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Maxims from Mike - 3 Rules for Making Diversity & Inclusion a Competitive Advantage.

Hello Leaders,

Welcome to Today. This week's Leadership and Personal Development tip embraces Diversity & Inclusion.

Maxim: Make a significant contribution to the overall success of your organization by being uniquely you.

Many organizations have already embraced diversity and inclusion. Some did it early because they thought it was the right thing to do. It was part of being a good corporate citizen. Others did it because they saw the internal benefits of creating a culture that reduced turnover and attracted new employees. Many are embracing D&I now because it is good for business. It affects both the top and bottom lines. Finally, government and other large customers have made supplier diversity a condition of business. It pays to be a diverse and inclusive entity.

A few stats

McKinsey reported, "Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Boston Consulting Group wrote, "Companies that reported above-average diversity on their management teams also reported innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity - 45% of total revenue versus just 26%.

A Harvard Business School survey of 250 businesses found that those companies with greater diversity made between 18 to 69 percent more when it came to net income and operating revenue than those with a more homogeneous team. Of those same companies, 91% with a diverse workforce reported greater customer satisfaction. Businesses with a gender-diverse board, meanwhile, saw a 42% higher return in sales, 66% greater return on invested capital, and a 53% higher return on equity.

I think you get the picture. So how can your organization take advantage of diversity and inclusion and use it as a competitive advantage in the marketplace? I offer three rules written for the organization but addressed to the diverse individuals.

Three Rules

1. Be Uniquely You. Share your opinions. Realize your sharing may be in the form of questions. John Maxwell quipped, "Good leaders ask great questions." Oft times, knowing what questions to ask is more important than offering suggestions. It is imperative to ensure the team is solving the right problem. Each has a unique perspective. Your particular thoughts and experiences, based upon your diverse background, can contribute significantly to discovering that elusive solution. Your different perspective may hold the key that unlocks the door to inspiration and revelation.

With your uniqueness, work on your character (ethics, trustworthiness, honesty, etc.), competence (continuously learning, hard working, persistent, etc.), and courage (decision making, responsible, accountable, etc.) Speaking of courage, organizations need people who are not afraid to take calculated risks. They took a risk in hiring you. Do not be afraid of making mistakes. Do not let the risk of failure hold you back.

If you never fail, you are not taking risks. If you are not taking risks, you are not stretching yourself. If you are not stretching yourself, you are not growing. Growth means learning new things. There is a lot to learn even in - and perhaps especially in - failure. It's a failure only if you do not learn from it. So learn, grow, and watch your potential and influence increase as you take calculated risks. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. Be uniquely you, take the risks, and share the learning.

2. Know the Culture. Captain D. Michael Abrashoff, former Commander of the USS Benfold, said, “The whole secret of leading a ship or managing a company is to articulate a common goal that inspires a diverse group of people to work hard together.” Read and learn your company’s vision statement, mission statement, and/or purpose statement. Know the published values, if there are any. Research the company’s strategies and objectives. If you are in a public company, read the Manager’s Discussion and Analysis from the Annual Report or Form 10-K. These documents will give you a good sense of what the organization says it is about. For some companies, these statements are aspirational and not realized. As such, to be successful, you need to know the culture of your organization.

According to Investopedia, "Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires."

You see, corporate culture is a reflection of the collective values of the individuals. If you want to be a significant contributor to the success of the organization, it is imperative that you know how the company defines itself via its published statements and how the company is really defined via its corporate culture. If they are different, the successful individual will navigate both and serve as a link in connecting the aspirational (published statements) with reality (corporate culture).

Like an iceberg, we can see what’s on the surface (vision, mission, etc.) However, if we cannot ascertain what’s beneath the surface (the culture), we risk being a modern day Titantic. If only the Titantic could have navigated the seen and unseen icebergs in its path. As you commit to your personal growth, be a student of your organization. Understand both the espoused beliefs (published statements) and the underlying assumptions, values, and core beliefs (the culture). Make sure you KNOW THE CULTURE!

3. Adjust Your Communication Style. To be effective in life, change must first begin within. You and I must examine ourselves before we can effectively examine others. "If our self-perception is distorted, then our attempts to influence others will be misguided and even manipulative," wrote John Maxwell. Know yourself and your communication style.

People are either more task oriented or people oriented. Further, they are more outgoing or more reserved. According to the DISC Personality Indicator, people fall into four main quadrants. Dominant/Driver (direct, decisive, high ego, risk taker, etc.); Influencing/Inspiring (enthusiastic, optimistic, persuasive, talkative, emotional, etc.); Compliant/Correct (accurate, analytical, careful, fact-finder, precise, systematic, etc.); Stable/Steady (good listener, team player, possessive, steady, predictable, friendly, understanding, etc.)

It's important to both recognize your style and that of the person with whom you are engaged in conversation. For example, if you are the dominant type, you prefer to get right to the point. The steady type wants to establish a friendly atmosphere and make sure the two of you are on the same page before engaging in the business discussion.

The influencing type wants to paint a compelling picture of the situation and visualize what could be. However, the compliant type is frustrated because she just wants the facts. She does not need the emotional highs and lows from the influencing type because the numbers and figures will give her all the information she needs.

Conversely, if a compliant type is speaking with another compliant type, they could get so wrapped up in the facts and figures that they never get around to finding a solution to the problem. The same applies to the other types. A dominant type speaking with another dominant type can get right to the point at the risk of missing critical information that another type could have offered. The key is to know your style, the other person's style, and make the necessary adjustments. This is one way we can connect better with others, have effective collaboration, and produce incredible results.

Wrap up

Be uniquely you. You were not hired to become a cheap reflection of someone else. You were hired to bring your God-given gifts to contribute to the overall success of the organization. Have a growth mindset and continuously improve yourself. Your uniqueness is an advantage. Your organization may have espoused beliefs. Know them. But also make sure you understand the unwritten values - the culture. Your uniqueness should blend into the environment where you work (assuming it is a healthy environment). Success in life requires effective communication. Do not wait on others to adjust to you. Take responsibility and adjust to them. Know yourself, know your organization and its culture, and know the different communication styles. Adjust as necessary.

Are you ready to make a significant impact right where you are? If you are the leader of an organization or of a team, are you ready to invest in your people and help them soar? Many companies have gone outside to bring in proven diverse leaders. This can be a costly proposition especially if your competitors hire the same talent you paid a great sum to bring in house. At Apogee, we work with entities to strengthen their pipeline of leaders. We specialize in strengthening the diverse leadership pipeline.

Follow the 3 rules of making diversity and inclusion a competitive advantage. If you need help in this area, please contact me. As a Maxwell Certified DISC Consultant, let me help bring out the best in you and/or your organization.

For a 15-minute video presentation on making D&I a competitive advantage, please visit

That's it for now. Until the next tip....

Mike Nwankwo

Founder & CEO


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