Inclusion has become a hot topic in business broadly and learning and development specifically. For an organization to be truly inclusive, supporting all employees and becoming a more supportive and more effective place to work, leaders must have certain traits and skills.

In this episode of The Business of Learning, Shawnice Meador, director of U.S. strategic talent programs at ABB, and H. Wes Pratt, assistant to the president and chief diversity officer at Missouri State University, share:

  • What inclusion means to them.
  • Inclusive leadership frameworks.
  • Strategies for cultivating an inclusive culture.
  • Tips for developing inclusive leaders.

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The transcript of this episode follows.

Speaker: 
Welcome to The Business of Learning, the learning leader’s podcast from Training Industry.

Sarah Gallo:
Hello, and welcome to The Business of Learning, the learning leader’s podcast from Training Industry. I’m Sarah Gallo, an associate editor here at Training Industry with my co-host Taryn Oesch, managing editor. Before we begin, I would first like to say that this episode of the Business of Learning is sponsored by the Certified Professional in Training Management Program.

Speaker:
The Certified Professional and Training Management credential, or, CPTM is designed to convey the essential competencies you need to manage your training organization. When you become a CPTM, you gain access to alumni resources like monthly peer roundtables and a full registration to the Training Industry Conference & Expo (TICE). If you start today, you can earn the CPTM credential in as little as two months. To learn more, visit ctpm.trainingindustry.com.

Taryn Oesch:
Hi. Inclusion has become a hot topic in business broadly, and [in] learning and development specifically. For an organization to be truly inclusive, supporting all employees and becoming a more supportive and more effective place to work, its leaders must have certain characteristics. To learn more about inclusive leadership, today we’re speaking with Shawnice Meador, director of U.S. strategic talent programs at ABB, and H. Wes Pratt, assistant to the president and chief diversity officer at Missouri State University. Shawnice and Wes, welcome to The Business of Learning.

Shawnice Meador:
Thank you so much.

H. Wes Pratt:
Thank you. Good morning.

Sarah Gallo:
Alright. To kick things off, why don’t you both share with us what inclusion means to you? Shawnice, do you want to start us off?

Shawnice Meador:
Absolutely. Well, first again, thank you so much for inviting us to participate in this [podcast episode]. I’m excited to talk with you all today. Yes, inclusion, I think, has become a very important topic. In the corporate world in particular, you used to hear just a lot about diversity, and now it’s really becoming quite mainstay to hear diversity always mixed with the word inclusion. Even here at ABB, we call it “diversity and inclusion.” Specifically, inclusion to us is belongingness plus uniqueness. What I mean by that is each individual can be both similar and notice how they belong, as well as distinct and unique as an individual. We look at it as differences that are accepted, appreciated and respected. That’s the baseline that we look at here at ABB.

Sarah Gallo:
Great. Wes, do you have anything to add?

H. Wes Pratt:
Well, [to us], it means to be active, intentional and [facilitating] ongoing engagement with diversities in ways that increase awareness. We say cognitive sophistication, [and] what we’re talking about [is] knowledge and empathic understanding of the ways that individuals react within systems, institutions, organizations, and even with[in] our communities. From our perspective, the emphasis is on active and intentional engagement. It operates across, not only an institution of higher learning like Missouri State University, but also to our other stakeholders such as our community in which the Missouri State resides. But the emphasis is on being actional and intentional, and [facilitating] that engagement with diversity.

Taryn Oesch:
Thanks. Those are both great definitions. I loved the focus on belongingness and uniqueness, Shawnice, and then that active and intentional component is also so important. Knowing how you both define inclusion, let’s take it a step further. What do we mean when a leader is inclusive? What is an inclusive leader? Wes, do you maybe want to start with this one?

