S 3 E10

December 16th, 2020

EPISODE 10: DE&I: The Big Discoveries and Pathways to Real Change

Diversity Equity & Inclusion strategy will continue to be a top priority for organizations in 2021. They’ll enter the new year with more momentum than perhaps ever before, but that momentum needs to be channelled into real, impactful change. In other words, we need to do things right and right now. In this episode of Your Brain at Work, we look back at tectonic shifts that took place in 2020, and how, armed with that knowledge, organizations can follow the pathways to real change.

Episode Transcript

 

EPISODE S3 E10

 

[INTRODUCTION]

 

[00:00:05] EN: This is a rather unusual session for us, and we will dive deeper into what happened in 2020. What are some of the lessons learned for us in this year and what can we take from 2020 to the next year to make sure that we really invest in better cultures within our organizations and investing more diversity, equity and inclusion across organizations and our society at large? And I’m so happy to have Barbara here with me to take us through 2020. And then we will dive a little bit deeper into some of the focus areas that we’d suggest looking at in 2021. 

 

[INTERVIEW]

 

[00:00:52] EN: So, let’s get started. First of all, for those of you that don’t know about NeuroLeadership Institute, we are a research-driven leadership institute with IP and development for over 20 years and operations in 24 countries. And what we do is really blend the industry best practices with neuroscience and behavioral science to drive organizational change at scale. Specifically in diversity, equity and inclusion, we’ve published over 13 papers and we were at the forefront of really driving change there. Talking about the difference between inclusion and unconscious bias, I would say, what was it?  7, 8, 9 years ago, talking about the importance of psychological, creating the models for mitigating unconscious bias as well as expanding on our work through strategic lens to diversity, equity and inclusion. 

 

We now have over 300 clients in diversity, equity and inclusion space spanning from Fortune 100 to smaller organizations. So that’s a little bit about us, but let’s dive deeper into some of the insights from 2020. So we tried our best to not overwhelm you and at the same time to show some of the most standing out events in this year starting with January and February and how the year started to the global pandemic, to the social justice movement and the George Floyd tragedy following the spikes within the global pandemic and some of the political challenges that we had in the United States as a nation. 

 

So what we want to do now is to really dive into what happened and where our mindset was back then and what are some of the lessons learned for us as to how we could have gone through those periods better so that we’re more equipped for the next year. So let’s start with the start of the year in January and February. Barbara, I would love to hear from you on what was happening in the society and organizations.

 

[00:03:04] BS: Yeah. Ester, you mentioned how for us and how we’ve put together today’s conversation. It was interesting and I think that’s a reflection of how it’s been an interesting year to say the least. And so what we saw at the start of the year, we referenced the coronavirus outbreak had actually occurred in Wuhan. But for other parts of the world, we were hearing rumblings but didn’t really – We didn’t know what that meant at the time and we didn’t necessarily feel it, the effects of that. And things that were happening, which at the start of the year, certainly in North America, I think similarly for Europe, it was feeling like business as usual. 


What was happening in society had to do with the FAA in the US that agency was signaling that the Boeing 737 Max was looking like it was going to be able to begin to return to flight in the year 2020. The Me Too Movement, which had been so active in the year of 2019, it saw the conviction of Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood heavyweight in February. We saw things like that happening in society, but slowly we started to hear from the World Health Organization that this virus had emerged in china. And what we also saw occur in the US specifically was the death of Ahmad Aubrey. And he was an unarmed black man who was killed in Georgia. 

 

And so it’s interesting when we just call out those few events. We had no idea how they would actually foreshadow what was to come in 2020. But for organizations, you have businesses focusing on what their agendas were going to be for DE&I. So what they have put in place for Q4? The heavy focus was on things like unconscious bias briefings. Trying to determine how much budget that they could get for certain initiatives that they wanted to take on. So, again, it had this interesting blend of there were some signals that things were about to occur. We just didn’t realize it, and yet we saw kind of what the focus was at that time for diversity equity inclusion. 

