Jean Latting is an organizational consultant and management coach. She has over 20 years of consultation and teaching experience within private and public sector organizations. Her scholarship and consulting are dedicated to helping people fulfill their goals and give meaning to their lives.
As a social scientist, she has endeavored to master the technologies of change, development, and diversity and put these into practice and demonstrate that they work in everyday life.
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Table of Contents
In what ways can organizations initiate more inclusive environments within their company cultures?
Jean Latting: To initiate more inclusive environments, the first step for leaders is to model the desired behavior. If leaders wish to see inclusiveness, they must demonstrate inclusiveness. Anyone from the custodian to the CEO can spearhead change, if they set that example themselves.
The next step is to reinforce the values related to inclusiveness again and again. Just as in advertising, if you want someone to believe in what you are promoting, they must hear the message repeatedly. This applies especially to leaders who by virtue of their positions are authorized to share their values and beliefs within their scope of influence.
At every opportunity, leaders should connect the work with those values. The values I seek to amplify within the Leading Consciously team include maximizing the strengths that come from different perspectives, learning from mistakes, and operating from a position of mutual respect and fairness. With every dilemma our team faces, I seek to connect these values and principles to possible solutions.
The third step is to identify and address barriers to inclusivity. Three types of barriers are common: those stemming from people’s lack of information about what it takes to foster inclusiveness, those imbedded in how the work gets done, and those caused by people’s beliefs about how to handle breakdowns when problems occur.
Too often, people’s limited beliefs lead them to blame “the other” when things go wrong. It is much easier to scapegoat a person or group who is somehow different from the majority than to examine work processes that set the stage for the problem to occur in the first place, or to look at how one’s own behavior might contribute to the problem.
Adopting a continuous improvement mindset will counter these barriers. Often breakdowns or near-breakdowns reveal opportunities for growth. Be vigilant in watching for scapegoating or any form of exclusion. Instead encourage people to reform disruptive or inefficient work processes, interrogate and acknowledge their own contributions to problems, and support one another in learning and growing.
Model these behaviors. Act as if all can be agents of change. Above all, when breakdowns do occur, model the forgiveness and grace you’d like to receive from others, rather than shaming others or placing the full blame on some easy target.
In your experience as an organizational consultant and coach, what have been the three biggest challenges your clients have faced when it came to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace?
Jean Latting: In my many years of experience as an organizational consultant and coach, there have been various challenges my clients faced when it came to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Three of the top challenges are:
Not recognizing how they might be agents of their own maltreatment. Many of us are guilty of this; the term I often use is “colluding in our own oppression.” We complain privately to trusted friends about our ill-treatment or experience of microaggressions instead of speaking respectfully and humanely to the offender or strategizing how to promote systems reform (see #3 below).
I often hear clients say, “There’s nothing I can do,” when in fact there are multiple actions they could take to improve their situation. Much of my leadership coaching is helping clients find their way in situations they initially believe are impossible.
A related problem is clients seeing themselves as the target of maltreatment without realizing that others may view them as the offender. They fail to realize that they themselves may be perpetuating the very set of problems they DON’T want to see. You can find blog posts I have written about this here and here.
Having the discernment and courage to speak up when they see an opportunity to be an ally or agent of change. And, on the opposite end of the continuum, making sure they know when to stay quiet and give the person to whom they wish to support space to speak up on their own.
In the heat of the moment, some people see only two choices: jump in and take over or stay uninvolved. It might be more effective to be a behind-the-scenes strategic ally and supporter of someone who is being unfairly targeted. This is a skill that can be developed.
Recognizing when systems, rather than individuals, are the root of a problem. Most of us tend to blame individuals, instead of taking a step back and looking at how the system may be set up to foreclose the possibility of the individual doing anything else.
For example, consider when two team members are in line for the same promotion. Let’s up the ante and imagine it’s a woman and a man who are vying for the same position. Even if they try as hard as they might to be noncompetitive, the situation is structured so that feelings of competitiveness are inevitable.
Under those conditions, the man may think the woman has an unfair advantage because the company is seeking to diversify its leadership and she is a woman. She, on the other hand, may look at her team member’s easy familiarity with the male leader and their bonding around support of the same sports team. She worries that her leader will not fairly consider her accomplishments and qualifications.