H. Wes Pratt:
Okay, sure. It’s an involved process because a leader promotes the value of the inclusion of diversity. It’s not just a numbers agenda. It’s not just a checklist agenda, but it’s actually one [that] promotes the engagement of people across this broad spectrum and recognizes that valuing the inclusion of diversity begins with awareness, knowledge and skills development; that’s necessary to ensure access, success and equity for all employees or all stakeholders, whether it be a university campus or a business or an organization. In higher education, I might add that our premise, or the principle in which we espouse our belief, is in inclusive excellence. That has been a foundation that was established by Dr. Damon A. Williams, who developed this philosophy that involves not only chief diversity officers, but our senior leadership, deans, department chairs, faculty, students and alumni, and other diversity champions actively working together to move beyond the cycle … you look at the college campuses [today, and] you find [a] diversity crisis, action relaxation and then disappointment with too often what’s replayed on these national campuses and colleges. So, we’re not really getting to changing the institutional culture. An inclusive leader has to be able to promote the value of the engagement of diversity.

Taryn Oesch:
Thanks. Shawnice, what are your thoughts?

Shawnice Meador:
First, definitely I want to echo some of the things that [Wes] said. With here at ABB, we specifically have worked on a definition of what it means to be an inclusive leader with one of the leading diversities and inclusion nonprofit organizations globally, which is named Catalyst. Some of what you’ll hear me talk about today is through our partnership with Catalyst. We look at an inclusive leader as someone who very much takes four key areas and then focuses on them in an actionable way. The four key areas are, how are they aware of what inclusion and unconscious bias is? How do they accept the how they think and the biases that they have, [and knowing they] are a part of who they are as a leader? But then, how do they pay attention to those? Then, how do they take action on them? Again, we look at awareness, acceptance, attention and action. I heard some of those words shared as well by [a] doctor here. For us in particular, you heard me talk about unconscious bias. That’s a big, fundamental element of how we focus on helping people understand inclusivity and being an inclusive leader. In fact, a couple of statistics on it: First, our brains bring in about 11 million bits of information every second, which is hard to imagine, that there’s that much information that’s flowing [into our brains]. We can only process about 40 bits of that information. That’s where unconscious bias comes in. Unconscious bias is [ingrained into] human nature, [a] sophisticated thing that we as humans can do, but it’s what we do with the information [that matters]. We look for patterns, and that’s human nature as well. Sometimes those patterns are healthy patterns, and sometimes they’re not. Again, our focus is on helping an inclusive leader recognize [their bias], accept that it exists, pay attention to those moments of when unconscious bias, in particular, can come into play, and then [determine how to] take positive action on it. I’ll share one more statistic as well. We have found, and research shows, that when leaders are inclusive, their employee innovation levels are 42% higher than of teams that have a non-inclusive leader in charge. So, [this is] pretty powerful stuff.

H. Wes Pratt:
Yeah. Can I go back to another point in that regard?

Taryn Oesch:
Yeah, absolutely.

H. Wes Pratt:
Okay. I mentioned this concept of inclusive excellence, and that’s where — and I’m a disciple of Dr. Damon A. Williams who has done the research on inclusive excellence — it’s making diversity a matter of excellence that requires a leadership paradigm shift so to speak. He identifies these five principles that I think are principles of strategic diversity leadership since we’re talking about being an inclusive leader. I’d like to share those with you. Principle one is to redefine the issues of diversity, equity inclusion as fundamental to the organizational bottom line of mission fulfillment and institutional excellence. Principle two, [is to] focus on creating those systems that enable, for instance, all of our students, faculty and staff to thrive and achieve their maximum potential. It’d be the same thing in a business, to allow your employees to thrive and achieve their maximum potential. Principle three [is to] achieve a more robust and integrated diversity approach that builds on prior diversity models and operates in a strategic evidence-based and data-driven manner, so we can build that accountability and where that is paramount. Number four [is to] focus those diversity-related efforts to intentionally transform the institution or the organizational culture. It’s not just to make those tactical moves that I related to earlier that lead to poorly integrated efforts in symbolic implementation alone. Then, the fifth principle [is] to lead with a high degree of cultural intelligence and awareness of different identities and their significance, whether it be in higher education or the business and corporate sector. That cultural consciousness and competency is critically important to establish those principles of leadership.

