by Lisa Rose

September 2, 2020

This is the final installment of our three-part series on diversity, inclusion and social justice in the workplace. Click here to read related posts.

In just the last few months, we, like so many organizations, have kicked up our sense of urgency around bringing real momentum to our diversity and inclusion efforts. In his recent post, my colleague Ben Rodriguez offers three action steps that anyone can take – meeting the moment to make positive change, ensuring all voices are heard and getting better educated on relevant issues and each other. While these concepts are easy to understand, they are much harder to put into practice, let alone on a consistent basis.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a wonderful mentor who taught me two important ways to conduct challenging conversations, improve relationships and basically, be a better person and leader. These ideas are completely appropriate for the issues we are dealing with now. It will be hard to make progress on any initiatives and actions if we can’t have the tough conversations that are needed now. While I attempt to put these into action every day, it’s not always a simple or smooth journey, but I have seen the positive impact they can have. So, in the spirit of improving relationships and building a sense of community, I offer two powerful pieces of advice that I received and believe can make a difference.

Assume positive intent.  In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey said, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.” We don’t always know or understand another person’s intent, which makes it easy to judge his or her behavior incorrectly. If we go into conversations believing that the person we are meeting with operates from a position of positive intention, it can shift our mindset from critical to curious. Not only can it lead to a more candid discussion, it almost always leads to unexpected insights and a heightened sense of empathy and understanding. And frankly, it’s the way any of us would want others to approach us.

Be an active listener.  Successful active listening requires focus, energy and patience. It means taking the time to sit back and let someone else do the talking while you just absorb, give your undivided attention and hold all comments until they are finished. We cannot understand or learn from another person’s journey until we take the time to be an active listener. In a world where civil discourse is slipping away from us, listening is more important than ever. It is an especially important and rare trait that will go a long way toward action on social justice in your workplace.

As my good mentor says, “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.” And what if that meant we could build more trusted relationships? We could be better leaders. We could get better answers. Now, that would make a difference.

Read more on how you can strive to create an inclusive workplace here.