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

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

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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