 

[00:05:19] EN: What’s fascinating for me, Barbara, just remembering that time as well, is I freely flew – So I was giving briefings about diversity and inclusion. Equity was not even part of the conversation back then, and giving briefings in Europe, giving briefings in Australia literally two weeks before the fires happened. So it really did seem like business as usual. And I remember talking a lot about how important it was for diversity and inclusion to be strategic within the organizations and how important growth mindset was back then as the foundation of diversity and inclusion. And yet it wasn’t quite landing for a lot of organizations. So with NeuroLeadership Institute, what we talked about at the beginning of the year is making diversity equity and inclusion more strategic and having to start with growth mindset to really drive the change within organizations. But we will talk about it in a minute. 

 

We just launched VOICE. So we talked about how important the culture of speaking up is and how to instill the culture of speaking up through the habits, and then invest in virtual training. So we’ve been in virtual training business for so many years and we’re really trying to show the organizations that it actually is very effective and sometimes even more effective than in-person. 

 

So I would just love to dive a little bit deeper into virtual learning and the effects that we talked about back then. 

 

[00:06:45] BS: Yeah. Because, Ester, like you said, this is right in our wheelhouse. It’s something as NLI we do extremely well. Not only because we figured out the secret sauce with respect to how to do it well. It’s because like you mentioned, Ester, we had been doing it for so long. And yet, like you said, Ester, in your travels and helping organizations understand just how effective this modality is for deploying learning, still, so many organizations were really dug in with wanting to continue with face-to-face learning. And so here we were making this case is the secret sauce of what’s really the key to ensuring that virtual learning is in fact effective. 

 

And so it’s the several points you see here. So long as the learning is designed in a way so that it’s actually helping the participants activate insight, the strongest possible insight, because we know what insight triggers is an actual change in the brain, right? New neural connections are being made and people can begin the journey of doing things differently in social situations that matter. So that really also anchors on research that we’ve done with respect to understanding learning and the importance of social context, and also one habit at a time. So we recognize that for organizations that really want to look at how to do this work and how to do it at scale and with speed, this is the way to do it, is to help to recognize cognition and what our brains are capable of actually kind of having the ability to integrate. So doing it one habit at a time over time really actually helps to expedite or accelerate the learning process when it’s approached in this way. 

 

And so because we’ve been doing it for so long, and as Ester and I have been mentioning and trying to get organizations to take on this work, part of how we’ve been making the case is how quickly organizations can really see this actual change take effect. And that’s what we’re sharing with you here, like so many organizations will often use the net promoter score as a way to measure. But we at NLI got really clear that at the end of the day we’re talking about behavior change. And so why don’t we measure that specifically? And that’s what this metric is here, the behavior change percentage. 

 

And so we’re able to through a series of questions of learners in terms of understanding, in terms of following up a learning engagement, their ability to recall the information and how they had opportunities to apply and really demonstrate the habit of what they learned in terms of that program. 62% of individuals showing in one week’s time, right? We can see the impact of their ability to actually adopt habits, and then followed by 23%. So really remarkable the impact.

 

[00:09:44] EN: The other thing that happened is we publicly announced the rollout of VOICE, the neuroscience of speaking up, and I’m not going to dive deeper into that, but here are the three sets of habits of really instilling the culture of speaking up within your organization. First starting with noticing the moment when a situation occurs when you need to speak up. Managing our emotions to be able to challenge productively, and then moving to the third habit of challenging productively. And we rolled it out and had a lot of success in really implementing more of a culture of speaking up within the organizations back then. But moving on to March and April, so what was going on in March and April, Barbara?

 

[00:10:27] BS: Yeah. This is when everything changed, because now what felt like at the start of the year something happening in China has now impacted the rest of the world. And so the World Health Organization deemed COVID-19 as a global pandemic. And so what we also saw was on March 9th it triggered a global recession. So a number of countries went into lockdown. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had its worst day single point drop ever. And we were learning of all of these deaths that were starting to occur due to the virus and happening at alarming rates, rates that we had not seen before. So that’s what was happening in society at large. 

 

And so of course when we look at what was going on with organizations, we could see from organizations due to the shutdown and being affected economically how they had to shift and make decisions about do they need to make reductions in their workforce? They had to essentially figure out of their workforce who were in office space working face-to-face. Get everybody shifted to working from home with the exception of essential workers. It’s just all of these massive decisions had to be made and they had to be made quickly. And from an employee’s standpoint, we saw just individuals really in a state of shock because everything was happening so quickly and there was so much uncertainty with respect to everything that was happening.