Sarah Gallo:
Thanks, Wes. Those were some great tips, and Shawnice, I definitely resonated with your insights about unconscious bias and how recognizing that bias and bridging that is just so important for inclusive leadership. Going off of that, what would you say makes inclusive leaders successful? Shawnice, do you want to start with this one?

Shawnice Meador:
Sure. Again, I’ll use an acronym or a way that we tried to break it into simple terms. I’ll talk about some skills and traits or behaviors that we look for and then I’ll also talk about some business aspects. First, from a skills and traits perspective, we use the acronym EACH, E-A-C-H, [where] “E” is for empowerment, “A” is for accountability, “C” is for courage and “H” is for humility. Again, I think from a behavioral standpoint, particularly in leaders, we’re looking for those that empower their team, empower their employees, look for those opportunities where people may be seen as “other,” or not as heart of the main group, and empower those employees to have a voice, to be involved [and] to be selected for things. Also, the “A” again, [stands for] accountability. We look for people that, again, hold themselves accountable to having high standards in the area of diversity and inclusion and [who] also hold their peers and staff members accountable for being consistent, fair and authentic. Then, the “C” again, [stands for] for courage. Having the courage to sometimes have those difficult conversations, either difficult conversations with some people who don’t quite get it and are not as in tune with how their behaviors are creating a not-inclusive environment, and also the courage to talk to those people that are different than them. In fact, sometimes I like to think of the “C” as not just courage, but also curiosity. I think the more people can show curiosity toward people versus judgment, the closer we’ll continue to get to a diverse and inclusive environment. The last trait or skill is the “H,” which [stands for] humility. I think there’s something to be said, particularly for leaders, [for] recogniz[ing] when they’ve made a mistake and be vocal about it and show people that we’re all human and we’re not always going to get it. We’re not always going to be as open minded and as inclusive [as we’d like to be], and just being real about that and using that humility [is important]. Those are on the behavioral side. I’ll quickly also share some things from a business perspective. What makes an inclusive leader successful is bringing inclusion into all aspects of running their business. We focus on every component of what we call the talent life cycle, [including] everything from hiring practices to development opportunities to team selection to coaching to promotions and to recognition. I could go into detail on those things later in the call, but there really are elements to it. I think Wes already pointed out [that being] metrics-driven is important as well. On all of those factors that I just covered, we’re measuring the success, monitoring the success and recognizing [and] rewarding, or not rewarding, when the leaders in particular are exhibiting those behaviors or not. There you go.

Sarah Gallo:
That’s great, and Wes do you have anything to add?

H. Wes Pratt:
Yeah. I think that successful leaders must understand this framework of inclusive excellence. For example, here at the university we recognize that to achieve inclusive excellence, we have to value, engage and celebrate the rich diversity that our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and even university stakeholders in the community [bring] to this campus and the community. We approach it from a framework that emphasizes access, success and equity, that emphasizes our campus and our community climate, learning development, the cultural consciousness piece of it, the institutional commitment to value an inclusive excellence. Then, we also recognize that we have to prepare our students for [success in a diverse], global world. Part of that has to be that framework or that part of our long-range plan, planning that, it has to include preparing those students for [a] diverse and global world, as well as domestic and international diversity research and scholarship. All of that plays into the ability to create inclusive leadership. But it sort of again, [goes back] to that paradigm shift. A lot of times [the] organizations and institutions will look at [think], well, think [inclusion] is the chief diversity officer’s responsibility. I think that’s a non-starter, because it basically takes the leadership of the entire organization to actually promote the value of inclusion and to create an environment where inclusive excellence is the norm and not an exception to the rule.

