Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are often-misunderstood business imperatives. Many organizations view the principle as a box to be checked for PR and marketing efforts or other goals. Instead, businesses should reorient their approach to tangibly harness the all-encompassing, dynamic power of what D&I ultimately promotes: equality.

Why equality? Who should care about it? What does it look like for equality to propel your organization to enduring market leadership?

Equality is our long-overdue status quo that reinforces the inherent dignity and worth of all people. Equality accounts for everyone. For organizational culture, it delivers for every imaginable employee across race, gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and other areas.

For far too long, organizations have sought to achieve diverse and inclusive environments by notching certain statistics, quotas and head counts. The pursuit of equality, however, leaps beyond these numbers and quotas into a realm far more meaningful: mindset. Instead of viewing equality from the outside in through demographics, business leaders have the opportunity to harness an equality mindset from the inside out. Simply put, equality is not about someone’s traits or easy-to-assign labels. Equality is about what you stand for and how you think.

Employment and personnel issues consistently impede optimal business performance. The common root of so many of these legal problems has been the flawed perspectives of wrongdoers. For example, stereotyping, double standards, misguided humor and problematic ways we view others all lead to unfortunate outcomes.

Therefore, we must address these basic mental causes of workplace problems in order to achieve cultures of equality where all people — diverse in body and mind — can thrive. With this goal in mind, here are some recommendations to help you start building equality (true diversity and inclusion) in your business or organization.

Examine Your Thoughts, and Ask Your Team to Do the Same

If your closest loved one were residing inside your head all day, would they be proud? If you have children, would your perspective be one they should emulate? The goal of this exercise is not to become saddled with guilt or self-shaming but, rather, to evaluate the degree of value and dignity with which you tend to view people who are different from you. Take an honest appraisal of the thoughts you let fill your mind, and decide to control the ideas that steer your thinking.

Involve a Diverse Array of Colleagues in Meetings

Whether you are a designated leader or a member of a larger organizational team, you can ensure that all voices are heard and valued in group interactions. Prioritize the opportunity for everyone to give input and feedback that fosters an environment of belonging and appreciation. Your peers will feel valued, and your team will benefit.

“No (Apparent) Harm, no Foul” Falls Short

We spend at least one-third of most days with our colleagues, so sharing jokes and stories is inevitable. However, you should be mindful that crude and distasteful language or depictions can be offensive. Inequality often manifests through inappropriate humor, which has a lasting impact on workplace culture when jokes disparage a certain demographic or group. By trying a new approach toward jokes and bonding, you can achieve an improved quality and dynamic to relationships among co-workers.

Identify One New Person to Connect With per Month

We tend to socialize with people who are similar to ourselves; after all, doing so is often comfortable. However, seeking personal connections with individuals who appear or seem different from ourselves helps further each person’s equality mindset. Interact with one new, different person per month, whether over coffee, lunch or another opportunity.

Use Monday Mornings to Consider Your Progress

Make the first task of each new week performing a quick self-check of your mindset. You can simply leave a reminder note at your workstation as the last thing you do before going home on Friday. Then, Monday morning requires nothing more than a simple moment of thought: “Have I been showing up to work with the intention of positive, honorable thinking? Do my colleagues have reason to value who I am for them? Have I extended an ‘olive branch’ to anyone new lately?” The most relevant thoughts will be apparent to you, and soon it will become a natural part of your routine to reflect on operating with an equality mindset — no notes or reminders necessary.

We find ourselves at a unique point in human history. How did we arrive at a place where basics of common decency are considered virtues of high moral character? Clearly, something is not right.

We must reorient ourselves around the inherent equal dignity and worth of all people. Do not discount the power of an equality mindset as the overlooked key to achieving an exceptional workplace culture. It is the competitive advantage beyond all others. More importantly, equality culture can transform our world.

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