 

[00:11:55] EN: Yes. From the organizational standpoint, what we also saw is that organizations started freezing the budgets both for HR and for diversity and inclusion efforts in trying to understand where the economy actually was. And back then we started talking about the Stockdale Paradox and we started talking – I think it was actually the fastest turnaround of the solution that we’ve ever had around focus. Really investing in resilience and being able to focus within the organizations. 

 

And one of the fascinating trends that we saw at that time as well is that the organizations that had invested in the growth mindset over the last few years were actually going through this period much better and their employees felt much better and more prepared for change. So we also kept investing in talking about growth mindset and really unpacking what it is and how we can invest in our employees by adopting the habits of growth mindset. And as well as there had to be a quick turnaround of shifting some of the core tools, like investing in inclusion, to talk about the best practices in the virtual settings, right? So how to have inclusive virtual meetings? 

 

We didn’t have the Zoom fatigue just yet. It was coming in the next chapter. But it was already rather challenging for a lot of disadvantaged groups to be able to work virtually as well. What we also started seeing is a decline in attention and also some of the challenges that some groups were facing, like parents that had to deal with the new realities of being with kids and working at the same time. They were challenged with really focusing and being productive and looking at the goals for the year. At the same time we had essential workers that often couldn’t go back to work because of the health concerns. So a lot of change happening during those times. 

 

I would love to talk a little bit more about the Stockdale Paradox, Barbara.

 

[00:14:04] BS: Yeah. Because, Ester – So as you’re painting this picture, and we’re remembering what was happening during this time, and you referenced how with focus as an offering NLI, we have this really wicked fast turnaround time to make it available. And that’s because we actually had had the research and the content already ready. It’s analogous too. It’s probably not the best analogy, but it’s the same notion behind the vaccine that these pharmaceutical companies could react and move so quickly because actually the technology that science that it’s based on had already been developed. And part of the focus offering we talk about, Ester, as you know the Stockdale Paradox, which for those of you who aren’t familiar with him, Jim Stockdale was a Navy admiral. He’s since passed away. But he has a remarkable story because he was held in captivity for seven years during the Vietnam War. 

 

And one of the things that happened was he was interviewed while he was alive by Jim Collins. And Collins was really blown away by a couple of things that Stockdale mentioned. One being Stockdale said that during that time of captivity it was the optimists who fared the worst and they were the ones that didn’t make it out. And that just seems so counterintuitive. But the huge takeaway that Stockdale kind of left from his experience and had shared this with Jim Collins was that the real key he found to really surviving being held in captivity was doing two things. So, one, he said, “You had to really balance like your faith and your determination that you would in fact make it to the other side.” And then he said, “But yet you had to have this ruthless kind of brutal honesty about your current reality and what you were facing so that you could then be creative and thinking about ways to actually navigate your way through it.” So we often share that story, Ester, as you know, because we found just such incredible parallel between kind of Stockdale’s experience and what we actually have been experiencing with the coronavirus.  

 

[00:16:10] EN: Absolutely. It also led in diversity and inclusion space to us refocusing our attention to actually driving the reduce of threats level in the brain for the employees even before talking about how to deal with change. So when we launched Focus, one of the main goals was to help organizations understand the three different levels of threat in the brain and also help show that a lot of employees were in a very deep threat state during the global pandemic. So even before diving into the growth mindset, we needed to make sure that we reduce the level of threats so that the employers could actually learn productivity and then invested in growth mindset and only then invested in inclusion and mitigating unconscious bias as part of the overall pathway. And we talked about growth mindset and learning about growth mindset. How it helped resilience and how it helped people adapt to change fast so that we can then drive for more inclusive organizations. 

 

One of another investments that we made is making sure that we issue the industry research around the growth mindset and the importance of it within the organizations with some of the practical examples from the field around how adapting it really helped innovation, really helped productivity and being much faster at accepting change as organizations. 