Shawnice Meador:
If I could piggyback on that, I think that’s an excellent point, Wes. In fact, here at ABB, if you noticed, my title isn’t actually even diversity and inclusion. It’s certainly a component of the role that I play here at ABB, but we find it very important for this to really be owned in accountability lying within the business and the leaders not within, in this case, the HR organization or a massive, massive diversity and inclusion office. We certainly have people like myself that help consult and bring some expertise to the table. But the organization, the business is really, who owns diversity and inclusion here, and it sounds similar at the university setting.

H. Wes Pratt:
Yeah, you’re right.

Taryn Oesch:
Great, thanks. That’s a great overview of what makes a successful inclusive leader and what skills they have. Thank you. With that in mind, how can organizations help their leaders develop those skills and become more inclusive?

H. Wes Pratt:
I think you have to create opportunities for change that is necessary, so to develop that infrastructure within the institution or the organization, or even your community, that values the inclusion of diversity [is critical]. I think you begin by basically understanding and defining what we mean when we’re talking about diversity and inclusion, or what we’re talking about when we define cultural consciousness and competency and even inclusive excellence. For us, it started with making those values at [an institutional level]. Inclusive excellence is a core value for the institution, but we also needed to define [it] for our stakeholders. What do we mean by diversity and inclusion? What do we mean by cultural consciousness and competency? Those are basically the foundation [of an inclusive culture], and then you [have to] make that a part of your mission, your vision [and] your long-range planning process. It was alluded to, the accountability part of that. If you have a long range planning process, those plans are going to be generally five years long at a minimum, but you have to have action plans [to] break it off in bite-sized pieces. I’m looking at an action plan that promotes cultural consciousness, so I’m going to prioritize a couple items within my action plan as a part of that long range plan [so] it shows that we’re working with our faculty and our staff, and even our students, to promote cultural consciousness and competency. [You have to] make [inclusion] part of your mission and vision, [and break it into] actionable steps where you can hold people accountable for the implementation of the types of practices, programs and efforts that promote valuing the inclusion of diversity.

Shawnice Meador:
Great. Well, I’ll add to that from a corporate perspective. Development is handled under a framework across ABB in a very similar way. But again, we’re a pretty [large] global company. We have about 130,000 employees in over 90 countries across the world. Definitely, the definition of diversity and inclusion morphs a bit depending on culturally where you are in the world. I’ll speak from a U.S. perspective here, and I’m going to break it down into three categories that you can think about [for] organizations developing a diverse and inclusive culture: The first, I think you can have a focus on education and training; the second, I think there can be a focus on engagement through things like employee resource groups; the third, I think there can be an art of communication and recognition and celebration of things. Let me talk briefly about each of those [categories]. Going back to the training element, I do think it can be important to make sure your leaders first understand and are aware of what inclusion and diversity means, what unconscious bias means, and having them be educated [on these ideas], and adapt [accordingly] before [any misinformation] goes too far down into the organization. Otherwise, you’re watching leaders who can’t practice what they preach. I’d say [there’s] two key areas [to pay attention to] if a company or a university is trying to get started [on driving inclusion]. They could look at, again, specifically some unconscious bias training. I also highly recommend doing emotional intelligence [EI] training or even assessment tools out there. There’s one called EQ 2.0. It can really help people, and leaders in particular, recognize where they are, [and become] quite aware of their behaviors and actions and where maybe they have some areas they could improve upon to enhance their leadership style and particularly be a more inclusive leader. Those are two things on the training front [that leaders can do to become more inclusive], and certainly having metrics associated with these things is important, as we already talked about. The second thing I talked about is engagement. I think organizations can develop an inclusive culture through having things like employee resource groups or, I know in the university setting which I also used to work in, student clubs and university and student partnership committees and summits were very important. That’s the same here at our corporation. We have a pretty extensive amount of employee resource groups. We call them Encompass to bring in that inclusivity aspect. Those have been incredibly powerful ways for employees across the globe, across our geographies [and] across businesses, to truly be engaged and feel empowered to help make a difference in areas of diversity and inclusion. Then, last but not least, I think organizations can also develop these things by recognizing and communicating about these areas of diversity and inclusion. Just a couple examples that are happening here and now [are], we just all celebrated National Black History Month in February. This month, in March, International Women’s Day is coming up on Sunday, March 8. In fact, we’ve turned it into entire month of recognizing International Women’s Day here at ABB. Soon to be coming up in June, there’s LGBTQ+ Pride Month. In September, [it’s] Hispanic Heritage Month. October [features] Native American Day. I could go on with this list, but having a recognition and a celebration of those differences as well as the belongingness, I think is an important way to help develop people and the culture that you’re trying to create as well.

