Our A-Ha Moments of the Year

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

We’re nearing the end of the year and have been engaging in some reflection over the past 12 months.  How did we do?  How did our clients fare?  What is working well?  What are some of the challenges they experienced?

To get a fuller picture, we reached out to our associates to ask their input and observations.  Here are a few of their reflections.

Listening: the biggest challenge of them all.

We have observed that people still struggle to truly listen to each other, even when mechanisms are put into place to support more open communication. Listening is a simple concept and most people understand what inclusive listening means  – the intention to understand another’s perspective and learn from them.  The practice of inclusive listening, however, is becoming tougher than ever, especially as societal view points drift further and further apart.

We also noticed that, although younger team members often sound knowledgeable about Inclusion and are likely to be aware of EDI terminology, they don’t always know what it really means or requires in practice.  As a result, many younger professionals don’t always listen and are not always open to views other than their own.  As a generation who has grown up with the emergence of cancel culture, being truly inclusive can be difficult.  We sometimes hear phrases such as ‘Everyone should know …’ or ‘No-one should say this…’ which conveys a lack of empathy for other people’s experiences and can have the impact of closing off open communication.

A number of our clients have engaged us to work with them on improving Inclusive Behaviours. With others, we have been working on listening in the Thinking Environment© to improve the inclusivity of all team members by  building appreciation for each other’s diversity and instilling a sense of safety to speak openly.  This transformative way of being has made a great difference to several of the teams to whom we have introduced these techniques as they continue to hone their listening skills.

Two steps forward.  One step back. 

Inappropriate behaviour is still encountered in workplaces, as it takes time for everyone to understand what’s acceptable and what is not.  A positive development we have seen is that this behaviour is no longer tolerated.  It is being addressed head on by raising awareness of changes in societal norms, including through one-to-one remedial coaching.  In recognition of the fact that a lack of understanding of EDI does not make a senior person immediately redundant, companies now invest in their people with education, training and development. This is something that would not have necessarily taken place only a few years ago and is a positive step forward.

There’s still evidence of pushback to EDI, as the much publicised US cases involving Target and Bud Light show.  That said, organisations are continuing to spearhead EDI initiatives despite these set backs.  Companies realise that, while the pace of change may need to let up, halting progress on EDI completely is a losing proposition.

In any given industry, there is always a group of companies and people who understand the value of Inclusion and are moving forward.  The reward of this trajectory is the competitive advantage it brings when attracting talent.

These few reflections show that progress is being realised, and that it comes in small, specific steps.  They also show that we cannot become complacent about EDI and, in particular, inclusive behaviours. Yet, while we’re progressing, let’s also not leave anyone behind.  As we have witnessed over and over, there are plenty of people who are unaware of their own bias as well as people who have not had the opportunity to face bias and continue to believe in meritocracy. This is the reason that one of our key tenets is to support organisations across all phases of the EDI journey, offering strategic and impactful EDI support wherever you are, even if it’s at the very beginning (with one of our basics of EDI training sessions, for instance).

What has been your own reflection over the last 12 months of EDI?