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Published on July 30, 2018

What Top Leaders Get About the Importance of Diversity in the Workplace

What Top Leaders Get About the Importance of Diversity in the Workplace

Genetics science tells us that life itself thrives via diversity. Your company does too.

Within your company, very different people with amazingly different backgrounds can produce astounding results providing they work together. This is the opposite of companies where a lack of diversity can lead to monolithic thinking.

It is up to you, the leader within your organization, to make sure diversity works well. This provides you with the largest of talent pools to hire from and the most rapid integration of ideas.

In this article, I will look into the reason why some leaders are reluctant to workplace diversity and how you can embrace it for success.

Resistance to diversity

It is worth noting that the opposing elements of comfort and stress.

We humans like the familiar. Things we know and understand are comforting, easy to contend with and lack material stress. This explains why modern Silicon Valley has had a diversity problem. Not only have technical degree earners remained largely white and male, but the established executives are as well and find no stress in hiring people like themselves.

These managers and executives may lack any overt prejudice, but when hiring, they “go with what they know”.

Adding diversity to a workplace increases the workload and stress for some leaders. They have more to contend with, less understanding of the subtle cultural elements, and different team interpersonal frictions.

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It is understandable, though not acceptable, that these managers take the easy way out and hire people for which they are familiar and for which they have a trust bin performance within a team.

But diversity is like manure; the added stress stinks but it helps you grow. Part of diversity expansion in any organization depends on managers understanding that long-term diversity is healthy for the organization and rewarding for managers and their teams.

Diversity requires work

In my book Tough Things First, I speak to that subject – doing the tough things first. They are those monumental and difficult tasks on which we humans tend to procrastinate, and by doing so, fail.

Diversity is a tough thing. It requires real effort. It requires executive and organization-wide commitment. It requires personal and corporate discipline to get it done well. A diverse organization left alone will not likely succeed.

In the list of tactical processes that follows, you will see that successful corporate diversity requires active participation, both in weeding out those elements that block functional diversity but also that accelerate its effective adoption.

How prejudice blocks functional diversity

While I was the CEO of Micrel, my staff had a meeting with Human Resources to discuss which universities we should recruit from. One of the proposed universities happened to be the one I graduated from. A vice president, who was unaware of this fact, said “no good students come from that school.”

He felt pretty awful when the VP of HR informed him that it was my alma mater. He had a tough time looking me in the eye.

I was not in the least offended by his comment. I put my arm around him and told him I appreciated his feelings. By choosing not to be offended, I was able to maintain a good relationship with him.

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Indeed, one of the best ways to overcome prejudice – and thus enhance diversity – is to never be offended by comments and to encourage not being offended as part of corporate culture.

Remember, everyone has a right to their own opinion. Only unwarranted opinions lack value.

Key then to a diverse company is this lack of prejudice because diversity becomes adversity when prejudice abounds. Contrary-wise, diversity without prejudice is wonderful.

Helpful diversity tactics

When establishing your corporate culture, your policy and procedures, or even just chatting with employees, there are a number of tactics that deal with prejudice in the workplace and ensure a diverse and productive organization.

1. Look for all the varietals

Prejudice comes in varieties – politics, religion, race, education, social status and many other personal biases.

Encouraging thoughtful reception of everyone’s opinion goes a long way to quieting any type of prejudice.

2. Know that prejudice is universal

Statistics show that everyone harbors some form of prejudice (though most people won’t admit they have any).

Acknowledging that this is a common human trait allows you to think in terms of combatting all forms of prejudice, not a small subset. With this holistic viewpoint of humanity, you can address the disease, not a set of symptoms.

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3. Be the example

Never say anything unkind about anyone. If something you say or do is not edifying and uplifting, it likely is evil.

In the workplace, where competing ideas are shared and debated, negativity is anti-diversity – it is a form of in-your-face denial. But positive attitudes cannot be universal within a company if its leadership is negative.

4. No swearing

I know some people are having a “you must be kidding” moment, but know that swearing builds barriers. Not everyone is immune to harsh language, and much of it comes from places of anger.

We had a zero-tolerance policy for vulgar or condescending language at Micrel for 37 years and it worked, as evidenced by us having the lowest employee turnover rate in our industry (and 36 profitable years).

5. Reward kindness

Promote kindness and understanding by rewarding employees who demonstrate these traits.

People do what you watch and what you reward. If you want a positive and supportive organizational culture, and one that embraces diversity as a norm, make sure the underlying mechanics of diversity are recognized.

6. Hire broadly

You need to hire great talent but often you have multiple candidates from very different backgrounds. You can foster diversity by hiring employees that don’t fit any one mold.

At Micrel, we had nearly 1,000 people with about every nationality background and culture you can think of. I believe this made Micrel one of the more interesting places to work, caused employees to constantly think outside of their boxes, and made us one of most successful semiconductor companies in the industry.