Taryn Oesch:
Those are some great ideas. Thanks. Now, we know, as this conversation around diversity inclusion becomes more and more common, many organizations are working to become more inclusive or at least starting to talk about it but, in many cases, they’re not seeing the needle move, or at least not seeing it move enough. What are some common challenges that you think organizations are facing that are keeping them from becoming more inclusive and having more inclusive leadership teams? Wes, do you want to start?

H. Wes Pratt:
Yeah. We live in a very polarized, divisive national climate, unfortunately. Sometimes our leaders in the political arena, would use efforts to divide and to polarize as opposed to inform and make people more aware. I think there is sometimes resistance to efforts to promote the value of inclusion. There’s ignorance or a lack of knowledge. Ms. Meador talked earlier about [how] bias and implicit bias, particularly, are some common challenges that any institution, any organization faces, even communities. I live in Springfield, Missouri, which is right smack dab in the middle of the United States. The demographic changes that are occurring nationally, the international globalization and the global economy sometimes can be threatening and intimidating to many people who lack the cultural consciousness and competency to understand to value the inclusion of diversity. It’s not to diminish any of us in any regards. As a matter of fact, when I think about the term diversity, I’m talking about the individual groups, social differences that a business organization brings to making a profit, that an institution of higher learning brings to the business of a higher post-secondary education. It’s all of those individual and group social differences. A lot of times it’s that lack of awareness, that lack of knowledges skills development [that drives resistance to diversity and inclusion efforts]. To be able to effectively negotiate across cultural differences [is important for] all of us, because we’re all diverse. I read a book one time, “Diversity in America,” and it talked [about] when the founding fathers and mothers came to these shores from Europe, they were all diverse and then they found the native American population that was indigenous to North America, and they were all diverse. But sometimes we don’t understand that diversity is not a new concept. Diversity includes the individual groups [and] social differences that we bring to living, and so we’re all diverse. I think once we have the ability at some point in time to get on the same page and understand [that] all of us have the same interest in living and having a career and having shelter and food, and whatever [other] things that we all have in common, there are much more relevant [factors] than the fact that we may be different based on our geographical ratio, ethnic national makeup, sexual orientation, agenda, identity, then the better off we’ll be … but that is a slow and evolving process. I sometimes like to think, when you’re talking about promoting the value of inclusion, you’re talking about an evolution, not a revolution in that regard. On so many levels we lack the cultural consciousness and competency that is necessary, I think to move us forward, and that becomes the challenge, many of the challenges we faced within organizations and certainly in the various communities in which we live, learn and earn.

Shawnice Meador:
Wes, I love what you just said about evolution versus revolution. I might steal that one. Thank you for that.

