Just keep being aware and practicing saying when you see or feel that a comment or interaction provides an opportunity to learn. If you see something that is wrong or harmful, try to bring it up in the moment. Usually that can be tough since problematic moments often take us by surprise. But that’s OK. It’s never too late to be courageous. I have often come back a few minutes or a few days later and said “I don’t know if you remember when you said… but after thinking about it, I realized that bothered me. Can we talk about it?…” By the way, I call this “everyday courage” because it helps to remember that this doesn’t have to be a big deal. And if you miss an opportunity today, work on trying it the next time. What is most important is that you keep trying.
I’m not advocating going out of your way to be offensive or obnoxious. Rather, I’m saying that we make progress in overcoming bias—overt and subtle—when we are able to engage, not avoid. That approach has really helped me on my journey to being a better ally for LGBT colleagues.
The following blog was written by Robert F. Bruner, Dean of the Darden Graduate School of Business, and posted on his blog site March 5, 2012.
“Civilizations should be measured by the degree of diversity attained and the degree of unity retained.” — W.H. Auden
It’s challenging to find institutions today that harness the diversity of its participants really well. This should be of paramount interest to CEOs and leaders of all kinds because those who harness it well sooner are likely to gain advantage in their competitive space. Such is the gist of a special Town Hall session for students faculty and staff to be held tomorrow, “The End of Diversity as We Know It: How to Make Diversity Efforts Really Matter,” from 3:30-5:30 in Abbott Auditorium. And it is the focus of a new book by Darden Professor Martin Davidson, The End of Diversity as We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How Leveraging Difference Can Succeed. I encourage readers to draw on both of these resources.
I see the relevance of this topic most vividly in two spheres: the management of global businesses and the education of the next generation of global leaders. In respect to both spheres, W.H. Auden got it right: success is a matter of embracing the diversity within institutions and doing so in a way that generates strategic strength and focus on the things that matter.
On the basis of results, the former Soviet Union would be a leading example of how not to leverage diversity. So would Zimbabwe—indeed, the potential list is long. Diversity was thought to be a uniquely American problem of dealing with differences in race and gender: “we don’t have a diversity issue here” is a statement I have heard in many countries. Yet, a little conversation will often reveal material divisions in virtually all countries. As I write this, I am in Ecuador, a small nation of about 15 million people, which displays classic issues associated with diversity along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender, language, and tribe—this is not to criticize Ecuador, but rather to suggest that leading a constituency that contains material difference is a universal challenge.
So, what is the leader of a diverse organization to do? Stop thinking of difference as a problem and start thinking of it as an opportunity; find ways to leverage difference as a strength.
At Darden, our purpose is to “improve society by developing principled leaders for the world of practical affairs.” Leveraging difference is a conscious element of our strategy. To my knowledge, we were the first business school to appoint a Chief Diversity Officer (he is Peter Rodriguez; his predecessors were Martin Davidson and Erika James). We organized special Dean’s advisory councils on diversity and on global affairs to assess the curriculum and climate of the school in light of best current practice. We partner with a number of organizations that help us to recruit top diverse talent—indeed, for two years, I chaired the Board of Directors of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. We host a range of social events that celebrate the diversity in our community, and learning events, such as tomorrow’s session on “The End of Diversity.” We formally survey faculty, staff, and students on the climate of inclusion in our community—and based on the survey results, we adjust as warranted. I make no claim that Darden is perfect in respect to diversity and inclusion; but I do claim that by pursuing these and other activities sincerely and vigorously, we strengthen Darden’s ability to fulfill its mission. From all the metrics I follow, I conclude that Darden’s strategy on leveraging diversity is working and that the Darden Enterprise is growing stronger as a result.
Faculty, staff, students, and the extended Darden Community are supporting our efforts to leverage difference. As a result, we are creating more compelling learning experiences for our students. We are preparing them to prosper and lead in a world that is only growing more diverse. And we are responding positively to the needs of the business profession that we serve. This is creating a legacy with long positive impact into the future.
This event will feature conversation and audience involvement. Because of its novel design, the event will provide 1) an opportunity for intellectual engagement on this important topic, and 2) a venue for members of the larger Darden community and business community to collaborate on ways to further diversity and inclusion.
Martin will facilitate the discussion and includes panelists:
- Ed Freeman, Darden Professor and academic director of the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics
- Jeanne Liedtka, Darden Professor of Business Administration and author of The Catalyst: How You Can Become an Extraordinary Growth Leader
- Charlie Hill, former Exec Vice President of HR, Landmark Communications and former member Darden Corporate Advisory Board
- Rhonda Smith, Darden ’88, Founder at Breast Cancer Partner and President of Rhegal Consulting
March 6 from 3:30-5:30 in Abbott Auditorium at the Darden School, 100 Darden Blvd., Charlottesville, VA. Open to the public. The discussion will be followed by a book signing and reception.
This annual event provides Leadership Tools for Supervisors, Managers, and Directors of Facilities Management. Martin will be speaking on diversity and inclusion, and the principles from his new book, The End of Diversity as We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How Leveraging Difference Can Succeed.
Please join the Darden School of Business for a conversation on diversity in honor of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. This discussion will explore the challenges and opportunities for fostering diverse and inclusive communities in educational institutions, businesses and larger society. Conversationalists and audience members will address the ways in which we can build on our accomplishments as well as overcome our obstacles as we work towards creating energizing, generative, and just communities. The point of departure for the conversation will be Darden professor Martin Davidson’s provocative new book, The End of Diversity as We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How Leveraging Difference Can Succeed.
For more information and to register, visit http://www.virginia.edu/mlk/DardenPanel.html
Leadership in Academic Matters (LAM) is a faculty development opportunity focused on supporting, inspiring, and rewarding those who have demonstrated leadership characteristics and future potential. Sponsored by the Vice Provost for Faculty Development, LAM provides participants with concrete resources, access to expertise, and experiential learning opportunities focused on a variety of topics including teambuilding, negotiation, managing change, strategic decision making, financial management, developing successful networks, and finding life balance in a dynamic and growing career.
Martin Davidson will be speaking on Friday, January 20, from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in the South Meeting Room in Newcomb Hall on the principles of Leveraging Difference from his new book, The End of Diversity as We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How Leveraging Difference Can Succeed.
For more information, contact http://www.medicine.virginia.edu/administration/faculty/faculty-dev/lam