The situation is aggravated if the leader is not adept at giving honest feedback or unskilled in being transparent. Additionally, those vying for the position may be reluctant to ask about the requirements for promotion. The way out is for all three to recognize how the system is structured for inevitable tension. In order to manage the strain for the good of the whole, they must all gain inclusive leadership skills.
How can training more people on inclusion and multiculturalism help our society outside of work?
Jean Latting: Training more people on inclusion and multiculturalism could help people recognize how situations of scarcity promote competition and othering. In the previous example, I described how competitiveness is aroused when two people are vying for a scarce resource — the same position.
At the societal level, when people perceive conditions of scarcity — some will win while others will lose — they tend to band together with those like themselves and scapegoat those they deem different. This is the well-known ingroup/outgroup phenomenon. Rather than focusing on systemic solutions that might make things better for the common good, those untrained in systems thinking will often focus on simple and easy solutions intended to protect their own from others they believe are competing for the same scarce resources.
For example, many people falsely believe they are more protected by locking people up or hiring more police than by improving public school systems, societal nutrition and health, pre-natal care, and early childhood education. They tend to scapegoat and punish those they deem less worthy than themselves rather than seek preventive remedies to remove the conditions spawning crime. To be clear, I do believe we need police and prisons.
Yet the exclusive focus on these as remedies for societal ills is amplified by those with a win-lose (scarcity) orientation who do not understand how systems can funnel people into undesirable channels, or conversely, uplift us all.
If we train as many people as possible in systems thinking, those who get it could be a catalyst for inclusion and multiculturalism in their communities, this society, and the world. This is obviously not an easy solution. It begins with being willing to be part of the solution rather than blaming others for what they don’t know. It begins with one person, followed by each one teaching one.
How does Leading Consciously help people empower themselves to change in their lives?
Jean Latting: At Leading Consciously, we realize people must empower themselves. We cannot do the work for them. Rather, we provide programs for those seeking transformation. Our programs appeal to people in multicultural organizations who work in different industries and leadership roles.
Pathfinders, our paid membership program, provides an opportunity for individuals and teams to discuss current topics and apply the skills they learn to their own lives. Changemakers is an intensive leadership skill-building program. We write fresh content and interview innovative leaders in our Blog+Vlog every other week.
We also offer surveys that people can complete to help them in their own growth and development or share with their team. At the organizational level, our diversity, equity, and inclusion questionnaire can help organizations pinpoint where best to place their DEI emphasis.
Every single person who joins one of our programs brings us one person closer to the ultimate goal of an organization or society that works for everyone. Our vision is that what they learn through Leading Consciously will contribute to a ripple effect of positive change throughout the globe.
How have you incorporated your published book, Reframing Change, into your new membership program?
Jean Latting Hamilton-Guarino: The foundation of everything we do can be found in Reframing Change, coauthored by myself and V. Jean Ramsey.
Currently, we are working on our second book, scheduled to be published in Spring 2024. Reframing Change explains our model of Conscious Change, containing thirty-one research-based yet highly practical skills for people who want to improve their ability to influence others, bring people together, and initiate change. The skills are categorized into six skill sets for ease of understanding.
The forthcoming book expands Conscious Change to thirty-six skills nested within the same six skill sets. In Pathfinders, our membership program, we teach one new skill every two weeks. Changemakers provides intensive training in all thirty-six skills over several months.
For example, “Address underlying systemic biases” is one of the skills in the Bridge Differences skill set. This skill underlies much of what I have discussed so far. In this society, people tend to look to individuals as the source of their problems. They blame the coworker they believe is unfairly competing for the job they want, the leader who is oblivious to the coworker’s shenanigans, the tenth grader who skips school and ends up robbing the local grocery store, the politician they believe is crooked or self-absorbed.
They blame everyone but the systemic forces that set up the structures for these things to happen. Too many of us fail to recognize how we collude in our own oppression by not voting, not supporting funding for prevention programs, or not having a courageous conversation with those in a position to move things forward in our organizations, even if only a little bit.
Learning to see beyond the individual and address the systems that keep the undesirable status quo intact is a challenging but teachable skill. Those who learn it – along with the other skills in our Conscious Change model – gain a sense of personal empowerment that is contagious and transformational.
We see the monumental changes in our own lives as we actively practice the skills we teach. Our clients tell us about the changes in their lives. It is our honor and pleasure to serve as a catalyst for their learning and to know we are contributing to help create a world that works for everyone.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jean Latting for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jean Latting or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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