H. Wes Pratt:
No problem.

Shawnice Meador:
Well, I’ll edge to it, and I’ll focus on two components in particular. I think there’s a challenge having to do with innovation, which I mentioned [in] that statistic earlier, [that] when you have inclusivity in the workplace, your employees tend to bring 42% more innovation to the table. Then, I’ll secondly focus on this idea of what we call psychological safety. I’ll start with an example on the innovation front. Probably a number of you have heard of the concept or studied the concept of “group think.” Again, group think is usually when you have a group of people together that are very similar to you. You can think that’s a great thing because you get along, [and] you agree with each other; it’s feeling wonderful, but it tends to be very much a hindrance to innovation because you’re not bringing in other perspectives; you’re not thinking about things in a different way. There’s no one there challenging the camaraderie that’s going on and bringing in something different. One example for us that we work through is working with some of our sites who have been used to hiring in one particular way and it has been incredibly successful for them in their minds over time. Having them get comfortable to the idea of actually, if you do hire from, for instance, multiple universities versus just one university, just as one example, you can actually bring a huge amount of innovation and diversity of thought to what you’re trying to do at that site or at that plant; instead of having just one way of approaching an engineering issue — because all of the students went to the same school and had the same professors and learned the same things — you can broaden that [approach] by bringing in [employees from] multiple different schools and multiple different types of studying. That will help with innovation. I think that’s one challenge that we face, is helping make sure people see that what made you successful back in the day could actually be even more successful if you look at bringing in diversity through innovation of thought. That’s one example. The second example I’ll give again, as I said, is psychological safety. I’ll give an example of a team that in our company [that is consistently predominantly male]. [This team has] been highly successful over time. It’s just been the nature of how that part of the business has worked, with our focus on trying to make sure we’re representing what’s happening around the world more and bringing in more gender balance and gender equity. I’ve posed the question of, how would if you were on an interview, you’re coming in for an interview, let’s say as a female and you’re sitting at the interview table and everyone around the table who has been successful in this [role] up until now — and who’s judging whether or not you will be successful in the role — looks dramatically different from you? Again, we use that term psychologically safe. Do you feel like you’re going to be able to be yourself; that you’re going to be authentic; that you’re going to be accepted; that you’re going to bring your best self to the table? We want to create an environment that helps people feel [psychologically safe] not only in the hiring process, but also while they’re here at work. Again, those are two challenges and examples that we face. I don’t think it’s because people, inevitably, don’t have great intentions, it’s again, education, awareness and acceptance of this fact that those unconscious biases exist, those practices that we have had exists, but we need to evolve as Wes said earlier. So, there’s a couple of examples.

Sarah Gallo:
That’s great. I definitely agree with your take on psychological safety. It’s definitely so important, especially in today’s work environment. Next off, what advice do you have for L&D leaders on how they themselves can become more inclusive? Wes, do you want to start us off?

H. Wes Pratt:
I think leaders must model either the mission or the vision [of their organization]. Here, for example, I talked about our core value being inclusive excellence. I think Shawnice spoke of it earlier [as well]. You not only have to talk the talk, but you have to walk the walk. It’s critically important that our administrators at the top buy in to inclusive excellence. As a matter of fact, when I took this opportunity to be the chief diversity officer [at Missouri State University] four years ago, I had been researching and dealing with inclusive excellence since 2008, but [the university] didn’t really adopt it as a core value until 2011. And talking with the president [was] smart here. I was like, “Well, inclusive excellence has to be the framework. It has to be the model that we incorporate here because again, [being] evidence-based, the research demonstrates that it’s effective when you bring different people to the table. [In doing so], you create access, success and equity. You change the environment, [and] make it more welcoming. You create learning [and] development through cultural consciousness, and even address the issue of preparing our students for a global society and a global economy. That the inclusive excellence framework then becomes incorporated into the vision.” I talked earlier about those action plans for implementation, and then to tweak and modify them when necessary. The accountability again, as my friend from ABB spoke of earlier, you have to identify those policies and practices and programs that militate against valuing the inclusion of diversity that become those barriers to access success and equity. Then recognize that you have to create an environment in which everybody can achieve and everyone can accomplish. I think that emphasis on success for your entire workforce or your entire student body or your entire faculty and administrative team, is critically important to becoming a more inclusive team or department. Again, it’s not just the chief diversity officer’s responsibility, or the chief equity and diversity officer, whatever the nomenclature may provide for that model, but it’s everybody’s business. Valuing the inclusion of diversity is everyone’s business, and it’s been demonstrated that your decision making process is enhanced [and] your cognitive effectiveness is enhanced [by doing so]. In other words, you become smarter and more knowledgeable, [and able] to develop those skills that are necessary to negotiate cross-cultural differences. Some people may call them soft skills, [and] some people may call them hard skills. Regardless of what [you call them], you have to be able to negotiate cross-cultural differences on different levels to be an effective leader, [and to develop] an effective workforce or effective institutions and organizations.

