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Communicating as a Leader

Diversity: More Than Just Politically Correct

Leaders for Today asked:

Because there seems to be a disconnect between what many hospital management teams are saying and what they are doing, I decided to get to the bottom of the very term. Diversity comes from the word diverse, an adjective meaning unlike. Take a look around your own executive team – is there very much unlike amongst you?

Here’s some interesting news: Cedric Herring, a sociologist from the University of Illinois at Chicago, recently completed a study exploring whether or not diversity actually makes a difference to the bottom line. He examined data from 250 U.S. employers on diversity levels and business performance, and found that there was a direct correlation between diversity and business success.

“Those companies that have very low levels of racial and ethnic minorities have the lowest profits and the lowest market share and the lowest number of customers,” said Herring. “Those that have medium levels do better, and those that have the highest levels do the best.”

Instead of looking at diversity hiring as a win-win, many organizations see hiring people from different backgrounds, cultures and generations as an obligation. They think that having a certain number of minorities on board will mitigate potential PR disasters and keep pace with what other healthcare institutions may be doing. But it’s vital we move beyond mere obligation, and recognize that in addition to Mr. Herring’s findings, there are tremendous advantages to inviting people with different experiences to the executive table. These include:

Complimentary perspectives. Executives who have grown up in other countries approach their work with different ways of thinking. We in the U.S. are action-oriented, quick to make decisions and always on the go. Having people on your team who may be process-oriented (Latin countries, such as Central and South America, Spain, Italy and France), task-oriented (Northern Europe) or role-oriented (Asia and India) can often lend much needed balance.

Fresh ideas and approaches to old problems. Executives with different backgrounds bring different perspectives (see above) and different problem solving skills. A good example of this is Dr. Joy Draft, CEO of Georgetown Hospital in Washington, DC. She feels that her background as a critical care physician enhances her ability to establish priorities and allocate time and resources.

When asked how the physician in her surfaces, she says, “It does more so in the decisions I make about resources here at Georgetown and new programs we’re developing. What can we bring to the community that is needed and isn’t already here? That’s where the doctor in me comes out.”

Community Involvement. Healthcare organizations must do their best to reflect the demographic profile of the community they serve in their hiring practices, all the way up to the top. Doing so ensures strong community relationships, more effective outreach and wellness programs and a pipeline of potential employees who see the organization as a partner in the community and an employer of choice.

In summary, diversity isn’t just about meeting onerous obligations. It is about making changes, in the spirit of inclusion that will have a positive impact on your organization. If your organization struggles with adding minority leaders to the executive level, talk to others in your network that have been successful with their diversity initiatives.

And when you speak to them, ask them how they found their people and what the return on their investment in diversity has been. No doubt, you will be in for a good education. If you have made significant inroads in adding diversity to your team, let others know about it and offer to help. Now is the time to add some real diversity to your organization’s leadership team!

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