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The Humanity Group | How to Encourage Leadership Development for Black Employees
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How to Encourage Leadership Development for Black Employees

Feb 22 2021

How to Encourage Leadership Development for Black Employees

Diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIB) should not be a standalone pillar in your organization. When interwoven throughout your organization, DIB creates the conditions for people to be their best selves. It can unlock potential throughout an organization. But what happens when your organization lacks diversity and inclusion? How can black employees be their best selves when organizational systems are not necessarily set up to support all employees equally? For example, many hiring managers find themselves unconsciously selecting or removing certain candidates based simply on their name. By enacting “blind” resumes as a practice, hiring managers can avoid this unconscious bias. To take similar steps and level the playing field and enable black/BIPOC leaders, L&D professionals need to consider these four areas of leadership development.

When interwoven throughout your organization, DIB creates the conditions for people to be their best selves.

Educate yourself and other leaders. It’s important that you acknowledge what you currently know about diversity and inclusion—do you understand key terms and concepts to be able to speak knowledgeably? If you do, do leaders in your organization have that same depth of knowledge? Educate yourself and leaders on the basics—terminology, (Black or systemic) history, and unconscious bias. You need to demonstrate desired inclusion by having educated and courageous conversations with white and BIPOC leaders.

Leadership competencies
Revisit your leadership competencies to ensure leaders are held to the same standards and that they are phrased in a way that supports equity. Do your organizational leadership competencies include inclusive language and do they include measurable inclusive behaviors? They should  foster inclusivity and self-awareness. With companies intentionally making an effort to be more inclusive, networking is a critical component.  The previously stated leadership competencies can be applied to cross-functional networking as well. Develop leaders to proactively build relationships across businesses to leverage diverse perspectives, gain insights, and influence stakeholders.

Leadership development programs and performance management systems
Do your leadership development programs and performance management systems support the above competencies? Ensure there are KPIs to inclusive behaviors that drive inclusive outcomes and a process to hold leaders accountable. Reward and highlight leaders that demonstrate inclusivity and create an equitable environment.

Equitable opportunities
Provide equity by helping your black/BIPOC leaders become “insiders” through mentorship, sponsorship, and allyship. Harvard Business School Professor Kathleen McGinn refers to “insiders” as having an open highway to drive on, while “outsiders” experience a toll road, with many constraints along the way. For your black/BIPOC leaders to thrive, they need to be insiders. Enabling leadership development for black leaders is not about “training up” black leaders, it’s about “training up” all leaders.

Where to start? Don’t wait! While you are increasing your education and reviewing competencies, begin reaching out to leaders in the business and ask them to take an active role as a mentor, sponsor and/or ally to ensure BIPOC employees have an equal chance to succeed.

What efforts have you made to encourage a diverse leadership development program?

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  • Gemma Oliver

    In our company, we have people from quite a few countries and we have found that the perfect way to make sure this functions as well as it can is to not make a song and dance about diversity and avoid all posturing and simply treat everybody the same, rewarding results.

    February 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm
  • Fiona Heath

    Great article; some really good points here!

    February 23, 2021 at 2:05 pm
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