Shawnice Meador:
Yeah, that’s great, and I’ll build upon that. I think you did a great job of covering not only individual but also some organizational aspects of how to overcome challenges and how a learning and development manager can become more inclusive. I want to focus a little bit more on some individual things that a person, that learning and development manager can do [to become more inclusive]. One thing I would say is provide air cover. What I mean by that, is make sure that the people that you’re managing, the people that you are partnering with in the organization [and] the people that you might even be training, make sure that each individual is feeling that you have their back. You’re providing protection, support [and] a listening ear when you are seeing things or hearing things that maybe are not promoting an inclusive environment. The second thing I would say, as I said earlier, is share [your] struggles. I think you earn a lot of credibility, and people see your commitment, when you are transparent. You’re showing vulnerability; you’re showing authenticity; you’re sharing that not everyone is perfect, and this is a learning [process for] everyone, understanding the cultural differences, understanding what inclusion means, etc. I think being open, transparent and authentic is going to help [with that]. Last but not least, something we’ve talked about throughout this podcast [episode] is taking action. I think it’s important as an individual [as well]. Take action when you see something, hear something [or] notice something that is not in line with what your company or your university or your community expects. Also, make sure you take action and recognize when you see something amazing occur. [Recognize both] small and big [inclusive behaviors] that individuals are doing daily to help build that culture even further.

Sarah Gallo:
That’s great, Shawnice. Next off, what about tips for training professionals who work in organizations where leaders aren’t inclusive? How can they go about navigating that type of environment? Wes, do you want to start us off?

H. Wes Pratt:
Well, I recall my [what my] wife’s dad [would say to his teams members], he would tell them as they were kids, “prior proper planning prevents poor performance.” He called it the six Ps. Then I’ve heard … I guess some folks would classify as a senior citizen [since] I’ve been around since the civil rights movement … I remember one, I believe it’s H. Rap Brown who said, “It’s not the rap, it’s the map. It’s not the man, it’s the plan. It’s not the man or the woman, it’s the plan.” I think we have to really, when we’re talking about training professionals who are working in organizations, do the work. We have to become knowledgeable; we have to become aware; we have to become knowledgeable and develop the skills that are necessary to help move, not only individuals, but sometimes organizations, [toward inclusivity]. You’ve got to be able to [help] people where they are and not get frustrated. When I was a younger man, I remember being a community activist, engaging in demonstrations and things of that nature, and being frustrated by the process or by the progress [of things] … or what I perceived to be the lack thereof. As I mentioned earlier, this is an evolution. Things are better than they were maybe when I was a young college student, but it’s all relative. The challenges sometimes become much more complicated. As Shawnice pointed out earlier, this environment, this climate in which we live, the technological advancement, the diversity that exists globally, the need sometimes to make sure that our workforce is prepared to move into the opportunities and the positions that are available, it can create some daunting challenges. Your approach to developing the knowledge and awareness and those skills that are necessary to move yourself to a level where you’re comfortable, [where] you’re confident, with a research-based approach to the value in the inclusion of diversity, and understanding. Folks are going to be in different places at different times, and so you have to meet people where they are and [help] move them to where they need to be, or where there’s going to be a value added to your institution or your corporation. Those can be sometimes daunting and challenging [tasks], but that’s the real world in which you live in. When you think about change or think about movements, nothing has occurred within a month or a year. [Change] generally takes time. To build the cultural consciousness and competency that is needed to negotiate us through these cross-cultural changes and what’s going on technologically, demographically, worldwide will be one of our most daunting changes. But I happen to believe in the faith of not only folks of vision and mission, but in young people. I think Marian Wright Edelman said it best, when it comes to young people in higher education, that the bottom line is, or in education the bottom line is, if you care enough, young people can change the world. I live by that. I take every opportunity to share my perspective based on [experience] on what real world is and based on the resources and the research that is available to us. A data-driven approach to change can basically change a lot of institutional and organizational cultures. That’s the way I look at that. Training professionals, they have to be prepared to, I think, approach the change that’s necessary from that perspective.