 

And of course we launched Focus, the neuroscience of thriving through disruption. So within it we had three main sets of habits. The first one around taking care of yourself, then looking after each other and delivering what truly matters. So being essential versus exhaustive and making sure that we actually focus our attention especially since there was so much going on around so that we focus our attention on the essential things while also taking care of each other and while also being able to productively support each other throughout the pandemic or some of the critical situations.

 

So that leads us to the next portion between May and August. Barbara, I would love to hear more from you on that one. 

 

[00:18:29] BS: Yeah. So as we’ve been kind of taking this walk down memory lane, experiencing all the challenges associated with this pandemic, finding ourselves globally in this unprecedented time, and then the George Floyd tragedy happens. Now it happens on the hills of a series of tragedy. So I referenced Ahmad Aubrey. That was back in February. Actually shortly after that was the Brianna Taylor tragedy that had occurred as well. So now where 25th, George Floyd tragedy occurs. And now we see just massive unrest take place. And so that seemed to really spark the social justice movement and organizations finding themselves in this position of figuring out how best to respond and getting really clear on putting a stake in the ground about their stance and wanting to ensure that they are advocating that they’re against racism. And then we saw this kind of real focus on the need for diversity, equity and inclusion. So now equity is really like coming more into prominence and the importance of it. 

 

And employees, from their perspective, they’re being very clear about something needs to be done they’re asking their organizations to be involved in some way, expecting their leaders to take a stand. And, Ester, you often say we also saw individuals really just voting with their feet. Just making it really clear getting out there and protesting what they felt was really important.

 

[00:20:07] EN: Yes. It was fascinating to see how some organizations really, really took a rather strong stand and said, “We are being proactively anti-racist, and here’s what we believe in and here is what leaders in these organizations believe in.” And a lot of leaders started speaking up and sharing some of their stories. And on the other side, we had organizations that weren’t quite ready for that or the leaders really struggling and trying to find their voice and really embrace social justice movements and try to figure out how to navigate these difficult situations for them. 

 

And so it was very fascinating to see also how depending on the level of readiness, some organizations made some mistakes, for instance, hosting the town halls instead of actually holding the listening sessions to provide space for the employees to be able to share their grief and to process through it as well as share some of what they wanted to focus on. 

 

I think talking about voting with their feet, Barbara. We’ll talk about it in the next section. But I think that it is very, very important to point out that this was a breaking moment where the majority of employees within organizations said, “Actually, we’re part of this organization and what your communicating does not align with our values. So we’re not going to be a part of this organization anymore.” Or, “So this is how you need to fix it.”              

 

So we saw a rise in the employee voices. And some organizations that have been adapting the practice of speaking up could direct that in a productive way to really drive systemic change within the organizations and some couldn’t, right? But what it tells us now when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion is it’s not a choice for you anymore whether to listen to your employees or not. And I often talk about it as almost like a way that’s coming your way and you can either fight it or you can try to understand what individual employee experiences are or experience for underrepresented groups within your organization. And then drive it towards systemic change within your organization so that every employee is actually empowered to influence change to really take us to more equitable society as a whole. 

 

So at NeuroLeadership Institute, we really reinvested in helping organizations hold the listening sessions, helping them have productive town halls. Talked a lot more about making the change systemic. We started in the beginning of the year, but really launched a lot more products around systemic transformation within DNI’s face as well as just reinvested in talking about unconscious bias mitigation and added a lot more content to the decide tool to make sure that we can successfully help organizations mitigate bias in the moment and systemically. 

 

So diving a little bit deeper into that, one of the challenges that we saw as well is that leaders within the organizations were trying to find their voice. And so, Barbara, I would love to hear from you on the leadership principle and the framework that we talked about back then. 

 

[00:23:30] BS: Yeah. And so, like you’ve mentioned, Ester, employees voting with their feet and saying, “This is what we stand for,” and “Darn it! Do something about this.” And so we wrote this piece to really signal for leaders inside of organization, “Here’s how you can participate. Here’s your time to really stand up. Here’s how you want to go about listening. How you want to galvanize the effort and the momentum and certainly take action.” So it was our way or leveraging brain science, because as you all know, as NLI, that’s what we do to really then help leaders figure out how best to mobilize. 

