We have seen some big decisions in the last week related to anti-bias and Diversity & Inclusion.
Last week I wrote (a spoke on CBC Radio) about Starbucks’ anti-bias training held across the USA on Tuesday. On that same day, ABC (the TV network) made a bold statement of its own by cancelling Roseanne Barr’s show after racist comments she made on Twitter.
Here’s the link: Both decisions required bold and courageous leadership.
Sending clear messages
In the case of ABC, Entertainment President Channing Dungey made the call to cancel the Roseanne Show, despite its popularity. This decision not only sends a clear message about what is acceptable and what is not, it goes further because it applies a consequence. It is consequences that show that we are actually standing behind a particular value, idea or statement; without consequences the words are hollow. And the potential for change is much lower. Ask any parent, they’ll tell you…
In the case of Starbucks, the consequences went beyond the individual who made the telephone call to Police. Their actions were used as an opportunity for the entire company to do better, to address the issue of bias and systemic racism on a large scale, and to touch all employees across the North American continent. Because this training is part of a larger strategy, this sends a message not only of acknowledging a problem, but also commitment to change. Ongoing support for change, as well as consequences for lack of change, will be important drivers of success for Starbucks.
Impact and ripple effects
Both of these decisions show leadership’s awareness about the impact these behaviours and language have on those who are targeted. But they also show awareness about the ripple effects on everyone if actions and words based on any ism are left unaddressed. An environment that lets these things slide is not a safe environment – for anyone. When we speak up, we create opportunities for education, awareness, and change.
And then what…?
But when the dust settles, then what?
Sometimes it’s easy to have the in-the-moment reaction.
But what about in the long-term? Often companies run out of steam, will, money….
Not dropping the ball is another responsibility of leadership – which requires more boldness and courage.
ABC’s response can leave a vacuum or create opportunities for making policies clearer, for conversations about racism and systemic racism, etc.
Starbucks’ training can be a one-off or create possibilities for dialogue, cultural humility, and the skill to facilitate difficult conversations which people need to have around race, racism, and bias.
The aforementioned are some of the necessary components that will help to shift company culture to make it more inclusive.
Cultures don’t shift unless leadership is behind it.
And leadership (in my opinion) is a verb…not a title.
I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next in these two stories, and to the conversations and boldness they inspire. How about you?
PS – If you’re a leader who is ready to be bold and courageous with regard to Diversity & Inclusion (or if you know a leader who is), please contact me for a complimentary consultation or to learn more about my upcoming Leadership Program.