As the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for the Hampton Roads Chamber, it is my responsibility to view everything we do through an equitable and inclusive lens for the business community. The recent passing of the Honorable Congressman John Lewis left our nation with an essay that asked for togetherness and hope. John Lewis shared the concept of getting into “good trouble” and standing up for what is right. As leaders in the business community we should be asking ourselves, how we can take Congressman Lewis’s message and change the current narrative? How do we examine our personal values and the values we have instilled in our organizations? In these current times of our Nation, it is imperative for us to look at methods for getting into good trouble and how it relates to inclusivity and success.
As business leaders, we often expect dollars to translate to success. Yet, many businesses fall short of the immense progress and success that is possible. In order to reach this potential, three things have to happen. The first, starts with a reflection of you, the leader. In his final essay to the Nation, Congressman Lewis said, “Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America.” As a leader, what values do you have? Have those values been shaped by biases that are recognized or biases you are unaware of? How are the values you have as a leader reflected in your business or organization? Have you instilled your values from your last business into the new role or have you adjusted them to fit? How have you refocused your vision to make sure it is a reflection of current times? Getting into “good trouble” starts with an introspective review of the leader that you started as and striving to restructure yourself to be a better leader for today and tomorrow.
The next step is to shift focus to getting into “good trouble” with others.
When referring to others, it is simply a matter of looking at those that you perceive to be different. As a business leader, invite those who may have different opinions into the conversation. Those with differences of opinions often are overlooked. Recently, many Americans learned about Juneteenth for the first time. Cultural holidays and celebrations are missed without inclusivity. A lack of cultural sensitivity can directly affect work performance, as employees feel less valued and their work ethic and morale decreases. What a perfect time to invite employees to share some of their values! Such a discussion values the valued. Employees want to share their values and they often provide a different perspective. Through these conversations, we learn about culturally diverse holidays and the importance of them. Once we open the door to diverse opinions and become inclusive of cultural differences, the final step is to create an “us” environment.
Congressman John Lewis finally asked us to find solutions to the challenges of our time.
Sondra Thiederman is widely recognized as a leader and expert in unconscious bias and workplace inclusion. She recognized the importance of diverse contributors bringing their differences to the table to create a unified vision. Separately, our university systems and businesses are beginning to realize diversity and inclusion issues. Our military is working to make changes by holding its first defense board on diversity and inclusion on July 15. We should take this opportunity to work together as a region of business leaders that want to drive change. The foundation of Congressman Lewis’s essay is that we are not perfect; however, we are willing to continue to work together for the betterment of our country. At the core of the United States of America is “US”. Invite others to contribute based on their differences instead of how similar they are to you or your organization.
Orson Welles’ once said, “The measure of progress, as we understand it, is the measure of equality enjoyed by all men.” We must focus on implementing the changes we want to see. Just as Virginia is the birthplace of our Nation, let our businesses, organizations and region set the example for what the end goal might look like. Let us work together to be the endpoint of racism and discrimination by getting into “good trouble” and setting the conditions for an “US” environment.
Congressman Lewis must have realized in the end that his actions were never really trouble, they were good. Now it is our turn. It’s time for good leaders to take good actions.
Published in Inside Business, August 17-23, 2020 Issue.