 

And, Ester, like you mentioned, one of the ways in which we helped organizations do that was through listening sessions. So we began offering and doing this work with our clients who really wanted to figure out how to get this right to say, “Well, you just need to listen.” It sounds easy enough, and yet we saw so many poor examples of major organizations that just blew it. I mean, just completely botched this. 

 

So while just because it seems like it would be something straightforward and simple to do doesn’t mean that it is, and that’s because, in general, we’re not necessarily the best at listening. And so engaging in this effort and especially in terms of sensitive topics like social injustice and what was happening in broader society. It’s about how do you in the ways that we’re showing here really on the one hand listen to what is coming up for people and at the same time do in a way so that people feel like they’ve been heard and that they’ve been understood. 

 

And that’s what we found, Ester, as really the impact. Like what the benefits are in an organization when they get this right. On the next slide we talk about how when organizations, in order to even listen effectively. It’s not like people will just speak up and start to share. As you know, Ester, which we talk about in the VOICE program, conventional wisdom says if people have something to say, they’ll just say it. Well, science says actually they don’t and especially when they probably should. 

 

And so what’s the kind of forerunner to that is psych safety. People need to feel safe to speak up. Once they do that, and we know that threat is reduced and they’re actually more in toward state. Now they have the ability, they along with leaders, can actually kind of see insights be activated and generated for what’s possible. What are new ideas and different ways of solving for some of these issues that are facing organizations around social justice? And then how do you galvanize and actually take action? So that’s what we helped organizations do and continue to do this work so that they can get it right and obviously achieve the impact that they want to have especially in alignment with their DEI efforts. 

 

[00:26:31] EN: What comes up for me, Barbara, as well is that listening in general, looking together with you. And I said, this year, listening was actually one of the key mantras that we had, whether it’s with leadership principles and how leaders can show up first. Listen, right? Actively listen. Learn how to listen empathetically and actually hear what the employees are saying and then implement and adapt it the same way listening circles in order to really create that space for employees. And when we talk about the strategic impact of diversity, equity and inclusion, the first step is mobilizing leaders and listening deeply to what it is that their challenges are, the same with allyship. 

 

So one of the connections that I’m making while we’re doing that retrospect is really focusing on listening being one of the main pillars for 2020. And one of the areas that we invested in as well is looking at what are the key pillars to a successful diversity, equity and inclusion strategy that actually drives long-term transformation at scale? And we talked about the four main pillars being the first one, mobilizing leaders. And David and I gave lot of talks about that regarding the bell curve and how to really bring the leaders on the journey for diversity, equity and inclusion and help them create that voice, then building strategies. 

 

So one of the challenges is that we often building strategies and then we go to the leaders to sell them on it or to get them onboard, and actually it is important for leaders to co-create those with you and to really drive for business impact at scale. And then the next big important part is activating habits. So what we saw is that 70% of the organizations created the priority and the goals and created the strategies around awareness and education, but didn’t  quite activate the habits so talking about the three essential sets of habits being most people actively including most people are actively mitigating conscious bias and speaking up on behalf of themselves and others when this doesn’t happen. Those are the essential elements in activating habits in 2020.

 

And then the last part around reimagining the systems, right? So once you activated the habits and shifted the behaviors within the organizations, it is in the systems where most of unconscious bias lives. So how can we reinvent and redesign the talent management and the business systems to make sure that we drive for long-term transformation at scale? Now going into August to November – So, Barbara, what are some of the events that happened then?

 

[00:29:14] BS: Yeah. Ester, as you know, we really enjoyed like putting this together. I’m exhausted just doing the yearend review. Like I’m exhausted and I’m excited, because it’s been that kind of year and yet again, like we said, there has been still so much goodness though that emerged. So, still, what felt and feels exhausting is we started – It was already being talked about and certainly it occurred as just now this next wave of the coronavirus would take effect. And so we certainly saw that with respect to economically so much pain and strife with respect to the economy. We saw the real impact it had on small businesses. Also this is a time where we’re into the election season. And so because of the way the narratives are put out there from the candidates, we saw just division continuing to grow when racial tensions continuing to escalate. And it was also a time we wanted to flag and remind everybody that it was when president trump issued the executive order, which basically said in terms of the federal government, they could not offer anything related to anti-racism training and could not make references to phrases like white privilege and things like that. So what was being taught to really educate, it was being said from a federal government perspective no more that that could go on. So that’s what we saw broader society, but the organizational level we’ve been – Going through this year, we’re nine months in, nine months plus in, and organizations are figuring out, right? Like doubling down still on DE&I. Really, allyship now is taking hold and organizations are really paying attention to systemic things happening inside of their systems that are problematic. 

