Emory Experts - You’ve Built a Racially Diverse Team. But Have You Built an Inclusive Culture?

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Recently, Jill Perry-Smith, Goizueta Foundation Term Chair, professor of Organization & Management, and the senior associate dean for strategic initiatives at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School contributed an op-ed to the Harvard Business Review.

You’ve Built a Racially Diverse Team. But Have You Built an Inclusive Culture?

Whether business leaders have social justice aims in mind, wish to win the war on talent, or embrace the value-creating potential of a diverse workforce, race is at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

But evidence-based strategies and resources on racial diversity and teamwork are few and far between. In fact, a quick search of ProQuest, a popular database for articles, revealed 339 scholarly and media articles with team and diversity in the title with only three emphasizing racial diversity. That’s 1%.

For more than 20 years, I have researched how relationships, networks, and collaborating with others, either in teams or one on one, enhances creative problem-solving. I have also taught courses on managing teams for nearly 10 years. I draw from this experience to suggest where we must start. With societal hunger for tips on how to create inclusive environments at an all-time high, and the importance of team dynamics integral to success at companies, large and small, I offer the following recommendations to business leaders interested in driving their teams forward.

The complete piece is attached and a must-read for anyone looking to build a modern and diverse business team.

The article includes sections outlining the following topics:

Recognize differences.

Many business leaders today grew up with a common practice encouraged by schools, parents, and other institutions – colorblindness. The main idea: If you don’t allow yourself to recognize race, you can never be biased. We now know this well-meaning strategy does not work and can, in fact, exacerbate racial inequality.

Work to actively uncover common ground...

Work to actively uncover common ground.

While differences are important, so are similarities. Listening and sharing, effective tools in many relationships, also play a key role in team success. We each have a collection of attributes which may be similar or different with our teammates. This includes observable attributes, like gender identity and race, less observable but well-known attributes, like functional expertise, and unobservable attributes, like personality and values. There is rarely perfect alignment such that some members differ from teammates across all attributes...

Commit to having difficult conversations.

Even teams that recognize and honor differences and similarities can have conflict. And dealing with interpersonal, emotionally laden conflict is one of a team’s greatest challenges. Let’s say a well-intentioned team member makes a comment that attaches an Asian American team member to the invisible, model minority stereotype. Or imagine an Hispanic colleague’s highlighting the racial implications of a marketing campaign leaves another feeling sidelined. In either case, the slighted team member may choose to remain silent, leaving emotions to fester....

Jill Perry-Smith is Goizueta Foundation Term Chair, professor of Organization & Management, and the senior associate dean for strategic initiatives at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. In her role, she leads the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, as well as teaches courses and conducts research centered on groups and teams, social networks, and creativity and innovation.

If you are looking to contact Jill – simply click on her icon now to arrange an interview today.