Jun 1, 2023
The big chiefs in the organisation have embraced the idea of Diversity, Equity and inclusion (DEI). Even more, they expect Middle Management to get on board with this push and make it happen. That means people who probably haven’t spent one second thinking about DEI now have to be the role models for the new cause. I always tell people that the success or failure of DEI in Japan is decided at the kacho or section chief level. This is where the bulk of the people are being supervised and where the decisions about coaching, promotion and role allocations are made. The President has signed off on the idea and the kacho level leaders have to drive this throughout the ranks. Here are nine ideas for kacho level leaders to consider regarding how to turn the rhetoric into a reality.
1. Avoid negative self-talk
It is not unusual that change represents a challenge and the self-talk we generate as a result may easily become negative. If we allow this to happen, then the people under our supervision will follow our lead. The change effort will flounder. We may have concerns, fears and even resentment. The President however, didn’t ask us for our input and expects us to lead the charge on getting DEI stitched into the fabric of the firm. What comes out of our mouth will determine what everyone in the section will think about the change and so we must be highly disciplined to get the messaging right.
2. Be open about your concerns
There is no problem with expressing our own struggle with the change. That is different to saying this is nonsense and we can all just ignore the President’s initiatives. It is a good launching point to get the team involved in how we can implement the new approach and what we can do about it in our part of the machine. Never forget “people own the world they create”, so allow them to have ownership of the process.
3. Be realistic
Installing a new accounting system or a production line, are relatively concrete changes which are easy to understand. Having people adopt a new way of thinking and the values which go with that are much higher order tasks. This is territory which is at the highest levels of complexity, for which we have probably has very little training. We need to adjust our expectations about the speed of change possible.
4. Gather information through questions and research
The team is looking to our leadership. We have been made the leader because we have been an expert in our area of the business. This DEI area is a new area concerning which we need to become expert. Any new initiative requires study and we should approach DEI in the exact same manner.
5. Be as productive as possible in your current role
DEI is the type of initiative which is a major change in how we think about the possibility of getting more creativity in our business and how we work together. It doesn't mean that all of the other goals are dropped or that our accountability is reduced. In fact the opposite, this is now a an additional role we must play and so do so to the best of our ability. Our capacity to rise through the ranks is reflected in how well we adjust and adapt to change and this is an arena where we can demonstrate that capacity.
6. Give new ideas a chance
We may know little about the WHY of DEI and often organisations are not skilled in this department. Nonetheless, we have to self-educate on this topic. We can dwell on the negatives or we can look for the positives. As we are the leader, we can be assured our team members will have no problem identifying the negatives, so it is up to us to lead the charge on the positives.
7. Recognise successes
Leaders have a tendency to wait until everything is completed before they celebrate success of recognise the efforts put into the project. DEI isn't a project with a timeline. It is a fundamental change in how we work, so there is no end point. We need to be looking for any progress on the journey and making a point to embrace, recognise and celebrate it.
8. Consider contacting your organisation’s internal resources
This could be a perfect opportunity to ask for coaching or mentoring on how to execute on delivering DEI. This is new and maybe there are resources which can save us time and effort. No one would be expected to know all there is to know about something as new as DEI and therefore there is no stigma to asking for help to become a better leader of the process on integration of DEI into daily work.
9. Work on being a leader
Leaders do three things – set the direction, make sure all the processes are working well and build the people. Introducing DEI into the leadership equation is part of the building the people component. If we are able to gather all of the creativity of our teams and our competitors cannot, then we will win against them over the long term. We will out innovate them and our role is to make sure DEI does its part to deliver that innovation.
Big cultural changes like DEI can’t be easily forced downward from the Executive Suite. At some point the people leaders have to get behind it or the whole thing becomes a box ticking exercise and none of the benefits accrue to the organisation. Work on the kacho level leaders if you want to get real benefits from DEI, they hold the keys to the kingdom.