 

[00:31:05] EN: Yes. What also was important in the diversity, equity and inclusion space here is that the chief diversity officers are reaching out to us and telling us, “Okay. Actually, now we’re expanding our role and now we’re supposed to run the social justice movement within the organization. So how do we do that?” I think also from the societal standpoint, it became very evident, because I would say that until March a lot of organizations still thought that the employees have their beliefs and have their certain values that they hold. But once they walk through the door of the office, that just magically disappears, right? And we had those different personas that we had at work and that we had at home that we often held. 

 

Now with the global pandemic and us having to work from home and then those tragedies happening in the social justice movement, there was a rise of importance of authenticity and leaders being authentic and actually living their values. So the walls really blurred. As well as it became very evident that actually it’s in organizations that unconscious bias often lives in. So it has to be removed at the systemic level to drive for an overall change within the countries. So that was also an increased role that the chief diversity officers actually were supposed to take on in driving change. And as a result of that what we saw is that a lot of organizations started hiring chief diversity officers when they didn’t before. A lot of organizations that didn’t work with us before came to us saying, “We have the budgets now. Let’s drive change.” As well as those that were investing, let’s say, in training now wanted to drive for more systemic transformation and systemic changes within the organizations. 

 

So there was a really deep shift and attention towards diversity, equity and inclusion that continues happening. So from the NeuroLeadership standpoint, we saw a division happening. And so we talked about a deep need to de-escalate and launching de-escalation training. Allyship – Reinforcing allyship is one of the key tools in driving a culture of equity within the organizations. Then we really wanted to create the safe space for chief diversity officers through holding the community events, through holding some of the gatherings to talk about what does that new paradigm mean and how can we as leaders really step up to this new challenge. And also started talking about, “Okay, you have the executive order in place. Let’s focus on brain-based diversity equity and inclusion strategies that are actually compliant to still drive change within your organizations with this new limits that were introduced.” 

 

So diving deeper, Barbara, I would love to hear from you on de-escalation real quick. 

 

[00:34:06] BS: Yeah. I’ll just mention this quick. David Rock got really clear for us in terms of corporate social responsibility. What can we contribute? How can we mobilize and be part of the solution? And so basically what our organization has designed is de-escalation training. It is being made to law enforcement and related agencies that focus on public safety. It’s a 90-minute webinar and it’s based in NLI’s science and research, which really just helps these individuals understand. We recognize that they’re in dangerous and very risky situations to understand kind of the brain science under those situations, those settings. So what comes up for them in terms of threat? What can come up for others that they’re facing in terms of the community and what have you? And then what are different strategies that actually can be employed so that we can see in these circumstances their ability to make sure that they’re ensuring safety is taking place, but doing in a way so that it is minimizing loss of life. So we’re very proud of this work. And, again, it’s our way of contributing to just the change that’s been taking place.

 

[00:35:22] EN: Thank you, Barbara. The second big part here in this quarter was launching Ally, the neuroscience of advocating for others. And we’ve talked so much about it. I’ll be very brief. So we’ve been working with Microsoft for over two years and really building the allyship culture and principles within their organization, but what we saw in other organizations is that allyship had an ever increasing importance, but a lot of organizations started implementing it within the systems from the employee resource group’s standpoint and not necessarily driving for the habits. So we really rushed to make sure that we can support the organizations as fast as we can and created ally as a tool and as a product to help organizations adopt the right habits of active allyship. The first part being actively listening, learning and educating yourselves to identify inequity and then driving to increase equity within the organizations whether for individuals, groups or an organization as a whole. And then driving systemic change together collaboratively as employees within the organization. 

