Company leaders wishing to achieve equality, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) in their workplace can start by hiring a variety of people with good qualifications and being open to alternative possibilities. Sharesz T Wilkinson, a Forbes and Harvard Business Review Advisory Council member, strategic advisor, and executive communication expert, says that they also need to understand that there are specific communication challenges involved in working with a diverse group of people.
In this article, Sharesz, talks about how leaders can foster authentic and vulnerable communication, a key skill that will enable them to promote successful collaboration among all employees.
We are living in a time when leaders and managers are encouraged to be authentic and vulnerable in their communication with their employees. What are some of the most common challenges that stop leaders and managers from being authentic and vulnerable? How can they overcome these?
Sharesz T Wilkinson: There is often fear involved of exposing oneself and losing power and authority within the hierarchy.
Becoming authentic and vulnerable as a leader does not mean spilling the beans about personal problems at work. Nor does it mean exposing yourself in a manner that undermines your authority and position. Being authentic and vulnerable as a leader means being rooted and grounded enough to listen to feedback from your employees to improve processes and systems throughout the company.
It means being able to admit to mistakes and having enough humility to rectify and where appropriate, to apologize for mishaps. It means being accountable. It means staying approachable and humble enough as a human being, realizing that teamwork makes the dream work, and without followers, there are no leaders.
The pressure on companies around the world is growing from their stakeholders – they now have to ‘tick’ a lot of boxes, from being sustainable and working with ethical suppliers, to truly investing in their employees and communities. Considering the changes in communications that the pandemic has brought, how can leaders better reach their different target audiences and ensure companies stand out among their competitors?
Sharesz T Wilkinson: Transparent yet strategic communication is key.
It is important to know how to tailor and deliver a message on and for different platforms and audiences. This is not manipulation but a natural process. We do not talk the same way to a four-year-old as we do to a judge, for example. The awareness and knowledge of how to address a specific audience and what kind of words and structures to use are crucial. This can be learned with help from a highly professional communication coach. How we present to shareholders and stakeholders can earn or lose a company millions of dollars.
Nowadays, social media outreach offers many great opportunities to raise engagement and consumer awareness levels regarding products and services with a targeted niche market. Staying ahead of the crowd in technology, AI, strategy, and execution is key, as we do not want our voice to be drowned out in an already oversaturated market.
What can employers do to create a culture where equality, diversity, and inclusion are the norm? Is there a ‘recipe’ that they can follow to achieve this?
Sharesz T Wilkinson: Hire and collaborate with a variety of people with good qualifications and of different backgrounds and ages. Realize that we are currently witnessing a tremendous cultural shift, with most people being forced to work online. Change is never easy nor comfortable. Become knowledgeable about the psychology of change and change management. Have a look at what kind of support you can provide to employees so they can better deal with stress and uncertainties. They affect all of us to various degrees.
NCBI is a great organisation that has been providing effective equality, diversity, and inclusion training for over 30 years. They offer workshops worldwide on college campuses, community organizations, K-12 schools, corporations, and government or law enforcement agencies. NCBI helps these organisations to institutionalize the skills needed to welcome diversity and build an environment in which everyone feels they belong.
With more and more Generation Z coming into the workforce now, our work culture is naturally going to change as this is the first generation having grown up with access to technology, and 24/7 online knowledge, information, and social media. They have distinctly different world views, values, aspirations, and their very own way of doing things. This is the first generation that is fully globally interconnected and technologically up to date.
This is a generation that has grown up with a flat hierarchy and true democracy of access to the internet since they were born. They are used to the fact that every voice can be heard irrespective of status, influence, or geography, and anyone can become a champion of a cause if they have a specific talent to prove it.
Background, social class, personal network, and economic standing have made way to one humankind online where anything seems possible. This is the time where young people become millionaires and children have their own highly profitable YouTube or Instagram channels. They are used for the shared economy, social outreach, international connections 24/7 at minimal cost, flexibility, adaptability, and the experience lifestyle in the here and now.
We are currently witnessing not just a huge generational, but as well a massive cultural shift worldwide.
We will not be able to keep up unless we are willing to learn from and collaborate with the young generation as much as possible, not trying to press our outdated worldviews of age, gender, race, and hierarchy on them – but learning from them how to survive in a rapidly evolving online world.
Sharesz is a multiple award-winning international speaker, author, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist. She works with leaders, organisations, Fortune 100 companies, and ambitious individuals in business, entertainment, sports, and politics around the world on how to maintain top-level performance and get results during challenging times. Sharesz’ contributions were published on various platforms such as Forbes and the BBC among others. She received the ‘Visionary Leader Award 2021’ and is a senator in the Grand Assembly of the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF). Sharesz T. Wilkinson has represented The Speech Improvement Company (TSIC) in Boston for over 50 years, worked with the White House, and taught at Harvard, and MIT. For more information contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her linktr.ee address at https://linktr.ee/stwilkinson.