This may sound odd, but I am rather relieved at the outcome of the two historically significant events of 2016: Brexit and Trump's presidential victory. I'm relieved because it has finally revealed what I've always known to be true. Just sitting beneath the surface of many a person in our community is a gamut of fear, mistrust and lost hope that is deeply connected to racism, misogyny and homophobia.
For many years we have toed the line of political correctness and had polite conversations. Voices were not heard or, if they were, they were quickly quietened. Now the White Male has acted and indeed his voice has not only been heard loud and clear but his actions have unequivocally shown to us that he feels that he is being left behind.
When Nigel Farage and President-Elect Donald Trump throughout their campaigns spoke (consciously), they intentionally employed divisive language and made unrealistic promises. When they reached out to the masses it was too specific demographics that they targeted. That demographic target was aimed generally at the white, older, uneducated male (although some white women and a disenfranchised middle class took the baton as well) it was weighed down by emotion and enforced the opinion that were they not to act now then that would be the end of white supremacy and the glass ceiling would be forever shattered. Ensure, they voiced, that all know whom really rules above all else!
If you have heard me speak at any of my keynotes you will be aware that I don't view the activity of change, per se, as complex. Rather, I view people as complex. Complex because people are made up of a multitude of emotions and these emotions come into play during perceived battles. Sitting at the heart of these emotions is fear. There are a host of excuses from organisations as to why diversity and inclusion (D&I) is hard to achieve and in my mind they are exactly that, excuses. Excuses that stem from fear: fear of losing power, fear of losing status, fear of losing rewards, fear of the unknown, fear of how we will engage with people who have different opinions and ways of behaving to us.
This emotion of fear is the real reason as to why D&I has moved at a snails' pace in the last 10 years despite the many reviews, targets, programmes etc. If a CEO really wants to develop and implement a positive, cohesive and integrated D&I strategy as a business imperative then they would make it a key focus in their organisational strategy. They will ensure that their structures accommodate it, their leader's position and facilitate it, resources are secured, their culture is inclusive and that the strategy is tied to measures so that accountability is in place.
Ending discrimination and driving inclusion requires more than a training programme it requires culture change. After all, other organisational change imperatives such as driving cost efficiencies, implementing safety measures, investing in research and development and advancing technology and automation etc. have all moved on in leaps and bounds because the organisation has chosen to focus on these business activities. The same energy, effort and resources that organisations give to these change imperatives should be given to the D&I agenda. Accepting difference and being inclusive is not a privilege, it is a basic human right borne from justice and equality.
On a positive front, and using the words of Leonard Cohen - "there is a crack in everything that's how light gets through" - the outcomes of Brexit and the USA presidential election 2016 have presented to us with are three essential lessons. The first is the opportunity to encourage dialogue and have truthful conversations by laying all of our cards on the table. If we made an effort to understand our differences rather than attack differences we would be more amenable to valuing each other.
We know where we all stand now. It is time to have truthful conversations. By not valuing diversity and creating an inclusive culture creates unrest and has at its heart two victims: the person who is diverse as well as the oppressor who is victimising, because wrong hurts both perpetrator and victim. It is time to facilitate the spirit of your organisation through the dynamism that is diversity. We must 'lean in' and 'lean out' because there is value in interdependence, interconnectedness and intersectionality. It is time to rebuild our sense of community.
Perhaps we, the world, should take a leaf out of South African and follow their example following the abolition of apartheid in 1994 when they implemented the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). 'Witnesses who were identified as victims (diverse individuals) of gross human rights violations were invited to give statements about their experiences. Perpetrators of violence (white males) could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution.'
This segues into our second learning. The importance of building a sense of community through securing 'engagement' from their followers. Farage and Trump provided us with a master class in engagement in three ways: by appealing to their followers with passion and inspiration; presenting them with the 'what's in it for me' element which fostered motivation and alignment; and, encouraged and galvanised followers to be actively involved in their campaigns.
The third lesson is that of disruption. Disrupting the status quo is not always a bad thing. Disruption can often give us permission to confront and challenge inertia by creating new and innovative ways of thinking and being. However, unlike Farage and Trump's campaign, disruption should be applied with a high degree of ethics and morals.
In the spirit of disruption, it is appropriate to address a label that is associated with D&I terminology that is increasingly niggling me - the label of 'BAME.' For me the label BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnics) is a word that makes little sense for we are all made up of differing ethnicities. Therefore, this term covers all of us and does not differentiate people of colour. Further, when used in certain contexts, this term can be isolationist. We all have different DNA; we all think differently; we all behave differently. Difference is diversity. Inclusion is valuing that difference.
When Hilary Clinton delivered her concession speech she alluded to the value of diversity and inclusion: "never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dream." It is time to embrace our differences and act collectively in the pursuit of pursuing and achieving all of our dreams.