 

So now we are in December, and Barbara and I talked about whether to include December into the review and I said, “Let’s not,” just in case. Let’s just be safe here. Hopefully it goes as planned, but it’s 2020. So we never know. So we do want to talk to you about 2021 and some of the areas of investment that we think that organizations should really focus on. One of the helpful ways that we looked at 2020 as well is looking at, “Oh my God! We called it in some of those areas initially around growth mindset and around inclusion. So how can we be helpful in 2021 to organizations around their focus while they’re still creating some of the plans for it?” 

 

So the first one here is really investing in growth mindset and resilience. If you haven’t adopted the growth mindset in your organizations, then it’s time to do so. Barbara, I would love to hear from you on that as well.

 

[00:37:45] BS: Yeah. I love – Ester, I mean we really have been talking about growth mindset in terms of even as part of the year in review, but of course we bring it up again, one, to just reference how those organizations who are able to adapt and are figuring out how to help their people and their organizations thrive. They’re having that success, if you will, because they have in fact anchored on growth mindset inside of their organizations. And probably many of you joining us today are very familiar with growth mindset, but at its core, from a brain-based perspective, it’s about when we’re faced with challenge, do people actually kind of go, “I’m not up for it. Can’t do it,” more fixed mindset. Or do they see the challenge while it still can be scary to then say, “You know what, but I can figure this out,” and they do. And so it’s ensuring that organizations, especially when we’re talking about all the change happening with diversity, equity and inclusion, that the underpinnings are grounded in that growth mindset because that is what leads to creativity, what leads to innovation and what really helps these organizations thrive as they really put in place their DEI strategies now and going forward.

 

[00:39:02] EN: I love that. It’s so important to call it out again. The second trend that we’re seeing that we think that we need to invest in is really invest in systemic change within diversity, equity and inclusion space. So we’ve been offering the systems analysis for over two years now and looking at the maturity of talent systems within the organizations and then providing actionable recommendations and redesigning those systems for organizations to mitigate unconscious bias to increase inclusion within the systems as well as drive for more growth mindset. So we would love to keep doing the work in that space moving forward and we really think that that’s one of the focus areas for 2021 for organizations. What is also important here is that we need to move beyond talent management system. So also looking at business systems. So how do we build products? How do we invest in supply chain? What suppliers do we actually pick? And whether we can expand our pool to have more diverse suppliers and to support small businesses within the organization. So you will be hearing a lot from us on this in 2021. 

 

Another big focus is making sure that there’s a balance between doing things right versus right now, and that balance being actually getting your whole organization building one habit at a time across 2021. So what is possible here is that if a company has 20,000 employees, it can actually have 1 million acts of bias mitigation a year if we focus to invest in every employee learning how to mitigate bias in their decision making. And that is how systemic change really happens.

 

I’ve been getting a lot of questions around the pathway for 2021 when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion learning. This is really quick. We will have a separate webinar on that as well. But this is an example of what a rollout of three key essential sets of habits can look like starting with most people actively including, would include. Moving into unconscious bias and decide and then moving into the growth mindset and how that can actually be rolled out within a year for all levels within the organization starting with executives, to directors, to managers, to all employees. So we would love to talk more to you about it. We also offer free learning audits. So we’re here for you if you’re making the plans for your training and for your learning for 2021. 

 

The next one here is really embracing a culture of speaking up and really embracing a culture of allyship. Barbara, I would love to hear from you.

 

[00:41:55] BS: Yeah. Again, Ester, two areas that we certainly have referenced in terms of its importance as part of the year in review and how this has been a focus for organizations, and we’re calling out of course, Ester, how this will continue to be important going forward. And so we’re going to continue to see just considerable change taking place. Employees are very clear with respect to how they are basically holding their organizations, their employers to a higher standard with respect to workplace, equity, dealing with bias, really having fair systems. And so it’s not just about offering training where we’re focused on habits and how people behave with respect to speaking up, but it’s also about making sure that the systems are reinforcing the desired behaviors and the way in which really promotes inclusion and in courses is set up to really further diversity. 

 

And similarly with our allyship, right? Which is also very much about how do we ensure that it’s a part of the systems so that we’re actually seeing change happening in a meaningful way. Because, again, that is what employees are expecting from their organizations. It can’t happen overnight, but it’s what people want to see with respect to change. 