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7. Respect

Having respect and dignity for every individual was another Micrel cultural pillar. When you look upon most prejudices, they come from a position of lacking respect. This in turn projects upon the recipient and reduces their dignity.

By making respect a core value, your organization simultaneously increases the effectiveness of diversity while reducing the isolation caused by diminished dignity.

8. Honesty

Nobody can work effectively when trust is lacking. Trust begins with honesty.

Integrity – doing what is right even when nobody is looking – is the highest form of trust.

9. Encourage involvement

Acceptance can be tacit or involved. Putting yourself into the other person’s world, no matter how slightly, communicates open acceptance and thus trust.

In order to help foster acceptance of different cultures and nationalities at Micrel, I made it a practice to learn to communicate with employees in their native tongues. Doing this promoted good feelings among employees who knew they were respected no matter what their nationality or culture was.

Diversity and friction

For workplace diversity to succeed, the friction between people of different sexes, genders, races, and cultures must be reduced, and preferably be eliminated. This can only happen with an overarching corporate culture based in trust and kindness.

Companies that create such cultures will dominate in the global economy because they will draw from the largest talent pools and have low-friction environments that allow everyone to focus on doing great things.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

More by this author

Ray Zinn

Ray Zinn is an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, angel, bestselling author and the longest serving CEO of a publicly traded company in Silicon Valley.

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Last Updated on June 13, 2019

10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business

10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business

Take a minute and think about some of the most successful people you know.

I’d bet they’re great with people, are super-productive, and think differently than most. After all, that’s how they got to be where they are today.

Jealous of them? You don’t have to be.

You can learn these same skills by studying some of the best business and success books that can help you take your game to the next level. Here’re 10 of my favorites:

1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

    Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book that helped to launch a personal growth empire should be required reading for everyone who wants to learn how to build and nurture relationships for a lifetime.

    Read this book and you’ll learn some simple advice than can help you build popularity points within your current network and just as important, expand it to others.

    Get the book here!

    2. Focal Point by Brian Tracy

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      Got a lot on your to-do list? Of course you do. But what separates productive people from others is their ability to focus on a singular task at a time, and getting it done before moving on to the next one.

      Sounds simple in theory, but this can be extremely difficult in practice. In Focal Point Brian Tracy offers tips to help build discipline and organization into your day so you can get more stuff done.

      Get the book here!

      3. Purple Cow by Seth Godin

        Creating a “me-too” product can be easy at the start but can doom you to business failure. That’s why marketing maverick Seth Godin recommends creating a product that is truly different from anything already available in the marketplace.

        In essence by making the product different you’ll be building the marketing into the actual product development…which just makes your actual marketing a helluva lot easier.

        Get the book here!

        4. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

          If you’ve struggled with procrastination or small thinking, this is the book for you. In it Schwartz offers practical advice that can help you get inspired and motivated to create a bigger life for yourself. And with it can be a more lucrative and rewarding career.

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          Get the book here!

          5. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel

            It can be difficult for lots of people to keep things in perspective, especially when working on high priority and urgent projects at work.

            Man’s Search for Meaning can be a life-changing book in the sense that it can open your eyes to a first-hand experience of one of the greatest atrocities in the history of mankind, while also teaching a valuable lesson about having purpose.

            Get the book here!

            6. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

              Solo-entrepreneurs can learn a ton from the guy who made lifestyle design popular. But guess what? The 4HWW isn’t just for guys and girls who want to start a small online business.

              Smart moves like outsourcing, following the 80/20 rule, and automating processes should be made by entry-level workers and established executives alike.

              Get the book here!

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              7. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

                I remember sitting on a couch and opening this book on a Saturday morning, thinking I’d get through a chapter and then get on with my day. Instead, about 12 hours later, I was finished with the book. The concepts in it were mind-blowing to me.

                To think that thoughts can create your reality sounded a little far-fetched at first. But after going through the book and understanding that your thoughts create your beliefs, which lead to actions, which then lead to habits….well you can get where I’m going with this.

                If you focus your thoughts on success, achieving it will be much more likely than thinking about obstacles, failures and everything else that can get in your way.

                Get the book here!

                8. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard

                  If you’re going to read one management book in your life, this should be it. It’s simple. You can read it in an afternoon. And the advice works.

                  Get the book here!

                  9. The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries

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                    Before you create any sort of business you’ll want to give Lean Start-Up a read through. Doing so can save you money, time and other resources you could have potentially wasted otherwise.

                    Get the book here!

                    10. The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar

                      The story Randy Komisar shares in the Monk and the Riddle offers advice about not just about how you need to think when starting a new business, but also about how to build a life you’re passionate about.

                      Understanding the technical aspects of launching a start-up is great, but if you don’t have the staying power to stick with it when the going gets tough then it’s not likely to work.

                      This book can help you understand this lesson before you spend blood, sweat and tears on a project that you’re heart isn’t into.

                      Get the book here!

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