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The Landscape: Diversity and Inclusion in our Next Normal

Like so many, I spent a lot of time in my backyard landscaping over the past six months. This was more than just refreshing a flower bed, it was using a pickax, hauling stones and reimagining what the space could be. I got a few bruises, had to redo a few things to get it […]

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Like so many, I spent a lot of time in my backyard landscaping over the past six months. This was more than just refreshing a flower bed, it was using a pickax, hauling stones and reimagining what the space could be. I got a few bruises, had to redo a few things to get it right, definitely had nights of very sore muscles, but all of it was well worth the effort. My backyard is still a work in progress, but there has been much progress made.

What does landscaping have to do with diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Well, here are a few lessons from reimagining and working through a landscape renovation:

Know your landscape and climate zone (i.e., your culture and your demographics). You may love palm trees, but they will not do well in your environment if you live in a colder climate.

All gardens need variety. Organizations need the right mix of skills and background to stay resilient and flourish. Too much one one kind of plant makes for a pretty boring garden. I love ferns, but mixing it up with not only different kinds of ferns, but other plants that compliment their unique beauty brings out the best in all of them.

When you start moving things in a landscape and digging, sometimes it’s tough going. You can have the best plan, but you will still hit rocks and roots along the way. Plan for that. Have the right tools to deal with the challenges so you can move ahead. Not everyone will be onboard with D&I initiatives. Some may even undermine attempts at change. Be prepared. Address those “rocks” that you can already see so the unexpected won’t be overwhelming. And yes. Sometimes you need the heavy duty equipment to get the job done.

Honor the milestones along the way. Each section that comes to life is an accomplishment. The bigger vision is important, but that takes time. A good way to push forward is to recognize just how far you’ve come. it’s important to honor all those that got you to that point.

Know if you have weeds that need to come out. When you walk into a park, backyard or landscaped area, you know right away if it is healthy and thriving. There aren’t a little to no weeds, you don’t see a lot of dead leaves or plants, and there is room for all of the plants to grow. That’s also true with your work culture just by observing how people treat each other, listen to each other and work together.

Getting rid of an invasive plant can be tough. These are the equivalent of having too many of the same people taking over meetings and projects and/or toxic management practices. Eventually it will chock out everything else. Any good gardener knows you have to be vigilant and it’s always easier to contain something invasive when you catch it early. If you’ve got some poison ivy or Virginia creeper in your workplace, pay attention and root it out.

Many of us reimagined our backyards because of the pandemic and then got to work. Many organizations are now rethinking how work gets done, with all the changes that have come because of the pandemic. Leaders can learn a lot from everyone that’s been out digging.

Start with what is good in your work culture and identify what needs to be rooted out or changed.

Embrace that there their will be unknowns about whether or not the ideas and processes that get “planted” will thrive.

Get input from a variety of experienced work culture “landscapers” to know how best to prepare your plan and then execute on it.

Get out of your comfort zone and introduce new varieties, but do your homework about what they need to thrive.

Make sure you are “watering” any new idea regularly until it takes hold.

If something isn’t growing in your organization, either move it to a place where it can thrive or get rid of it. Another “plant” may be just what you need, as long as you know why the original one started dropping leaves.

I’m starting to look at what needs to be done to put the garden to rest for the winter, how to protect the roots, and planning for what needs to be done come early spring. All the new plants in my garden, and those that have been there for years, need care and attention. There would be no variety if I didn’t understand that each variety needs. I look forward to seeing new growth next year and adding to what has been done.

What will the landscape of your organization look like in 2021?

Mim Senft, CEO Motivity Partnerships and Co-Founder of Global Women 4 Wellbeing (GW4W)

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