 

[00:43:13] EN: I think that really quick, you and I talked a lot about it. One of the biggest challenges here as well is understanding what speaking up is and isn’t. So I gave you an example of one leader coming to me saying, “I don’t know what to do,” because I received feedback on my direct report that they were not speaking up enough in front of this leader. I think it is the leader’s challenge. Not this person’s challenge, right? And so looking at speaking up is actually about creating a culture of speaking up. Not trying to make your employees speak up. And what does that mean for leaders to be really true role models for speaking up and creating that space and creating the psychological safety within organizations? 

 

[00:43:57] BS: That’s it, Ester. Ding-ding-ding.

 

[00:43:59] EN: So the last two, building regenerative practices. I think I can just say it what it is. We’re all burned out from this year. As you said, looking at this year was rather tiring and challenging together with exciting and looking what we accomplished. And so what will be important especially when it comes to diversity equity inclusion is looking at are the practices that you’re instilling are actually regenerative or depleting and making sure that you’re creating the regenerative practices within your businesses whether it is creating leadership principles, whether it’s educating your employees, whether it is providing the space for psychological safety. 

 

One of the important questions to ask ourselves is, “Is this actually appropriate or is this too much? And how can i reinvest in my teams to make sure that I create the space for them to grow and regenerate?

 

[00:44:58] ANNOUNCER: Thanks, Ester and Barbara. Wow! That felt like an episode of this is your life 2020. So, thanks for that. And, really, distilling those key insights to the ever-changing landscape of DE&I in 2020 and looking forward to 2021. I hope that was as beneficial for everybody as it was for me. And as you guys covered so much, I wanted to make it easy for those of you on the line to explore more with NLI about how to partner with us on any number of those issues. The things that will be coming up next year. So it’s just frictionless if you’d like to reach out on any of those topics. 

 

A quick thanks to all of you for attending. We love hearing from you so much so that if you’d be willing we’d love to hear from you. We’re also going to be planning season four. So we’d love to know if you also had any feedback about topics coming up from there. And then a couple other quick announcements. We’ll be back again next Friday in a very similar format if you’re ready to look back again at 2020, this time through the lens of performance. Our co-host here, Barbara, will be taking us through 2020 again. But again, through that lens of what are the impacts of COVID and a number of the other things that have happened in 2020 impacted performance practices and organizations. 

 

The last thing I’ll mention is subscribe to your Brain at Work, the podcast. There are over 30 episodes in there you can dig into. So you can subscribe on any platform that you choose; Apple, Spotify, Google, you name it, we’re on there. On behalf of the NLI team, we wish you continued safety and solidarity. Otherwise, have a great rest of your day and weekend, and hopefully we’ll see you next week. Bye-everybody. 

 

[00:46:23] BS: Bye y’all.

 

[END] 

 

Keep Listening


We close Season 3 of Your Brain at Work with our two performance gurus, Barbara Steel, the head of our performance practice, and Rob Ollander-Krane, a Senior Client Advisor at NLI who will review some of the biggest trends of 2020. From the underrated—but absolutely vital— check-in conversation, to the role bias plays in performance management, and performance management’s impact on broader talent strategy, we look back on the trends and lessons of 2020, and look ahead to what organizations should prioritize in 2021.

Diversity Equity & Inclusion strategy will continue to be a top priority for organizations in 2021. They’ll enter the new year with more momentum than perhaps ever before, but that momentum needs to be channelled into real, impactful change. In other words, we need to do things right and right now. In this episode of Your Brain at Work, we look back at tectonic shifts that took place in 2020, and how, armed with that knowledge, organizations can follow the pathways to real change.

If you weren't among the 2,400 attendees at our virtual Summit this year, we missed you, but don’t sweat it. This week on Your Brain at Work, we revisit our most insightful sessions from our three-day annual conference—all in one episode. Our senior NLI team shares how to implement large scale change initiatives, how to create impactful and scalable virtual learning programs, why organizations should strive to be regenerative—not just restorative, how to develop the leaders of tomorrow, how to build a culture of allyship, among many other things.

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