Don’t Forget the “B” in D&I Efforts

By: Tory Moore, PRSA Orlando VP, Administration 

Brené  Brown, a renowned professor at the University of Houston and New York Times bestselling author, reminds leaders that diversity and inclusion should consider adding an additional letter to the D&I acronym – a B, for belonging.

We feel a sense of belonging when we can show up as our true selves, bring our talents and our perspectives, be seen, know that we matter and that we’re a part of something,” Brown said at the recent Qualtrics Work Different conference. “The thing that’s very powerful about belonging is that true belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are, it invites us to be who we are.”

Brown’s research focuses on empathy, shame, and vulnerability. Often, she investigates how these elements interact within the workplace and provides leaders with a framework for cultivating a healthy workplace. She elaborates that now, more than ever, we must make room for belonging in the workplace that honors, embraces, and becomes a part of diversity and inclusion efforts.

“The special courage it takes to experience true belonging is not just about braving the wilderness,” she said. “We’re going to need to intentionally be with people who are different from us. We’re going to have to learn how to listen, have hard conversations, look for joy, share pain, and be more curious than defensive, all while seeking moments of togetherness.”

She added that to achieve true belonging, we must consider love in the workplace. While to many this may seem odd, she elaborates on love’s ability to bring care and connection to those we work with. This rings especially true in 2020, where many of our colleagues have faced difficulties during a global pandemic, an intense election and other national and worldwide challenges.

“The thing we also don’t talk about, which doesn’t make sense, is that care and connection and affection for each other is an irreducible need for people at work,” she said. “When you walk into the office, your need for care and your need for respect and your need for connection doesn’t dissipate.”

One of her strongest statements during the talk was that if leaders cannot care for the people they are leading, they should not be leading at all. A profound statement, but she explains the intrinsic need humans have for this level of connection in the workplace.

“We need to rethink how we’re taking care of ourselves, how we’re taking care of each other, how we’re taking care of our communities — we’re going to need to rethink how we’re showing up with each other,” she said.

The best news of all? All of these are teachable skills, she says. If something seems off with a coworker or employee, check-in with them. Listen. Ask questions. She reminds leaders that achieving goals and performance metrics are not mutually exclusive to genuinely caring for team members. The leaders that will succeed through these difficult times are those that will lean in and develop or improve these skills, she says.

“The leaders who are still going to be standing in five years are the leaders that don’t see them as mutually exclusive, but are completely dependent on both,” she explained.

Consider, how are you ensuring true understanding and belonging in your diversity and inclusion efforts? Where can you improve? Take one small step this week and expand on this as time goes on. The key is to get started.