Shawnice Meador:
Well, Wes, first, let me say, you have had a powerful career. I’m so impressed that you have carried this passion for diversity and inclusion through really your entire career all the way back to the civil rights movement. So, thank you for all the things that you have done for us here. From a training perspective, I look at why would a company or a university invest in having trainers, and to me boils down in a simple way into two main reasons. The first is training professionals bring subject matter expertise to the table. One thing trainers should definitely do it, as Wes has already said, is make sure you’re very informed, educated and stay on top of how to be a great diversity and inclusion trainer/believer/advocate. The second factor of why I think a company or a university [should] invest in having trainers, is because we are neutral parties. If you think about why we exist, we’re not running a profit and loss center. We’re not making a product. What we are doing is, we are the neutral group who has no other purpose other than seeing people learn, grow and be successful in order for that company or that university to be successful in what they’re trying to do. There’s no other bias, there’s no other hidden agenda on what we’re trying to do. As long as a professional development person or a trainer can build credibility by being that subject matter expert and by being seen and acting as that neutral party who has no other intent other than to help people learn, grow and be the best that they can be in what they do, I think they’re set up for success. On that note, on a personal level as a trainer, I think there’s an important thing that comes into learning and development in particular, which is, there’s the what and the how. When a leader is not showing inclusive behavior, the what might be on point, meaning they might be making the monthly numbers, they might have made sure that the product got shipped on time, but the how they did it and how they treated people or how they overlooked some opportunities to involve people that otherwise weren’t involved, the what and the how are both important. As a trainer, I think the first thing is to give people a chance who maybe are not as inclusive as they can be. Give them a chance to learn; give them a chance to be introspective but then, after you’ve given them some time and monitored it, provide some one-on-one coaching to help them see those areas that they might be blind to, and help them grow, learn and be more introspective. Lastly though, if that one-on-one coaching in those moments that you’re taking privately with them are not helping move the needle on their inclusivity as a leader, I think it’s up to you as a training professional to make sure you’re talking to the management that has hired you and make sure that that management is taking action on behaviors that are not changing. Again, that person could be amazing at the what, but if they’re not also trying to learn and grow and become better on the how, they’re ultimately not going to be a good leader at your company, period.

H. Wes Pratt:
I would concur with that.

Taryn Oesch:
This wraps up this episode of The Business of Learning. Shawnice and Wes, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this important topic.

Shawnice Meador:
Thank you for having me.

H. Wes Pratt:
Thank you.

Sarah Gallo:
For more insights on inclusive leadership, check out the show notes for this episode at trainingindustry.com/trainingindustrypodcast.

Taryn Oesch:
We’ll have articles on inclusive leadership and psychological safety. We even have an article that Wes contributed to last year on becoming a chief diversity officer. We’ll also have a great animation on inclusive leadership there as well, and if you’re enjoying this podcast, we encourage you to rate and review us to help other learning leaders find the podcast. Thanks for listening.

Sarah Gallo:
Until next time.

Speaker:
If you have feedback about this episode or would like to suggest a topic for a future program, email us at info@trainingindustry.com or use the Contact Us page at trainingindustry.com. Thanks for listening to The Training Industry Podcast.

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