Diversity, as a key element in developing RESPECT as a value, includes learning how to meaningfully connect with a variety of others in a wide range of environments. As a CEO, I want leaders around me who can walk into any environment and build value. We should learn to be comfortable and confident in all areas, from the board room to the front line; the academic to the mundane. This takes experience and practice. In order to develop this skill, we have to intentionally get out of our “safe” zone. I also don’t think it’s possible to be a great listener and therefore fully embrace the comprehensive value of being respectful if we haven’t been in the front lines with others. As an example, one third of our business is in Europe. I try and spend significant time living as a European.
This viewpoint is also expressed by Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer, Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. In an October 1, blog on Big Think (Why MBA’s Should Take Acting Classes) Pfeffer notes that meeting lots of people should take priority over staying exclusively in the comfort zone of friends. “Its very important for you to meet people in a diverse set of industries and a diverse set of companies and a diverse set geographies.” I totally agree.
As part of an organization’s recruitment process I think we should place prospective candidates in numerous organization environments to see how they act and react. If they can’t navigate all levels of an organization, I am not interested in hiring them. If their passport isn’t stamped I would rather they did that first before joining us.
Pfeffer gives us a challenge in his blog: “Find 10 unique people we don’t know, who if we did, they could help us in our careers” …and as leaders overall. I like this assignment.
Let’s purposefully practice (read my recent blog on practice) by intentionally putting ourselves in unique environments with others. Why not start by getting to know five people outside of our departments but still inside the company. Then let’s seek out five people who we would really like to get to know because they will help us grow. Let me know what happens as you go about this. What will you learn about yourself? Others?